Archive for October, 2012

OHC – Odds and Ends, part the first

Posted in Fun Stuff, Reviews on October 28, 2012 by annamae3

Let this post serve as a pick-up spot for movies watched and not yet reviewed. Films that got out of place, skipped over, or rewatched due to lack of interest and then fell out of the proper rotation. Here we go…

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Frankenstein (1931)
Directed by James Whale

Turner Classic Movies, through Fathom Events, has been bringing movies back into theaters through the magic of modern science and satellite broadcasting. On 24 October, TCM brought both Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein to the outdoor mall that’s about a half-hour from my house. Even though I’d just watched Bride a couple days before, and in 35mm to boot, I’m not one to pass up watching any kind of classic movie on a big screen in any format. TCM’s presentation was quite well done, with the requisite introduction from Robert Osborne, and also an interview with Bela Lugosi, Jr., Sara Karloff, and special effects master Rick Baker. Getting to see the first two Frankenstein films back to back like that was definitely a treat. My only regret was bringing my parents, who are such huge fans of Young Frankenstein (as am I) that they could not stop laughing at all the scenes that Mel Brooks lifted wholesale for his movie. Hmmph.

my exact face throughout most of the evening, thanks mom and dad.

The Frankenstein story is so ingrained in the collective consciousness that to rehash the entire plot would be a waste of space. If you haven’t seen Frankenstein before, why not? Of course Boris Karloff as the monster is the main reason to watch the film, but Colin Clive as the titular doctor is probably the highlight. Every time I watch either Frankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein, I wonder if anyone else sees a resemblance between the monster and his creator. It’s in the eyes, the sunken eyes. Clive’s sunken-eyed look might have been due to his battle with alcoholism, but it still makes him look as haunted as the monster. And it’s hard not to get chills when he delivers the best line in the movie (the entire scene is below), a line which was covered up by a clap of thunder due to Production Code enforcement and not fully reinstated until 1999 (!):

“In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!”

Brilliant acting there, just brilliant.

Unfortunately, there have been reports of less-than-stellar projection for this particular double feature. At his blog, Will McKinley breaks down the problems with digital projection and satellite delivery of classic films into theaters. A friend on twitter mentioned that their print looked pixellated at times. Our theater, thankfully, did not experience any of these issues – the picture quality was crisp and clear, the audio was perfectly synched. The only issue was what looked like a small in-camera cut near the start of Frankenstein, which could have been in the original print. I say this not to dissuade people from going to these classic movie re-releases, but as a general sort of heads-up, and also as a plea to those of you who live close to old theater houses that still show films on film, places like the Portage and Music Box theatres in Chicago, the Redford Theatre in Detroit (where we saw Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 35 mm this month), and the State and Michigan Theaters in Ann Arbor, to make a habit of patronizing these places on a regular basis. These places need our support now more than ever, in the ongoing fight to preserve classic cinema. So while I support the idea of going to the theater to see awesome old movies, I support even more the idea of going to awesome old theaters whenever possible to see awesome old movies. Films like Frankenstein never look as good as they do on a big screen.

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Prometheus (2012) – FTV
Directed by Ridley Scott

There was some discussion over on the October Horror Challenge Facebook Group whether or not Prometheus counted as a horror film. The consensus was ultimately that yes, due to certain elements, it did indeed pass the smell test. I remain on the fence over whether it truly does count, because it is too mired in science fiction, and not even good science fiction, that even a hamfisted attempt to be part of the Alien oeuvre can’t save it. The story is basically about scientists who travel to a planet where they strongly suspect human life originated. What they find there is essentially an outpost that had been set up by the Engineers, who are apparently the creators of human life, to plan a mission to return to Earth to destroy all humans. It’s hard to figure out all this from one viewing, really. I had to cheat and look at Wikipedia’s synopsis. So the movie’s timeline basically is as follows: the Engineers manage to create human life when one Engineer drinks this bubbly black goo and then melts into a puddle that gets washed into a swirling waterfall; the black goo is a biological weapon, more or less, that causes literal meltdowns, but also forms into weird tentacle creatures; one of the scientists, unbeknownst to him, drinks a bit of the black goo and impregnates the film’s lead with a squid baby that eventually grows to unusual size; that squid baby orally impregnates an Engineer, who later explodes/gives birth to a xenomorph. The end?

