This may me hard for you to believe, but Halloween is my favorite holiday. This is the one time of the year that the entire country (except for some yokels in Florida) aligns with my year-round love of all things monstrous. There are screaming heads on sticks that greet you at Walgreens, horror films up and down the dial on television, and a general acceptance of bloody mayhem and terror as the spirit of the season. If you'll pardon the pun. All this, and we get candy, too!
Winner: Best Title of a B-Horror Movie.
So in honor of this majestic occasion, I decided to whip up a little column goodness about the guiding force in my early years of movie-geek formation, the original scream queen, Linnea Quigley. A few of you might be scratching your heads. "Huh? Linnea who? I thought Jamie Lee Curtis was the original scream queen?" Well, you would be wrong. Yes, HALLOWEEN does predate Linnea's years of, um, "stardom", and yes, Curtis did star in several horror films during the same period of Linnea's ascension, the 80's, but the quintessential difference is one of attitude. Curtis was always just an actress who happened to be in a few horror films. Linnea embraced horror, she lived it and breathed it; she did not shy away from the association with horror films: she reveled in it.
Linnea has been in some 90 films, so to attempt a comprehensive account of her career would be sheer madness. Instead I offer merely an introduction to her greatness for the uninitiated, and I shall stick mainly to the 80's. In fact, I'm going to stick mainly to movies that I've seen and feel like talking about. The only research I've done was looking her up on IMDb and retreating back into my memories of that golden era.
For the purposes of organization, I am doing ten films in list format. This is not a top ten list. The films are going to go in chronological order. I am not going to get too much into why you should see them, because most of them you shouldn't. But you should know that they exist. Damn it.
On with the show:
1. DON'T GO NEAR THE PARK (1981): Don't go near this movie is more like it. After moving to Los Angeles from her hometown of Davenport, Iowa, some of Linnea's waitress buddies suggested that she try to break into film. After a few bit roles in some z-grade schlockfests, this is what Linnea considers her first "real" movie. Directed by Lawrence D. Foldes, this film is a ginormous mess. It tries to be four different stories throughout the 70 minutes too long 80 minutes running time, and fails miserably at all of them. I guess some members of a cannibal tribe 12,000 years ago didn't want to be cannibals, so they were cursed to have to eat living flesh in order to stay young until 12,000 years had passed, when they could fulfill some cockamamie prophecy. I don't know: I started to zone out halfway through. Linnea plays the mother of a girl named Bondi (she doesn't even get a name), which is funny, since she was 19 at the time...the same age as the girl playing Bondi, Tamara Taylor...and the same age as the director! (and it shows).
However, a funny thing started happening as I learned more about the film: it began to fascinate me. The precocious little boy in the film, Nick? Well, he's played by Meeno Peluce, half-brother to Soliel Moon-Frye and former co-star of the unfortunately short-lived TV show Voyagers (RIP: Jon-Erik Hexum). The kindly old newspaper reporter Taft? None other than one-time respected actor turned SAG pariah, Aldo Ray. Aldo got into some trouble when he unwittingly filmed (non-sexual) scenes for a porno movie, SWEET SAVAGE, also starring Carol Connors of Deep Throat fame (and also happens to be Thora Birch's mother). Finally there is Barbara "Monker", who is really Barbara Bain, ex-wife of Martin Landau and mother of Juliet "Drusilla" Landau. In fact, everything about movie is fascinating except the movie itself.
2. Released that same year was GRADUATION DAY. While a step above DGNTP, it isn't exactly a giant step. You can tell from the name alone what the film is about. In this case, it is the track team being systematically offed right before graduation. Why? Oh, who the hell cares. The kills are unimaginative and poorly done, and the pace of the movie suffers from arrhythmia: slow when it should be fast, fast when it should be slow. This film does feature Linnea as we would come to know and love her, though. Namely, as an amoral sexpot who screams well. I will say that the film does have some strong performances, especially that of beleaguered coach George Michaels (hehehe) as portrayed by veteran character actor Christoper George, who happens to be the uncle of a bit player in GRADUATION DAY, a one Mrs. Vanna White.
