Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hallowe'en Horror Movie Round-Up

Happy Hallowe'en! Here's some quick thoughts on horror movies I've watched this October. Generally, it seems I watched some really weird flicks this year. I mean, all horror movies are a little weird, even the 80's slasher flicks, but a lot of these have that "what the fuck am I watching?" quality to them.

Night of the Demon - I bought some kind of pocket-sized book about movie monsters from one of those Scholastic book fairs when I was a kid. The cover had a picture of this fearsome looking demon:

As I recall, it was in color--don't know if it was a color still taken on the set, or if it was colorized for the book cover. Anyway, I always wanted to see whatever movie this came from. Years later I found out (in Dan Peary's Cult Movies 2 book) that it was something called Curse of the Demon (or Night of the Demon). The beast was actually controversial on the set--director Jacques Tourneur wanted to leave the demon's existence ambiguous and let the audience's imagination do the work, as it had in his earlier horror films for producer Val Lewton, but the producer insisted on having a scary monster appear. I'm a little torn on this. It probably would be a better film done Tourneur's way, but as a monster fan, I'm in love with that beast. I can't think of a better monster design from the 1950's. That is some shit I would not want to run into.

Straightjacket - This is another one I've been wanting to see for a while. I didn't know the name of it, I just wanted to see "the movie where Joan Crawford plays an axe murderer." What's cool is that sometimes you see these washed up actors in B-movies, and they give a performance that's like "look, I know this is a bad movie, you know this is a bad movie, let's just get it over with so I can spend my money on liquor." But Joan puts as much into this performance as Mildred Pierce, or any other thing she ever did. A consumate professional.

Black Christmas (1974) - This is considered the begining of the slasher genre, and while it's not quite as good as Halloween (which owes this film a great debt), it has a weird creepiness that's maybe even more scary. Bobbie actually had nightmares after watching it. I also have to say, after watching this and DePalma's Sisters, my opinion of Margot Kidder's acting chops has gone up considerably.

From Beyond - I thought I'd never seen this, but as I started watching it, I remembered it a little. (Jason, do you remember watching this at Tercio's house? Possibly a New Year's Eve party or something?) Anyway, this movie is fucking WEIRD. Like, Cronenberg weird, with bizarre mutations and cosmic horror and all. This should be a stoner classic--in fact, the movie it most reminded me of is Altered States.

The Brood - I think this is the one I liked the best. It might be my new favorite Cronenberg movie. Something about these little mutant kids running around killing people with blunt objects and terrorizing the little girl just freaked me the fuck out.

The Tingler - I'd seen this once before, and hated it. Just couldn't get past the basic concept, that there is a giant centipede that lives in all our spines and feeds on fear if you don't scream, but nobody's ever seen one...that's just too idiotic. That's up there with Superman turning back time, or Elizabeth Shue wanting to fuck Woody Allen. But watching it again on TCM, I enjoyed it for it's complete, psychedelic kookiness.

The Last Man on Earth - I've been wanting to see this for a long time. It's the first adaptation of My Name is Legend (later remade as The Omega Man with Chalton Heston, and a third version with Will Smith is coming out this year) starring Vincent Price. This version is very faithful to the book. I can see why fans of the book hate Omega Man (which I still think it a cool movie in its own way). Last Man captures the desolation and loneliness of the book, and being filmed in the outskirts of Rome (or some other Italian city) gives it an alienness that you couldn't get from America.

The Diabolical Dr. Z - I've seen one Jess Franco movie before this, Vampyros Lesbos, which I hate (I watched it again recently on IFC, and it failed to grow on me), but this turned out to be great fun. Again, just the sheer kookiness of it, it's like some lunatic pulp horror, with robot arms and poison fingernails and stimulation of the "center of evil" and...you just need to see it.

The Fog - I think this was pretty the only pre-90's John Carpenter film I'd never seen. Wait, no, there's Starman, but whatever. I loved the way the back-story/mythology is slowly revealed as the action occurs. Reminded me of the story "Harpnotes in the Mist" from this album.

Black Christmas (2007) - This sucked. It's basically a typical slasher, but with the violence of the kills ratcheted up (lots of eye trauma). But there were a couple scenes that were so nuts that I kinda liked them, particularly the inevitable shower scene, which defied the laws of perception in a most nightmarish way.

The Frighteners - I hadn't seen this since it was in theaters, and I remembered feeling let down by it, but that was largely the fault of the ad campaign, which marketed it as a straight horror flick instead of the Ghostbusters/Back to the Future-type comedy that it is. It's a fun action-horror-comedy, mostly a special effects movie, but a bit too light. I have to give it up to Jackson for how long he keeps things going without boring me.

28 Days Later - Damn, this movie's fuckin' brilliant, innit? You kinda forget, but those first 20 minutes are amazing, and the whole portion in the military compound is awesome, too.


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