ME AGAIN!

There’s a load of other stuff that happens in the movie in addition to all this black goo, which is the cause and final solution to human life. The film tries to posit that humans are essentially a science fair project gone wrong, that we were made on something of a whim. That’s kind of depressing, but also sort of cosmically funny. There is, much like in the first Alien film, an android with an agenda who ends up getting his block knocked off. Prometheus also features one of the more horrific birthing scenes in recent memory – actually, “birth” is less accurate than “self-abortion.” Good god, y’all. I could go on, but there’s literally so much happening in this movie, and not much of it fits together into a single coherent thread, that you kind of have to see it for yourself.

I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t enjoy the movie or that I was completely bemused by it. I got what Ridley Scott was trying to do overall, and as a director, he still knows how to create some mind-blowing visuals. If nothing else, Prometheus is gorgeous to look at. But it’s too ambitious, too bloated a movie, to be everything it aspires to be. It’s rather fitting, given the film’s title, inspired by the ancient Greek myth – the film overreaches its grasp. Interestingly enough, Frankenstein is the great-grandfather of movies like this: both stories are warnings about the dangers of scientific exploration and about how man both searches for and attempts to be God. Trivia side-note: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was originally subtitled The Modern Prometheus. If I had more smarts, I’d be able to write a massive essay on both films, but not tonight or probably ever.

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Views so far:
25 ftvs
15 repeat views
40 total

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OHC Day whatever – Frankenpost

Posted in Fun Stuff, Reviews on October 24, 2012 by annamae3

October Challenge 2010 banner

Since my movie watching for the month has gone from hardcore dedicated eight-movies-a-day to eh a movie here and there, I’ve decided to stop numbering the posts by day and just give them mediocre titles. So you get to look forward to that for the rest of the month. Horray. Since I’ve thrown abandon to the wind and title these posts whatever the hell I want, I give you a post that’s all about Frankenstein movies.

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[20 October]

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Directed by James Whale

This sequel to Frankenstein (1931) is set immediately after the events of that first film, beginning with a prologue that consists of Mary Shelley continuing the moral story of Frankenstein and his creation to Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, who were both infatuated with her disturbing tale. Bride of Frankenstein picks up where the last one left off, with the burning collapse of the windmill where Victor Frankenstein’s accursed creation is presumably killed…except he wasn’t. The film then splits into two storylines: one where Victor is visited by his old mentor, Dr. Pretorius, who lures Victor into creating a mate for the monster; and one where the monster roams the countryside on something of an existential quest to find a meaning in his life by the mere act of connecting with other people. He finds what he’s looking for in a blind hermit, in a sequence that is both touching and humorous, but this harmony is broken when two hunters come across the hermit’s cabin and see the monster, who accidentally burns down his new friend’s home.

Friend…good!

Meanwhile, Victor and Dr. Pretorius are at work, building a friend for the creature. When they finally succeed at bringing her to life and introducing her to the creature, she is just as horrified by him as most everyone else is, and his heartbreak leads him to kill not only himself and her, but also Pretorius. While Bride of Frankenstein has a sly wit and is sometimes considered more of a comedic sequel to Frankenstein, there are genuine moments of sadness and emotion that are still effective decades later. In fact, I almost prefer Bride of Frankenstein over the original.

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Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Directed by Roy William Neill

Having only watched the first two Frankenstein films, I can’t be completely sure on this, but it sure seems like this movie retcons the Frankenstein story wholesale. Frankenstein’s monster does indeed meet the Wolf Man, but this film a) is more of a sequel to The Wolf Man (1941) than anything to do with Frankenstein, and b) seems to be a blatant excuse to get these two monsters onscreen so they can beat the hell out of each other in the final reel (which does happen, so if that’s your thing, you’ll be pleased). This isn’t exactly a bad movie, but it isn’t great either, and really is only watchable for those who are fans of Lon Chaney Jr. (which would be me).

