Archive for October, 2010

The October Challenge: Mill of the Stone Women

Posted in Reviews on October 25, 2010 by dunyazad

It’s not without a certain amount of admiration and affection that I suggest that The Mill of the Stone Women (1960, directed by Giorgio Ferroni) reminds me of a Mexican horror movie. I once called Mexican horror movies like The Black Pit of Dr. M or The Curse of the Crying Woman “Blender” movies, in which you take a number of proven stock items, throw them in a blender, and hit “puree.” And so it is with this film, even though it doesn’t come from Mexico. Italy was good at this sort of thing, too.

This movie is a conflation of Eyes Without a Face and House of Wax. I’d suggest, too, the influence of Mario Bava, but for the fact that this movie was made before Bava made a horror movie in color. Maybe it was something in the water in Italy at the time. In addition to the obvious touchstones, The Mill of the Stone Women includes two different varieties of the insane genius archetype: the mad scientist and the deranged artist. And to top things off, it climaxes in a burning windmill, a la Frankenstein. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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“The Wurdalak” (2nd part of Black Sabbath)

Posted in Reviews on October 15, 2010 by aporphyria

I’ve not been too fond of Bava’s work in the past but that changed this year with his film, Black Sunday AKA La maschera del demonio (1960) which I quite enjoyed. So, I thought that I would move on to another one of his called Black Sabbath AKA I tre volti della paura (1963).

I received the DVD from Netflix this week without knowing what I was in for. Several other IMDbers had recommended it in the past. Unfortunately, no one said that it was dubbed over in Italian no less, so badly. The version that I watched also had Boris Karloff dubbed even as he is introducing the film as well as ending it in which I found completely ludicrous. He is found in the 2nd short story of the film within the 3 part story, called “The Wurdalak”.

A family’s father, who had went up into the mountainous region in Russia returns home after being gone for 5 days. The family had wondered if he had been stricken with the blood curse since he had been gone for so long. One of men that was there, due to seeking out shelter in the family’s home, had told them about a dead man that he had found on his travels was beheaded with a knife in his heart. That is when we first find out about the curse of the wurdalak.

Now for over 20 years, I’ve had a thing about vampires but I didn’t know that there was a name of one called a wurdalak until I saw the film Black Sabbath. I could explain the meaning but it would spoil this short story for you if you haven’t seen it. I used to own a book called The Vampire Encyclopedia back in the early 90s but I do not remember coming across the term “wurdalak”.

So I guess its still true: You do learn something new every day.

6/10

The October Challenge: The Crazies (2010)

Posted in Reviews on October 15, 2010 by dunyazad

After I finished watching the remake of George A. Romero’s The Crazies (2010, directed by Breck Eisner), all I could think was: “Wow, that movie really taps the zeitgeist.” I also thought: “There’s a masters thesis in this movie.” That’s not to say that it’s any kind of masterpiece–it’s not–but it might be the most interesting horror movie I’ve seen in a decade.

The set-up is familiar, of course: a spilled biological weapon turns the inhabitants of a small Iowa town into frothing, homicidal maniacs. This is essentially a zombie movie, although the “zombies” aren’t dead, per se, and they are certainly more creative with their violence–this is a farming community complete with farm implements, after all. They don’t eat people, either. We also have our small group of plucky, uninfected heroes. You have the nice guy sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) and his doctor wife who happens to be pregnant (Radha Mitchell), his deputy (Joe Anderson), and her nurse (Danielle Panabaker). In some ways, you can tick the cliched elements off on a list. The structure of the movie is familiar, too, and here, you edge into masters thesis territory. A comparison to the structure of this movie and Romero’s original provides a kind of crystalline insight into the way moviemaking has changed. Romero’s original was an almost stream of consciousness experience, with elements occurring in an organic progression. The new film is built around set pieces, with a new set piece seeming to cycle in on the reel changes every ten minutes with metronomic precision. There’s nothing wrong with this, as I say, but it’s indicative of a film that has been designed as product rather than as expression. That said, I find the new film easier to watch than the old. While the old film arguably more perfectly matches the syntax of nightmares, it also has an off-putting grottiness to it, and parts of it are kind of dull. The new film has a high gloss sheen that it puts to good use. It’s also less clinical, due to the filmmakers insisting on using its cliched characters as an audience point of view; the original film makes no such concessions.