3. Next up is the annoyingly out of print SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984). Please
be careful: when going on your Linnea Quigley completist jag, as you now doubt will after reading this charming and well-written column, be aware that Netflix does not carry this title, but has the similarly titled SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT. BLOODY NIGHT predates DEADLY NIGHT by a decade, but DEADLY NIGHT goes much more whole hog with the Christmas vibe. Instead of just taking place around the yuletide holiday, it features a mentally unstable young man (think PATRICK if he wasn't in a coma) actually dressing like Santa Claus when he commits his murders. An early one of those murders being of babysitter Denise (although whom she was sitting for I cannot recall), played of course by Linnea. She gets lifted into the air and impaled on some deer antlers. I smiled for a week.
Runner-Up: Best Title of a B-Horror Movie.
4. It's funny how just one year can change your whole life, yannow? Just ask Linnea. One year after SN,DN saw the release of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985), which is possibly one of the finest pieces of horror cinema ever constructed. It is one of two directorial efforts of long-time screenwriter Dan O'Bannon (ALIEN, TOTAL RECALL, LIFEFORCE among others), and while acting as an "unofficial" sequel to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, it also served to redefine and reignite the zombie genre. To the best of my knowledge, it is the film that started the eating brains phenomenon. Previous to ROTLD, zombies were merely content to eat flesh. O'Bannon upped the game.
Among the fine performances by actors like Clu Gulager and Don Calfa (starring here as Burt and Ernie), Linnea's small role somehow shined through. She plays a punker appropriately named Trash, who is morbid to an extreme. When she gets overexcited while describing her fantasy of being eaten alive by a gaggle of old men and starts stripping, one of the other characters, the lightweight Chuck, shouts, "Hey everyone: Trash is taking her clothes off again!" This role must have been written just for Linnea! An interesting note about her nudity in this film is that she is not actually fully nude. The producers decided that straight-up vag would be too risqué for them but O'Bannon, ever the crusty old man, refused to budge. The compromise? A foam rubber appliance to cover her most private of private places. The end result is that from the rear you can see her, um, rear, but from the front she looks as asexual as a Barbie doll. Which is ironic, when you consider that Linnea's nappy dugout has been filmed more times than the Statue of Liberty.
5. Next up is CREEPAZOIDS (1987). I will plainly admit that I have not seen this movie in years, and scarcely even remember it. I recall that it is a sort of post-apocalyptic ALIENS vibe. And that is about all. The funny thing is that Netflix finally got around to mailing me the damn thing today, too late to watch it in time to write this piece. Ha ha. But I feel it is worthy of note for two reasons. The first being that it is on the small list of four films that Linnea has produced (executive produced, in this case), and secondly, it was directed by David DeCoteau, one of the most prolific b-movie directors in the business (55 films in 20 years). In fact, he also directed Linnea in:
6. SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIME BOWL-O-RAMA (1988). Not only was this Linnea's second movie with DeCoteau, it was also the first of three movies she would do with Hal Havins (both to be mentioned later) and the first of two with Andras Jones (they were both in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4 together – bonus points if you can tell me what her fabulous cameo was – without looking it up!). SORORITY BABES is worth mentioning just for the title alone, but it is actually a rather effective little piece of camp. Three geeky college boys try to spy on a sorority initiation ritual, and end up getting roped into bowling alley robbery hijinx, where they meet Linnea's character, Spider, already robbing the place. But in a decidedly less hijinxy manner. Together they end up unleashing a mischievous little imp (think Claymation, ala California Raisins). Also, if memory serves me correctly, Linnea neither shows naughty bits nor dies in this one. Weird. The film also stars fellow Scream Queens Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer.
7. Directly following SORORITY BABES is HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS (also 1988), which I would tend to believe was shot first. Since it relegates Linnea to a lesser role once again. Her character figures intrinsically into the "plot", such as it is, but her performance is pure window dressing. Even so, the film is still worth note. It was directed by yet another b-movie maverick, Fred Olen Ray, and co-starred none other than original Leatherface Gunnar Hansen. I think the film is about some sort of cult trying to summon/appease some demon or
another, I don't know. I have a crappy VHS dub and the audio cuts out halfway through. But I hardly think that matters. When you have a movie that opens with a man hiring a call girl, and she wants to go slip into something more comfortable, and that something is a raincoat (see-through, of course) so that she doesn't get splattered with blood and flesh when she cuts him to pieces with a chainsaw, you have a winner on your hands.