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[21 October]

Frankenweenie (1984, 2012) – FTV
Directed by Tim Burton

Since the original Frankenweenie short film runs less than 50 minutes, I cannot count it toward the Challenge. However, I would be remiss in not watching it in conjunction with the new animated remake, to get a better feel for all the differences and similarities between the two. As a huge fan of the short film, I was a little concerned with a feature-length remake, but when I saw it would be stop-motion animated and in black and white, I felt better. Overall, the remake does a wonderful job of expanding on the original story, as well as adding touches that will appeal to horror fans of all ages. The story is essentially the same between the two: young Victor Frankenstein loses his beloved dog Sparky in an unfortunate car accident, and based on a unintentional suggestion from his science teacher, he decides to reanimate his pet.

Younger Frankenstein

The movie adds to this a science fair rivalry subplot (in fact, the movie is quite in love with science and reason and experimenting, and there’s a nice pro-science monologue near the end), and populates the cast with characters who are all based on either classic horror movie actors or characters – the science teacher looks like Vincent Price, and Victor’s classmates resemble Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. There’s loads of references to classic horror films like Godzilla and The Mummy, and even a little nod to Hammer’s Horror of Dracula, as well as to previous Burton projects; I couldn’t get over how Sparky looked like The Family Dog. This would be the perfect kind of film to show to kids if you want to introduce them to the genre, and it’s also a perfect little treat for us terminal horror junkies.

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Views so far:
24 FTVs
14 repeat views
38 total

OHC Day 16 through 17 – A Leap in Time

Posted in Fun Stuff, Reviews on October 20, 2012 by annamae3

So I apologize if the numbering of days did a huge jump from 8 to 16-17, but it felt weird numbering the days in terms of viewing days instead of calendar days. I may also have to retcon the Challenge blogging and post something from a previous date with corresponding number, but I’m still awaiting confirmation/denial on a particular film counting as a horror film. Anyway. TO THE BOG, I mean blog.

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[16 October]

Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Directed by Drew Goddard

What starts out as your typical, well, cabin in the woods-type horror film ends up being something else entirely, and then once more becomes something else, and each subsequent twist makes the horror fan in me giddy with the silly happy. I still hesitate to say too much about this film, in respect out of those who have yet to see it, and that makes it hard to review or even properly summarize, but I will say if you’re into post-modern meta horror, any and every kind of evil creature and villain from any and every horror film ever, and a touch of Cthulhu/Ancient Ones mythos, you’ll probably quite like Cabin in the Woods. I like it so much, I watched it, then immediately watched it again to show my parents. But mostly to watch it again, because I like this a whole lot:

get down, white guys.

You’ll also forever wonder who, or what, Kevin is.

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[17 October]

Horror of Dracula (1958)
Directed by Terence Fisher

Once again, Turner Classic Movies comes through with a night of Hammer horror films. My only regret is that they started the movies so late in the evening I could only stay awake for two, and both of them were movies I’d already seen. That isn’t exactly a complaint – although…<whine>…I wanted to see Hammer’s take on The Mummy. Anyhow, they kicked off Hammer time with Horror of Dracula, which is more or less your typical Dracula-type movie, starring Peter Cushing as Van Helsing and Christopher Lee as Drac. Hammer’s take, with a script by Jimmy Sangster, is one of my favorite versions of the story, even though it changes up the original story’s relationships between the characters, likely due to time constraints and that tradition in films to make things more dramatically interesting. What this particular film doesn’t have, but so many of the other Hammer Dracula movies do, is an ending that consists of Dracula falling out of a window and either impaling himself on a wooden cross or smack in the middle of a consecrated altar. Gosh, I love it when that happens. Anyhow, Horror of Dracula does have the usual Hammer Drac accoutrements: bright red blood, heaving bosoms, sexy Chris Lee, and the movie love of my life next to Vincent Price:

“Cushing on the mic, one-two, one-two.”

