OHC Day 8, part the first – The Marathon

 

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.

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