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Offline Charles Castle

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #45 on: October 15, 2014, 11:05:17 PM »
...

5. The Island of Lost Souls (1932, directed by Erle C. Kenton)

It seems inconceivable that this film, the best film version of H. G. Wells's The Island of Doctor Moreau, should have fallen into semi-obscurity, but that's what unavailability will do for a film. Absent from home video for over a decade until Criterion picked it up on DVD in 2011, it's deserving of the Criterion imprint, with a real aura of depravity and scenes of dreamlike horror. The chant of the Keeper of the Law is iconic, The racial politics remain uncomfortable, with its critique of colonialism and fear of miscegenation. Charles Laughton is more imp than mad scientist in one of his best roles of the 1930s. This film took full advantage of the lax standards of the pre-Code era. "Are we not men?"

6. Let's Scare Jessica To Death (1971, directed by John Hancock)

The classic slow burn Gothic mindfuck, concerning a recently institutionalized woman who moves into a supposedly haunted country house, where strange things impinge on her sanity. The Gothics of the early 1970s had an ambiance all their own and this film is a distillation of that mood. Director John Hancock shot this in a palette of autumnal colors that lends the film a longing sense of melancholy, while the story itself resolves itself into a beautiful ambiguity. One of the creepiest films ever made. 

7. Spider Forest (2004, directed by Il-gon Song)

One of the things that drives me absolutely up the wall about interacting with fans of horror movies is the persistent notion that "horror" can be put into some kind of box. It's the impulse that leads some fans to declare that such and such isn't really a horror movie because it fails to meet some arbitrary criterion (whether that criterion is supernatural content, graphic violence, or an R-rating is entirely incidental). I think British film critic Kim Newman had the right idea when he titled his book on the subject "Nightmare Movies" rather than "Horror Movies." It sidesteps the issue quite nicely. I emphasize this point because I admit films into the canon of "horror" movies that would be denied entry by a LOT of fans of the genre. My notion of what constitutes a "horror" movie is unusually broad. It makes sense to me to treat, for example, Being John Malkovich or Mulholland Dr. as horror movies because they utilize horror movie narrative structures, explore horror movie themes, or otherwise get under the audience's skin in the same manner as a horror movie in spite of having different concerns than many canonical horror movies. I want to make this clear: horror is first and foremost an emotion, not a genre. Of course, this explains why no one can agree on what actually constitutes a horror movie. Horror is among the most subjective of emotions. What scares me won't necessarily scare you. This subjectivity is also why horror movies endure even as other genres ebb and flow. It can't be pinned down to a formula, no matter how much marketers and hacks may try. Horror is far more protean than that. Even filmmakers who have success at making horror movies struggle to capture lightning in a bottle more than once or twice.

Like several other recent Korean films, Spider Forest is one of those films that will incite this debate. It's closer to David Lynch than it is to George Romero. It's a genre-buster in which horror stems not from graphic violence or supernatural apparitions--there are instances of both in the film--but from questions of identity and basic epistemology. This sort of thing used to be part and parcel of the genre, back when horror stories hadn't yet been cut whole and bleeding from the gothic novel. Spider Forest takes the horror film back to that first principle. At its core, it is a gothic narrative, a spiraling introspection whose ultimate destination isn't nearly as important as the path it follows to get there. This has more in common with Absalom, Absalom than it does with The Ring.

The premise is straight out of the genre factory: Kang Min (Woo-seong Kam) awakens in a forest. He walks up to the nearby house where he finds the dismembered body of a middle-aged man and his dying girlfriend. He catches a glimpse of the killer and chases him out of the forest into a tunnel, where he is promptly smashed by an oncoming car. Miraculously, he survives the accident AND the subsequent brain-surgery, but he's left with gaps in his memory. The memories that he DOES retain point towards himself as the murderer in the woods. This is NOT a new story (or, rather, a new story structure). There's an entire generation of screenwriters who seem to have discovered Cornell Woolrich's The Black Curtain and Last Year at Marienbad all at the same time. Unlike some of those, this isn't a puzzle movie. This isn't a movie where the final piece falls into place, prompting the lightbulb to go off over the audience's head. The facts of the case are fairly transparent from the get-go. As I said before, the end of the film isn't as important as the narrative itself.

The bulk of the film is concerned with memory, grief, and loss. The individual scenes that comprise the film are snapshots of a life that might have been and the arbitrary assemblage of images and individual scenes circle around awful events that act as signposts in that life. The film is not only psychological, it's psychoanalytic. The film is conscious of its symbols. Kang's first wife does a mime for her husband over dinner. The mime tells the story of Eve and the Serpent. Later in the film, one character eats an apple while brutally raping another. The forest itself inspires a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, with a MUCH different ending. All of these scenarios return eventually to the central murder that drives the film, approaching it from a different epistemological standpoint every time. It's almost as if director Il-gon Song is taking his cues from the cubist paintings of Braques or Picasso, which is an approach I like. This approach bears comparison with the similarly titled Spider by David Cronenberg, which employs a similarly fractured narrative for comparable reasons.