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The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Directed by Terence Fisher

Hammer’s version of the Victor Frankenstein story is set up as a flashback, framed and told by a crazed Victor locked up in jail for murder. The film ostensibly begins with Victor’s father dying and his subsequent inheritance of the family home and fortune. He hires a tutor and soon they begin a series of experiments that culminate with the successful regeneration of a dead puppy. Their success leads Victor to believe that they could essentially create human life from scratch. You know, preheat oven to 350 degrees, bake for 35-40 minutes, DING! Your human is now ready, let cool before serving. Actually, the Victor Frankenstein method is more of a lobster boil, but you get where this is headed if you’re familiar at all with the Frankenstein story, which if you aren’t, get the heck out. Once again, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are here, with Cushing in the title role and Lee as his cursed creation. While some people aren’t as keen on Lee’s version of Frankenstein’s monster, I find him to be the most hideous:

Yikes.

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Okay, that wraps up the 16th and 17th of October for the Challenge. Coming soon: 18 October! Which means, I’m close to being right on top of this thing, aside from the potential retcon. YAY?

Views so far:
23 FTVs
12 repeat views
35 total

OHC Day 8, part the second – Easy Cheesy

Posted in Fun Stuff, Reviews on October 19, 2012 by annamae3

After the first half of 8 October, which was full of some amazing first time views, I decided to start with a familiar favorite…

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Poltergeist (1982)
Directed by Tobe Hooper

A family living in a new housing development comes to find that the area was built on a graveyard where the headstones, but not the bodies, were relocated. The youngest member of the family, little Carol Anne, becomes trapped in a kind of mid-zone spirit world after communicating with the restless souls of the people buried below. The rest of the film is a special effects extravaganza of objects moving on their own, skeletons popping up in the unfinished pool, and a tree that literally tries to eat the middle child. Brief scenes from this movie so terrified me as a child that it wasn’t until about three or so years ago that I could sit and watch Poltergeist from start to finish. I know it’s an ongoing discussion in the horror community, whether Tobe Hooper REALLY directed Poltergeist. I actually can’t come to a particular conclusion on this issue. There are moments, like the face-disintegration scene, that seem quite Hooper-esque, but on the whole the film looks and sounds like a Spielberg picture.

Four “Spielberg faces” in one shot, that’s gotta be some kind of record.

By the way, if you’re not familiar with the “Spielberg face,” you can learn all about it here, in a brilliant video essay by Kevin B. Lee (link includes transcript). Anyhow, Poltergeist – regardless of who directed it – it still a fairly frightening movie, largely in part to how believable the cast is. The small moments are the best ones; a particular stand out for me is the look on Craig T. Nelson’s face when Zelda Rubenstein says that Carol Anne will only hear her mother’s voice. Watch through to the very end of this clip to see:

It’s a significant moment. The movie is rife with them, but never so much that the film becomes cloying or overly sentimental. There is still a lot of horror happening here. The theme alone is enough to creep me out – Poltergeist is like a faithful friend…whose face is peeling off before your eyes.

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Black Sheep (2006) – FTV
Directed by Jonathan King

I don’t have much to say about this horror comedy/spoof on The Wolfman, really. It’s pretty goofy, with some great SFX from the always-reliable Weta, and it ends by lighting a massive fart…literally. You could do spend two hours on something worse, I suppose.

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Blacula (1972) – FTV
Directed by William Crain

Scream Blacula Scream! (1973) – FTV
Directed by Bob Kelljan

I quite liked both of the Blacula movies, much to my surprise. I was expecting a couple of cheesy flicks to end the night, but they’re both pretty decent blaxploitation films. The first one starts way back in the 1700s, with a Nigerian prince and his love bargaining with Count Dracula for his help in ending the slave trade. Little do they know that they’ve walked into a trap: Dracula turns the prince into a vampire, bestowing him with the name “Blacula” (which, admittedly, is pretty hokey) and leaves his woman chained to the prince’s coffin to mourn their fates for eternity. When Blacula is disturbed from his centuries-long slumber by what might be cinema’s first interracial gay couple, it’s the early 1970s, and he is determined to find his lost love. The movie shifts into a little bit of a riff on The Mummy when Blacula finds a young woman who is a dead ringer for his princess and he sways her into basically becoming his vampire wife. Naturally, his plan is foiled, and Blacula is turned to dust right before the end credits.

Hey, kids! It’s the King of Cartoons!