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The October Challenge: Spam in a Can

Posted in Reviews on October 12, 2010 by dunyazad

As low-budget Alien rip-offs go, Creature (1985, directed by William Malone) isn’t bad, particularly given that at least one person in the movie has seen a few old sci fi movies and has learned a few things from them. Unfortunately, the guys at the beginning of the movie aren’t that person, and, not having seen Alien, they unleash a 200,000 year old monster while they investigate a site on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. When the rescue team arrives, they find a German ship already on site and a sole survivor armed with a tale of a creature that turns humans into pawns through the use of insectile little parasites.

Okay, so this isn’t particularly original.

Director William Malone even used some of the props from Forbidden Planet from his own collection. So, yeah, it’s actually kind of an elaborate fan film. Nothing wrong with that, I guess. At least it name-checks its influences. “Homage” is French for “rip-off”, after all. Continue reading

Bitch Magazine’s Horror Show

Posted in Websites on October 8, 2010 by dunyazad

Bitch Magazine’s media site has started a series on women in horror movies. Their first two entries are by web site editor Kelsey Wallace and Ax Wound zine creator Hannah Neurotica, respectively. Hannah’s entry starts like so:

“The conventional wisdom is that women don’t want to be scared—or enjoy scary movies only insofar as the terror gives them the opportunity to snuggle up to male companions, as Entertainment Weekly pointed out in a 2009 piece. This strikes me as bizarre. Women bleed, after all, regularly and sometimes very heavily. We push human beings out of our bodies. We deal with constant threats to our safety. So it only makes sense that women can portray fear, terror, and gore onscreen in ways only those who’ve experiences it up close and personal can. ”

Speak it, sister.

Oh, and they’re giving away a copy of The Exorcist for the best comment, so there’s that.

The October Challenge: Storm of the Century

Posted in Reviews on October 8, 2010 by dunyazad

I kind of fell out of love with Stephen King in the 1990s. I was a faithful constant reader, in King’s words, for the previous decade. King was one of the few writers I would buy in hardback on the day of release. At some point, though, I realized that the thrill was gone. Oh, he was still capable of good books now and then (particularly story collections like Everything’s Eventual), but King, for me, became like a middle-aged husband who can only get it up every so often and that only with the help of pharmaceuticals. The affection was still there, but, sheesh, every so often a girl wants to go for a hard, wild ride. And King wasn’t getting it done. I still buy King in hardback, by the way, but I usually wait until they’re remaindered because it’s cheaper than a paperback these days. I think part of what contributed to my wandering eye was the rash of TV movies and mini-series that began to appear in the 1990s. These tended to literalize King’s ideas in ways that were not flattering to the writer. It didn’t help that most of them were made by Mick Garris, who may be a nice guy but who isn’t much of a director.

The upshot of this is that I skipped King’s original miniseries, Storm of the Century, when it originally aired in 1999 and never felt the need to catch up to it until now. Continue reading

The October Challenge: Metropolis

Posted in Horror History, Reviews with tags on October 4, 2010 by dunyazad

I don’t remember the first time I saw Metropolis (1927, directed by Fritz Lang). If I had to guess, I’d say I saw a showing on public television sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I’m sure that my first viewing was a chopped up public domain print. I don’t ever remember seeing a pristine version of the film, and none longer than about 90 minutes. Metropolis, for me, has always been a confusion of images: indelible, sure, but not a coherent narrative. I never got around to seeing the restoration from the early parts of the 2000s, the one finished just before they found an almost-complete print of the film in Buenos Aires. When I heard that the new restoration, including the newly found footage, would be playing near me, I jumped at the chance.

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