Horror Movie A Day: CAMERON’S CLOSET (1988) Pray the door remains locked... to Cameron’s Closet.
Published at: Oct. 3, 2009, 10:23 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the first 2009 Horror Movie A Day.
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf, recorded on the home DVR or streamed via Instant Netflix and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day. I will also be pairing each new movie with a horror movie I have seen as a recommendation for a double feature.]
Okay, this was a blind buy. I’m a massive, massive fan of a store here in the states called Big Lots! (that’s their exclamation point, not mine, but I’d give them another two I love ‘em so much). Why am I such a fan?
Every two or three months they tend to get an influx of DVDs priced at $3. Now these DVDs can range from Wal-Mart cheap-o bin titles to really amazing old titles. I’ve gotten titles from Warners Gangsters box sets, Fred Astaire flicks, Noirs and then stuff like Dogtown and Z Boys. They also have $6 TV box sets.
At $3 a piece I pretty much auto-buy anything that jumps out at me. If there’s any genre, star, plot, director or writer that catches my interest it goes in the cart.
This was one of those titles. A late ‘80s horror movie I have never heard of? Done. I didn’t even read the synopsis. I mean, it’s clear from the cover that there’s a kid with a monster in his closet and I saw it was made in the ‘80s… That’s good enough for me.
Now, this film isn’t great, but if you’re like me it might just scratch a bit of a nostalgic itch for you. For instance, if you grew up on the worst of the worst (and sometimes the best of the best) of ‘80s horror, religiously watched Gilbert Gottfried and Rhonda Shear on USA Up All Night and haunted the horror section at the neighborhood mom & pop video store. They always had the best shit… but then there were those odd Supermarket video stores that had surprisingly deep horror back catalogues.
You guys ever notice that? It’s not true as much these days, but then again I don’t know how many supermarkets have a video store anymore. It’s all Redbox DVD rental stations.
So, in this film you follow a little psychic boy named Cameron (Scott Curtis) who accidentally brings a monster into our dimension while playing with his action figures. This monster is, at first, very protective of the boy, even keeping his own father (‘50s and ‘60s Teeny Bopper sensation Tab Hunter) from killing him with a machete. Seems Hunter and his scientist partner have been studying the young boy’s powers to the point where they’re scared of just what this kid can do.
If the focus had been on the “kid and his monster” angle that would have made for a much better movie, but instead there’s a huge B story following a cop that has nightmares and his police-appointed shrink/love interest with shoulder pads. This cop, of course, is investigating the deaths that surround the psychic kid and he becomes the boy’s surrogate father.
Interestingly, the screenwriter, Gary Brandner, is also the guy that wrote the novel THE HOWLING was based on. I wasn’t aware there was an original book that John Sayles adapted for the movie and I’m curious to see what it was like. However, if Brandner’s screenwriting chops are on the same level as his novel writing then I expect Sayles is owed a lot for the success of that film. There’s literally a scene in this movie where the kid and the psychiatrist are talking and the kid says the detective is on his way. Of course, the cop walks in and we get a bit of dialogue between the psychiatrist and cop that goes like this: “He knew you were coming.” “What, is he psychic?” “Exactly.” Yeah…
Director Armand Mastroianni (HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE) does an okay job. The acting’s not bad throughout the movie, especially with young Scott Curtis. The real trouble is the lighting. It looks lit like a bad episode of MONSTERS. Nothing but high key lighting with very little atmosphere except for a few moments usually during the nightmare sequences.
The father/son relationship between Curtis and Cotter Smith is actually done pretty well, but that should have been the slowest part of the movie and it isn’t which is a bit of a problem.
I’ve noticed this in other genre films dealing with telekinesis, even the one I’m pairing with CAMERON’S CLOSET below, but it seems that by adding a psychic element to a horror movie means you have to slow everything down two steps for some reason. There’s so much time put in to the “ooohhh, look at the glass move across the table’s surface! Creeeeeppppyyy!” type set-up scenes that we don’t get to the real fun of these kinds of movies… Psychic vs. monster.
I guess there’s an excuse in this flick considering the psychic kid is, like, 10 years old and he doesn’t have much, if any control of his powers, but that doesn’t make it any more entertaining to watch.