Like many recent Korean productions, this is a master-class in basic film craft. The camera is always in the right place. The lighting schemes are evocative. The locations are textured. And the performances are first rate. One doesn't normally think of Asian horror films as being "actors'" films, but this one surely is one. Woo-seong Kam is superb in the lead, a role that takes him from innocence to knowledge, from a state of grace to a shuddering fall, and back again. He carries the film ably, though he's not alone. Jung Suh is equally good in a difficult double role. Even if one thinks the film's script is too arbitrary and too diagramatic (an argument can be made, I suppose), the film is never less than compelling.
You know, if the space man puma thing turns out to be the correct religion, I for one will be very surprised.


Offline Johnny Unusual

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #46 on: October 17, 2014, 03:30:38 PM »
Funny, I'm actually in the middle of watching Let's Scare Jessica to Death (watching it in parts).  It really is good, but I can't tell if the lead is a good actress or not.  There are scenes she does great, but a few stilted dialogue scenes.  I think she is stronger when she is not playing off other characters, which sounds weird.  Of course, maybe my opinion will change when I finish.


Offline SJP

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #47 on: October 17, 2014, 07:10:26 PM »
Day 15: Severed: The Woods of the Dead (2005)

Lumberjacks and tree huggers alike are under attack when an old-growth forest logging camp comes under zombie attack, and the son of the camp's director works to rescue who he can.

Based on its star rating, I was expecting a real ball-bustingly bad experience similar to Paranormal Asylum, but was surprised that not only was it taken mostly seriously, but well-done for the kind of movie it was.  Real gore effects, decent enough acting, and a few characters actually worth caring about.  Not perfect, but definitely not a 1 1/2 star production.  Worth a glance.

NOTABLE MOMENTS: The (failed) rescue of the environmentalists who have chained themselves to the trees; the camp boss; the unexpectedly out of place but still poignant ending; no visible CG.

RIFFABILITY: Possible.  Not a dumb movie, but not award-caliber. Medium-low.

Day 16: Nomads (1986)

A French anthropologist (played by Pierce Brosnan in his first starring theatrical role) dies under mysterious circumstances in the hospital, but not before he whispers strange words to a nurse caring for him.  Suddenly, she experiences visions of Brosnan's life, and is forced to continue his investigation into the comings and goings of a nomadic biker gang who may or may not be evil spirits that have followed him to America.

From the director of Die Hard comes "Pretentious: The Motion Picture."  It's one of those kinds of films that tries to draw in the viewer with a mystery while at the same time trying to pretend it's way smarter than it really is.  The real drawback, unfortunately, is that while the premise itself is interesting, the bikers themselves are about as scary as a hat rack.  It's passably average as a film, and easily passed up for most viewers.

NOTABLE MOMENTS: John McTiernan as the doctor on the other end of the phone call; scuzzy 80s charm; the unexpected appearance of "The Little Remington Steele;" Brosnan's crappy and wavering French accent.

RIFFABILITY: High.  Pretension is always a good source of humor.
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Offline stethacantus

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #48 on: October 19, 2014, 01:39:55 PM »
I read this thread a couple of days too late to participate, not that I even have the time to watch a movie every day for an entire month. October is when all the new television season goes into high gear,  leaving very little free time to watch anything else. I do still enjoy watching movies, which is why I watch about four of them ( including one riffed film ) on Saturday. But that is the only time in the week I can get to them. Perhaps next year I will have time to watch one horror movie a day, provided I find myself unemployed and at home most of the day, or they cancel most of my shows, or I hit the lottery. ( then again, it is possible I may give up watching late night television once Letterman retires, so who knows. )

 I have notice that the "Watch a film from each decade of film making" challenge then proceeds to list the years 1930s through 2010s, which basically means you do not consider the silent era as any of the decades they made films. That leaves four decades out of that challenge. I guess you felt that very few would be willing to watch a silent movie. The bias idea that films were too primitive to be entertaining before sound was invented still prevails. This ignores the fact that films were silent for nearly 40 years, and if they were not entertaining then the motion picture industry would have died out long before sound was added. It is not as if the people of 100 years ago were all so stupid that they would pay good money to see movies week after week even though they were not being entertained. The film industry was no different then that it is today. Movies were made to entertain, because entertaining films made money. Just as it is today, there were good films and bad films. Hits and misses. A 100 year old film that was well received it it's day, will still be just as entertaining today, provided you are watching a good print, shown at the correct speed, and with a proper musical accompaniment. If you are going to watch Battleship Potemkin which was taken from a very muddy print with many frames missing, with the characters running around at super speed, and the Benny Hill theme played on a piano for the music, then odds are that you are going to hate it. This is why if you ever do watch a silent movie, you must make sure the back of the DVD box says such things as "fully restored", "made from original camera negative" or "fine grain print", "full symphony orchestra"


Since the silent era was not included, I am leaving a challenge for next year. And it will probably take an entire year to gather good prints of these films anyway. The challenge: 31 silent films. For those of you who think it is impossible, I have compiled my own list of 31 silent films that can easily be found on DVD. They are presented in chronological order, should some of you insist on seeing them in that order.


