The Vortex Room keeps on keepin' on — for now — with the weirdest flicks you'll see all summer
Fear not, stronger meat is ahead. July 10 brings two theatrical horrors, 1980's Blood Beach and 1976's Who Can Kill a Child?, aka Island of the Damned. The first is a late entry in the cycle of Jaws (1975) rip-offs, which it winks at by having one character quip, "Just when you thought it as safe to get back in the water, you can't get to it" — because something unseen is pulling Santa Monica beachgoers down screaming, right through the sand. It turns out to be an all-too-briefly seen monster in this lethargic chiller by the future director of Flowers in the Attic (1987 version, not the recent made-for-Lifetime version), with the highlight being a surprising political speech by John Saxon's police chief about how taxpayers want the sun and the moon in city services ... they just don't want to pay for it.
Who Can Kill a Child? is something else: a beautifully atmospheric Spanish nightmare by underrated Uruguayan Narcisco Ibáñez Serrador, in which two English tourists row to a quaint village off the mainland. When they arrive, however, everyone appears to be gone save a few children — with whom something has gone very, very wrong. Quiet and slow-building, it's a striking parable that really pays off once ominousness turns to terror at the completely irrational crisis these visitors have stumbled into. Equally memorable and shocking is 1978's US Blue Sunshine, a tale of a government LSD experimentation that the Vortex (and the Werepad before it) has shown so many times it might as well be its filmic mascot.
The rest of the schedule is obscure even by Vortex standards. English-language 1972 Eurotrash hostage drama Summertime Killer stars Christopher Mitchum, one of two (with sibling Jim) Robert Mitchum offspring who experienced moderate movie fame — despite dad's oddly dismissive public statements about their B-list careers. Aussie One Night Stand (1984) has New Wave youth in Sydney acting like mildly New Wave cut-ups in a John Hughes movie as they await nuclear holocaust. It's less fun than it sounds. More fun than it sounds is 1990's direct-to-video Punk Vacation, in which mildly "punk" miscreants slumming in the sticks wage war against local hicks.
Lastly there's 1973's Bummer!, a sobering film about the groupie lifestyle — even before the fat misogynist drummer no one will have sex with goes postal. Offering further proof the rock 'n' roll lifestyle leads to Hades is Down Beat, a feature so obscure imdb.com doesn't know it exists. Even the few to note Christian film "pioneer" Ken Anderson's passing in 2006 made no mention of this 1967 warning against all that was then groovy and ungodly. If and when the Vortex goes away for keeps, who will unearth such treasures for us henceforth? That's right: Nobody. *
"THURSDAY NIGHT FILM CULT: BAD VIBRATIONS"
Thursdays in July, 9 and 11pm, $10
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