However, by some kind of movie magic, by the next film, his bones are available to use in a voodoo ritual that brings him back to life. The trade off for the arrogant young man who brings Blacula back from the dead is that he becomes a vampire, and a rather obnoxious one at that. Scream Blacula Scream! is an improvement on the first film, mostly by bringing in a better supporting cast, including Pam Grier as a voodoo priestess who attempts to assist Blacula in breaking the curse that made him a vampire in the first place. That’s probably what I liked best about the Blacula movies: ostensibly, he’s the hero here, so we’re rooting for him throughout both films, especially the second one. He’s just so likable! Not to mention his voice is awfully seductive. The Blacula movies might not be great cinema, but they sure are entertaining and a whole lot of fun.

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With that, I completed the Challenge requirements, and promptly took a break from horror films that lasted about a week. Whew!

Views so far:
23 FTVs
9 repeat views
32 total

OHC Day 8, part the first – The Marathon

Posted in Fun Stuff, Reviews on October 18, 2012 by annamae3

 

October Challenge 2010 banner

And on the eighth day, she watched eight horror films. And it was good. Amen.

8 October was a total cram session, mostly because it was a bank holiday, and what else was I going to do with myself? By the end of the day, I’d completed the Challenge – a personal record! – and probably looked like the guy from Scanners (pictured above). What I ended up watching was quite the mash-up of styles and sub-genre, which is a trick I learned from previous Challenges. Too many of one style and you turn into an actual puddle of goo.

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Midnight Son (2011) – FTV
Directed by Scott Lebrecht

An independent vampire film that deserves a wider audience, Midnight Son starts out like so many other vampire stories in the wake of Twilight: vampire boy meets girl, girl falls for boy not knowing his condition, they spiral downward into a sea of co-dependence and blood. But this movie is a little different – Jacob isn’t exactly a vampire at the beginning of the film. He has a skin condition that makes him extremely susceptible to sunlight. Eventually his condition causes him to crave blood, and he procures it in a particularly disturbing way. The film makes up for a relatively dry first half with a stunningly dark second half, which, in addition to the lead actor who bears more than a passing resemblance to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, creates a pretty decent experience overall.

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Stage Fright (a.k.a. Aquarius, a.k.a. Deliria, 1987) – FTV
Directed by Michele Soavi

I…I actually can’t even come up with a good caption for this.

Not only am I participating in the October Horror Challenge, I’m also playing along (not very well this year, unfortunately) in the Kryptic Army Challenge, which is run by one of the most knowledgeable horror fans out there, Jon Kitley. If you’re at all into horror films, even as a casual fan, you should really check out Jon’s website, because it’s loaded with all kinds of information. The Kryptic Army Challenge is a year-long challenge in which each month, you watch two first time views with a particular common theme. For example, October’s theme is Italian Horror, which worked out nicely when my friend Renee suggested we watch Stage Fright as part of our little marathon (the other film, The Whip and the Body, is reviewed below). Michele Soavi’s first feature film is your typical slasher/giallo film, with the kind of gore one would expect from that sub-genre. Most memorably, we get a death by drill that echoes the power drill death in Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead (1980). Oh baby! This film also has Giovanni Lombardo Radice, credited here as John Morghen, who is possibly one of the most familiar faces in Italian horror from the 70s and 80s:

Pardon my shameless excuse to post Johnny’s picture anywhere I can.

<sigh> I love that guy.

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House (a.k.a. Hausu, 1977) – FTV
Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi

I don’t even know how to talk about House in a coherent manner, because it isn’t exactly a coherent film. It’s kind of an art-house fever dream fairy tale nightmare horror-show, and more words strung together beyond that. There’s a story in there, about a girl who brings her friends on a vacation to her aunt’s house, only to find that the house is perhaps haunted, but by who? Or perhaps, what? In classic fairy tale style, the characters are all named for their attributes: Gorgeous, Kung-Fu, Prof, etc. Each of the girls is a type, through and through. There is some wildly bizarre imagery going on, like a room filling with blood that spews from a cat portrait on the wall, to this:

Death Piano: The Piano That Eats

Hausu kind of has to been seen to be believed. Even after hearing about it for years on the IMDB Horror board, it wasn’t anything like I imagined. I’m actually quite thrilled that I blind bought it, because it’s definitely one of those movies I can’t wait to spring on some unsuspecting friends.