Final Thoughts: I’m very middle of the road on this one. There’s no hard recommend or hard criticism I can level on it. CAMERON’S CLOSET is what it is. The movie’s not very good, nor is it very bad. The worst I can say is that I’m indifferent towards it. Had there been a little more exploitation to it the film could have been much more fun or much more silly… either way that’d evoke a stronger reaction.
Now the film I’m going to pair with today’s HMAD is a sequel and it isn’t even my favorite of the series, but I’d be damned if I couldn’t keep this movie out of my mind as I was watching CAMERON’S CLOSET.
That’s right, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD or “Carrie Vs. Jason” as the horror nerds call it. It’s not my favorite Friday film… hell, I don’t know if I’d even put it in my top 5 favorite Jason movies (I love 1-4 and Part 6).
Oddly enough this installment of the Friday series also came out the same year as CAMERON’S CLOSET and deals with a monster vs. a telekinetic hero. Where Cameron’s Closet got buried in trying to be a somewhat serious movie with a ridiculous monster in it director John Carl Buechler has no trouble embracing the exploitation.
That said, it still does take a while for the shit to get real as the Fresh Prince would say. Instead of watching fridge magnets rearrange themselves on a table we get a matchbook scooting across a desk as the dickish Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser) pushes our young lead, Tina (Lar Park-Lincoln) to get a handle on her psychic powers.
A lot of people view this as the film where the shark was fully and completely jumped. They don’t even try to explain Jason’s return in a real, quasi-scientific way (previous resurrections either ignored it incorporated something like a lightning bolt). Here they show him quite literally being resurrected by the psychic teenager who thinks she’s trying resurrect her dead father who also rests at the bottom of Camp Crystal Lake.
I guess giving someone as much power that comes with telekinesis is writing yourself into a helluva corner. It’s kinda like Hiro on HEROES… if you can control time and space then there’s no challenge, so you have to either keep taking that power away or imposing some kind of limitation on it. The most go to limitation in these films seems to be the “learning to use their powers” formula.
So, I understand. You don’t want to give Lar Park-Lincoln full control of her powers right away or halfway through the second reel she’d just look at Jason and turn him inside-out with a blink of an eye.
This film introduces Kane Hodder’s aggressive Jason and has the famous sleeping bag kill, but the real reason this movie stands out amongst fans of the series is the supernatural fight between Tina and Jason that concludes the film.
And it is undoubtedly the best part of the film. The ratings board was very tough on this installment, so in order to retain an R rating there were a lot of cuts which gives the film a bit of a toothless quality as the majority of the kills are cut aways and implied. When you get 7 films into a slasher series you can’t get away with implied gags.
All that said, the last 20 minutes do make the movie. Pissed off psychic chick making the trees grab onto Jason while snaking live electric wires up to him using only her mind… Yep, that’s right. More of that, please. I especially like the “What the fuck?!?” body language Hodder gives Jason as she first unleashes her power at him.
Friday lore suggests this film was the first planned crossover for Freddy and Jason, but a last minute contract dispute between New Line and Paramount forced them to rewrite for a psychic girl. I don’t know how true that is, but it makes sense that’d be the doorway that’d bring the heightened supernatural story into the Camp Crystal Lake mythos.
Here are the next week’s worth of HMAD titles:
Sunday, October 4th: AFRAID OF THE DARK (1991)
Monday, October 5th: THE PIT (1981)
Tuesday, October 6th: BRAIN DAMAGE (1988)
Wednesday, October 7th: BRAIN DEAD (1990)
Thursday, October 8th: VISITING HOURS (1982)
Friday, October 9th: MACABRE (1980)
Saturday, October 10th: PRIVATE PARTS (1972)
Tomorrow I travel to Ireland for a few days of awesomeness I can’t quite tell you about yet. I should be able to bring you HMAD uninterrupted, but if I’m a few hours late each day you know why.
We have a few more kids in horror to hit before moving on, but we switch gears from ‘80s cheese to what promises to be a classier entry into the genre in 1991’s AFRAID OF THE DARK directed by Academy Award winning screenwriter Mark Peploe (THE LAST EMPEROR). See you folks tomorrow for that one!
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