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Offline Johnny Unusual

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #49 on: October 19, 2014, 01:45:36 PM »
Finished Let's Scare Jessica to Death.  And I decided that the lead actress did a fantastic job overall.  Definitely check it out.


Offline Charles Castle

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #50 on: October 21, 2014, 02:02:52 PM »
8. Frailty (2002, directed by Bill Paxton)

I like to think that this unassuming shocker is the result of Bill Paxton sitting at the premiere of Vertical Limit and thinking, "Any more films like this and my career will be over." Paxton is a workman among actors, who has been reliable support in films like Apollo 13, Tombstone, and Titanic. Paxton tends to tread water in films like these until he gets a part—usually in a small film—in which his talent comes to the fore. His performances in Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan and Carl Franklin’s One False Move were Oscar-worthy, even if the academy didn’t notice. His turn in front of the camera in Frailty is one of his best performances, but his performance behind the camera is a revelation. This is an accomplished thriller that doesn’t need to load the screen with graphic violence or pumped up visuals. What we have, instead, is a film filled with ominous theological implications and a shocking depiction of an abusive family relationship. Frailty is a bold film that tackles a subject matter that would send most big studio productions screaming from the boardroom.

Frailty has an oddly ambiguous title that isn’t really explained by the text of the movie. The film pulls a neat trick. Ordinarily, one side of the religious fence is going to be able to sidestep the type of issues that Frailty raises. Frailty stacks the deck so that, regardless of which side of the theological divide one resides upon, the film has something to shock your sensibilities. For the true believer, there is the disquieting notion that God might tell you to do something so radically extreme as this. For the unbeliever, there is the secular horror of a religious nut whose activities scar the minds of his children. The film takes a side, but it might not be the side one expects, regardless of which viewpoint from which one approaches the film. At the end of the movie, the viewer is left with the question of whether or not good won out over evil or vice versa. It accomplishes this feat with some narrative gymnastics borrowed from, among other places, The Usual Suspects. The film gives the impression of being a puzzle movie, although, in the end, it asks more questions than it answers and provides a multitude of meanings. Is the film about the frailty of children? The frailty of faith? The frailty of unbelief? Maybe all of these and more, perhaps? The answer depends on what the individual viewer brings to the experience. The puzzle-movie aspect of Frailty is one of the few disappointing aspects to the movie, since it cheats to provide the ending. This failing is more than compensated for by the implicit reimagining of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family presented by our central characters.

The real strength of the film lies in its matter-of-fact tone and in the calm assurance of its performances. Paxton is excellent as a caring father who has gone around the bend. He’s not abusive in the traditional sense—he genuinely loves his children—so it comes as even more of a shock when he compels their participation in their crimes. He is an ordinary man with an ordinary job. The two kids, Matthew O’Leary as Fenton and Jeremy Sumpter as Adam, give nuanced performances, too. There is something about horror that brings out the best in child actors (for instance, Martin Stephens in The Innocents, Linda Blair in The Exorcist, Lucas Black in American Gothic (the television series), and Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense). O’Leary in particular is a match for Paxton, and the film is largely a contest of wills between their two characters. Matthew McConaughey delivers a convincing flat monotone as the film’s narrator, a tone that implies so many different things that one is never really sure what the role of his character really is. It was his first really satisfying performance. As a director, Paxton has framed everything with the ordinary, a tactic that throws the extraordinary into stark relief when it shows up. Certainly, the one angelic visitation that the audience is privy to is all the more terrifying for where it occurs (Paxton is at work under a car, when the archangel, Michael, complete with flaming sword, descends from the depths of the engine). Paxton’s aversion to showing his character’s crimes on screen in grisly detail only ads to the level of unease generated by the blank-faced façade of the film.