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The Whip and the Body (1963) – FTV
Directed by Mario Bava

Every time I watch a Mario Bava film, I appreciate him more as perhaps the finest Italian horror and giallo director ever. Even when his films are less than great, they’re still remarkable in style. The Whip and the Body is more than great, though; it might be Bava’s most underrated work, shadowed by films like Black Sunday and Kill, Baby…Kill!, which are brilliant for sure. I picked up a copy of this about two years ago at a HorrorHound convention on the suggestion of my very good friend Christianne Benedict (who, by the way, is also blogging the Challenge at her amazing movie review site, Krell Laboratories). Funny story: Christi and I were perusing the DVDs for sale at the VCI Entertainment booth (I was looking to buy a copy of Dark Night of the Scarecrow, one of the best made-for-TV horror movies), and she emphatically pointed out that I should buy The Whip and the Body for myself. She went on to talk about how VCI’s DVD releases and remasters have been pretty slipshod in the past, in relatively harsh, yet good-natured, terms. The gentleman manning the booth, whom I think we both assumed was just filling a seat, listened to all of Christi’s criticisms and then introduced himself as one of VCI’s bigwigs. I’ve never seen the color run quite so fast from anyone’s face. I think Christi was rather embarrassed, but noting this, the gentleman assured us that her assessment was indeed correct, and we all had a good, if relieved, laugh. I got a free Dark Night of the Scarecrow t-shirt out of the whole situation, too, so I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice. Anyhow, I tell you all that to get to this: if you’re going to take the advice of one person when it comes to blind-buying a horror movie, make sure it’s Christi, because she knows her stuff, and when she tells you to buy The Whip and the Body, you do it. While I shouldn’t have let it sit on my shelf for two years, still wrapped in plastic, I’m rather glad I didn’t let it sit any longer. Plus, I got to count it for the Kryptic Army Challenge.

The Whip and the Body, at its core, is a ghost story for the BDSM crowd. For being a movie made in the early 60s, it’s surprisingly kinky. Christopher Lee plays a particularly cruel man who returns home to his castle and soon resumes a sado-masochistic relationship with his sister-in-law. One evening, he is murdered, but he returns as a ghost and not only haunts the castle, but the sister-in-law as well. The rest of the film plays out like a murder mystery, peppered with erotic whipping.

The sexy beatings will continue until morale improves.

Bolstering the plot are some of Bava’s most lush visuals. Nobody can create a feast for the eyes quite like he can. In fact, you can probably tell a Bava film just by looking at it – dark shadows, punctured by the most brilliant and surreal colored lights. I mean, look at this still from Hercules in the Haunted World (1981):

How does this make any sense?

Anyhow, I’ll wrap this up by saying that the first half of Day 8 of the October Horror Challenge brought some wonderful, sexy and bizarre surprises. There isn’t exactly the same to be said for the second half, but it wasn’t a total wash either. More on that in the next post.

no updated tally tonight, stay tuned.

OHC Day 6 part II and Day 7 – Back From The Dead

Posted in Fun Stuff, Reviews on October 16, 2012 by annamae3

Well. I suppose I should apologize for abandoning the Challenge for the last several days, but that cold I mentioned in the previous post knocked the life out of me. So, I return from the dead, pushing through a hazy cloud of decongestants (thank you, Mucinex D, for being amazing) and cough syrups (no thanks, hippie homeopathic children’s cough syrup, for not being anything other than delicious) to write again about horror films. So, armed with a box of tissues and plenty of hot tea with honey, I bring you the rest of Day 6 and all of Day 7 of the Challenge.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Directed by Charles T. Barton

A yearly tradition in our house, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is one of several Universal movies where the comedy duo meet a variety of the classic horror monsters. Oddly enough, the title is rather misleading here; although they do meet Frankenstein’s monster, they spend more time rubbing elbows with Larry Talbot/the Wolfman (Lon Chaney, Jr., reprising his most famous role) and Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi, doing the same) than with the staggering giant. The plot is of course corny – Dracula seeks to revive the monster, but he needs a halfwit’s brain to complete the process. Enter Lou Costello and the ever-exasperated Bud Abbott. Hijinks abound. It’s not a great film, but it’s awful entertaining.