The woman, the myth, the legend.
8. Now we get to one of my all-time favorites, as well as the Linnea's second appearance alongside Hal Havins (as the comic-relief character, Stooge), NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (yet again, 1988, a year that also saw her with cameos in the aforementioned ANOES film as well as the too-often forgotten Joe Piscopo-Treat Williams vehicle DEAD HEAT). Anyway, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (not to be confused with NIGHT OF THE DEMON, singular, which is a very different film) borrows heavily, and I do mean heavily, from both EVIL DEAD 2 (the POV shot of the demon breaking free and traveling through walls and doors to confront the humans is not an homage...just stolen) and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (bunch of punkers crashing someplace they shouldn't be, pumping loud music through their boombox and dancing around), but still manages to have inspired flashes (like the scene where the actors do their lines while reflected in respective pieces of a shattered mirror on the floor, and the strobe-light sequence where Angela dances to Stigmata-Martyr by Bauhaus), and ultimately ends up being a really fun movie. It also features a neat breast special effect, otherwise known as the case of the disappearing lipstick. Linnea ended up marrying FX man Steve Johnson, whom she met on that film. And finally, it features one of my favorite lines from any movie, when Stooge yells, "Eat a bowl of f*ck!"
9. The third film Linnea did with Hal Havins is WITCHTRAP, which just so happens to also be directed by NIGHT OF THE DEMON's Kevin Tenney (who also did WITCHBOARD...um...I'm sensing a pattern, Kevin). This film, unfortunately, Netflix does not have. And if Netflix doesn't have it, the hopes of me finding it in a video store in Half Ghetto/Half Podunk Waterbury are nil at best. I mean, the people at my local Hollywood Video (pretty much the only game in town) have never heard of SPLASH, and had no idea there was an original BLACK CHRISTMAS, so you can see what I am dealing with here. Anyway, this film has some psychic people investigating some haunted house's aura, or some shit. I don't know. Fodder for hundreds of shitty horror films. Whatever. But the film is worth noting for Linnea's death scene, which is one of the best and most inventive that I have ever seen: she gets naked and gets in the shower (already a plus), and the water stops. She puts her face up close to investigate, and the shower head shoots out of the wall, water pipe in tow, dips down and sinks into her throat, and pulls out to reveal a gaping hole. As Linnea gasps for breath, blood begins pouring out of the wound. Good stuff, my friends.
10. Alright, I know I said I was sticking to the 80's, but what can I say? I'm a liar. I just figured PUMPKINHEAD 2: BLOOD WINGS (1994) is worth a mention. Not for Ami Dolenz, lord knows, and not even for Soliel Moon Frye, but for the scene where Linnea is riding big ol' R.H. Mihailoff. You see, Mihailoff was also Leatherface, in LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3 (of which I have a craptastic VHS dub of the supposedly X-rated version). She then proceeds to get killed by the vengeance-fueled demon, of course. Now she just needs to do a movie with Bill Johnson and Andrew Bryniarski and I'll be one happy movie geek.
Okay, so, in closing: the best actress? The prettiest? Been in the most movies? No, no and no. But still she somehow managed to capture the heart of oversexed horror geeks everywhere, and reign supreme in the 80's. And for all time, in my humble opinion.
1. I have no way of substantiating this, but I thought I heard once that Linnea did the dancing that the animated skeleton of Linda was based on in EVIL DEAD 2.
2. Linnea's father was a chiropractor, and though I could likewise not find corroborating evidence, I remember hearing in an interview once that her grandfather (or maybe great-grandfather) was actually the very first chiropractor.
3. I think that all you ladies should forget about your Pilates and Tae-Bo and instead get a hold of a copy of Linnea's Horror Workout video. Seriously.
4.Linnea was the singer in a band called The Skirts, off and on over the years.
5.This is a really long column, and I used lots of parantheticals. Sorry about that.
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Eating the flesh of lesser film geeks since '72.
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