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The Innkeepers (2011) – FTV
Directed by Ti West

pictured: not Dee Wallace

Ti West follows his brilliant recreation of late 70s/early 80s horror, House of the Devil, with an even better feature film that’s similar in pacing but even better in story. The Innkeepers follows Claire and Luke (Sara Paxton, Pat Healy), employees of the Yankee Pedlar Inn on its last open weekend. The inn is purportedly haunted by a jilted bride who hung herself in the 1800s, and since Claire and Luke are intrepid ghost hunters, they spend time building a ghost sighting website and making EVP recordings throughout the long quiet nights. On one of these evenings, Claire records audio of the lobby’s grand piano playing by itself, and in any other haunted house film, this is where the movie would kick into high gear. But West is a director who takes his time getting into the story and building a palpable sense of dread instead of bombarding the audience with stingers and jump scares. Some fans disregard the slow burn style as boring or too slowly paced, but I really appreciate this return to the haunted house film that gives us a detailed geography of the house and then uses that geography against us just when we think we know what’s around every corner. I rather hope West maintains this trend. As an additional note, his casting of Kelly McGillis as a former actress-turned-medium is brilliant (she owns the role), and it’s fairly obvious to me that he based this character on Dee Wallace, right down to the moment in the film where Claire identifies her as “you know, the mom from [popular kids’ TV show]!” I can’t count how many times I’ve had to ID Wallace as “the mom from E.T.” Heh.

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[7 October]

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Directed by Brian DePalma

I’m reticent to write too much about this movie, because I’m contributing an essay on Brian DePalma’s glam rock horror homage to an upcoming book project, so I don’t really want to blow my wad here. Also, once I get going on Phantom of the Paradise, it’s hard to stop. There’s so much that I love about it, I’m afraid of taking up too much space, and of overselling it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. Basically all you need to know is that it’s essentially the story of the Phantom of the Opera with a dash of Faust, set to a Paul Williams soundtrack, but told with typical DePalma flair. If you’re so inclined, you can click over to my civilian blog, Bemused and Nonplussed, to read some brief thoughts on both the movie and its star, William Finley, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

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The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) – FTV
Directed by Terence Fisher

My friend Renee, who is blogging the Challenge herself over here at Gaming as Women, and I decided that we should get together one evening and show each other the films we’re respectively writing about for this upcoming book. Conveniently, neither of us had seen each other’s films, so it created a wonderful opportunity to show off a couple of our favorite horror films to each other as first time views. I brought my copy of Phantom of the Paradise; she showed me The Curse of the Werewolf, which is maybe one of the most unusual Hammer productions I’ve ever seen and honestly perhaps my favorite next to their adaptation of Dracula. The werewolf here is Oliver Reed, he of the gorgeous blue eyes and dark, dark hair, and of course there’s the requisite love story and most of the usual werewolf movie trappings, except this movie plays out like a bizarre and horrid fairy tale.

oh…oh my.

Our movie-watching companion rightly pointed out that some scenes were shot like a classic Disney travelogue, and he is right: a montage where our cursed hero leaves his boyhood home and travels off to seek his fortune brings to mind all those old ViewMaster discs I had as a kid. The film’s ending, which I don’t want to spoil, is perhaps one of the most interesting in a werewolf movie because it’s not like any other werewolf movie ending I’ve ever seen. It’s probably more upsetting, but also it fits so well with the entire story it’s probably one of the most perfect horror film endings ever.

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There. Days 6 and 7 are recorded for posterity. I’ll likely have to break up Day 8 into two posts, because I ended up watching EIGHT MOVIES that day and thus completing the Challenge requirements. Since I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself between viewings and blogging, I’ve halted watching for the time being. This also prevents burn-out, which has happened in the past to many a Challenger.

Views So Far:
16 FTVs
8 repeat views
24 total

OHC Day 6 – Hodgepodge

Posted in Fun Stuff, Reviews on October 10, 2012 by annamae3

HI EVERYBODY!

Well, I took the weekend off from blogging so I could cram in more movie watchin’, and lo and behold, I ended up meeting the requirements of the October Horror Challenge (31 total views, 16 FTVs) by Monday night. I’ll be taking it easy for the next couple of days to let the bedsores heal, and spreading out the last few days’ views over the next couple of blog posts, and then get back into the fray again. Also, I have a cold at the moment, so the effects of that are wearing me thin. Maybe I should get crazy with the cough syrup and blog?*

The Signal (2007) – FTV
Directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry

A three-part story about a mysterious signal transmitted via television, phone and radio that causes people’s worst attributes to be amplified to deadly proportion, The Signal is a pretty decent horror film with a little something for everyone. The first part, or transmission, is kind of a standard slasher-esque/stalk and kill tale that gives you everything you need to know about the titular broadcast as well as the film’s main players. The second transmission movies into ultra-dark comedy range, with a kind of Shaun of the Dead feel to it, and is easily the strongest segment in the entire film. The third transmission moves somewhere between bizarre Italian gore film territory and post-apocalyptic love story, yet it works quite well for being uneven in tone – it feels like two different halves thrown together, but it wraps up the overall story well enough.

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Stigmata (1999) – FTV
Directed by Rupert Wainwright

Kind of a possession film, but then again no, but then again… A young hairdresser receives a rosary from her mother and shortly thereafter begins exhibiting the signs of stigmata, the wounds Christ suffered on the cross.

Jesus! No, really. ( ._.)

This movie might seem like it’s completely unlike any other possession-type film, but if you scratch the surface, you’ll find that lots of  possession movies are actually about the failure of the Church and also the triumph of humanity, or at least carry some disdain for it. I mean, in The Exorcist, that isn’t a priest-as-representative-of-the-Church who saves the girl. That is a man who has lost his will to live, to minister and administer. Faithless men are the heroes here. Anyhow. Sorry. The point is, for not being a typical possession film, but rather perhaps a “larger conspiracy” film, Stigmata is a decent enough horror movie with which to kill 90 minutes. Also stars Gabriel Byrne as the priest. Sexxxxxxxyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

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Island of Lost Souls (1932) – FTV
Directed by Erle C. Kenton

OH MAN. I might have to save the other two films from day 6 for tomorrow’s post, because this review could end up taking up a lot of space. The first film adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau is one of those pre-Code movies where you almost kind of understand why the Code was put into place. ALMOST. I mean, I’m not pro-Code, but wow…this movie gets into some heavy stuff, and not all of it is good. What I mean is that…how do I put this…Dr. Moreau is the villain here, right? Yes, because he is experimenting on, to outsiders, “the natives” to make them more human (he’s actually taking animals and, through vivisection and training, turning them into humans). So there’s kind of this awful Dr. Mengele-type thing happening. But his most successful experiment, Lota the panther woman, ends up falling in love with the shipwrecked castaway, and his reaction after they kiss – when he realizes that she isn’t human but animal…he’s completely disgusted, and there’s this whiff of (pardon the term) anti-miscegenation in the air. Mixing the (white) human with the (non-white) beast…I can barely create whole sentences here, folks. The film’s hero ends up being pretty un-heroic, really, although he does insist on taking Lota off the island at the end, so maybe he isn’t so bad after all (she doesn’t survive, unfortunately). The upshot at the end of all this is that Moreau’s victims get their revenge, in the most perfectly horrible way. Ultimately, his experiments are the heroes of the whole thing. They’re never pathetic, and they’re never brute savages either. I mean, even when they exact revenge, there’s a METHOD.

ARE WE NOT MEN?

There’s a plethora of approaches anyone could take to Island of Lost Souls. It doesn’t have to be a message film, even though there is one (several). It’s a horror film, but it doesn’t suffer from that particular trapping. You could watch it just for Charles Laughton’s performance as Moreau and be completely satisfied. My thoughts on it are honestly rather jumbled and unfocused, but I don’t think they’re entirely invalid. There’s just an awful lot happening here.

(We’ll pick up again tomorrow with Day 6 Part II)

*no

tally posted tomorrow, it’s late, I am tired and about to drug myself into oblivion. thanks in advance for your understanding.