The overall impact of the film is not visceral so much as it is philosophical. It asks the uncomfortable question of whether or not one should follow the dictates of a God who speaks to us directly and whether or not such a God can be real in today’s day and age. It re-frames the story of Abraham and gives it a different ending. God demands that a father kill his son in this film. In the Bible, God stays Abraham’s hand. In Frailty, God punishes the father for staying his own hand. This is clearly not a Christian God, and calls to mind dark echoes of the Andrea Yates case, in which Yates was convinced that God had told her to drown her children. Frailty goes all of this one step better, too, because it raises the possibility that God really IS speaking to the father (an idea that raises the further question of whether or not one can be justified in breaking the covenant of the Ten Commandments when God wills it). The contemplation of these ideas, if the audience thinks about them at all, provides a foreboding sense of unease that does not go away once the final credits unspool on the screen.

9. The Toolbox Murders (2004, directed by Tobe Hooper)

Have you ever complained about some service or other and compared it to landing a man on the moon? You know the phrase: "They can put a man on the moon, but the cable guy can't get to my house while I'm home..." You get the idea. I suspect that Tobe Hooper is all too familiar with this phenomenon. With him, though, it's a bit different. He's spent his entire career dwelling in the shadow of his first film. Even today, he continues to be billed as "The Creator of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Hooper's first film is the horror genre's equivalent to landing a man on the moon. For him, critics will continue to ask whether his current film measures up to that standard, or, worse, whether or not that first film was a fluke in the first place. This is unfortunate. I suspect that there are a lot of successful filmmakers whose careers wouldn't match up to a film like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and not just filmmakers working in the horror genre. Of course, Hooper has done himself no favors over the last few decades. Of the hot young turks who remade cinematic horror in the 1970s, Hooper's career has fallen the farthest. Films like Spontaneous Combustion and Night Terrors are conspicuous examples of a director shooting himself in the foot again and again; it's a pattern of failure that has driven Hooper to the ghetto of made-for-cable and direct-to-video.

Keep all of this in mind when I note that Toolbox Murders, Hooper's 2004 remake-in-name-only of a minor slasher film, is a return to form of sorts. It's not at the same level as TCM (what is?), but it's certainly a better film than anything he's made since the heady days of his tenure at Cannon Films. It's a better film, too, than most of the crap that passes for horror at the multiplexes. Those films are gun-shy, afraid of losing the lucrative teen audience for horror films. They don't have the guts to transgress the boundaries of good taste for fear of restrictive ratings. Even at his lowest ebb, that has never been a problem for Hooper, and Toolbox Murders has a mean streak a mile wide. Two scenes in particular--one involving a circular saw and the other involving a vice, some nails, and a can of lye--go well and truly beyond the pale of the R-rating. How they made the grade, I know not, but I'm grateful for it.

Toolbox Murders has, essentally, three acts. In the first act, Hooper sets up the film as a slasher film, with its masked killer dispatching his victims with various implements from his well stocked toolbox (natch). Parts of this seem particularly clumsy--intentionally clumsy, I'm guessing, from the blatant cut-away shots to the signature toolbox--but there's no denying the nastiness of the film's setpiece murders. In the second act, the film turns into a giallo mystery, with Angela Bettis's character assuming the role of out-of-her-depth amateur sleuth. The first two acts of the film edge the audience towards the precipice. In the third act, Hooper pushes them over. The killer, named "Coffin Baby" by the film's credits, is a memorable grotesque. He's a visual shock that is completely unexpected. The backstory, uncovered over the course of the film, suggests the sort of slasher film that might be written by one of Lovecraft's circle: say, Frank Belknap Long or Henry Kuttner (though surely not by Lovecraft himself). There's more ambition in this part of the film than I expected, though the execution at the very end of the movie leaves something to be desired. The film's modest resources aren't up to that kind of ambition, but Hooper seems to be. He seems engaged by the composition of a film for the first time in nearly twenty years.

The thread that ultimately holds things together is Angela Bettis. Already a fixture of the genre after the remake of Carrie and her star-making turn in May, Bettis is a better actress than the genre often gets (or deserves). She's not particularly likeable in this movie, but Hooper likes his characters unlikeable. Bettis's gift is that she makes that unlikability comprehensible. We understand why she is the way she is. We'd be that way, too, were we in her place.

10. Eyes of Fire (1983, directed by Avery Crounse)

Once upon the 80's, this film seemed to be on the shelf of every mom and pop video store. It seems to have been lost to time and neglect. This film follows a group of early American settlers as they're banished into the wild, where they are tormented by the spirits of the forest. This has an utterly unique feel to it: part early eighties horror film, part video-era experiment, part tall tale. This was filmed on a shoestring budget, and it sometimes shows, but it deploys its effects with aplomb. This is an early example of the kind of "wrong" geography that later shows up in films like The Blair Witch Project, and it's completely effective at disorienting its characters and the audience alike.

11. Blood on Satan's Claw (1971, directed by Piers Haggard)

The devil is among the children in this faux-Hammer gothic. This film plays like a conservative inversion of Witchfinder General, with the witchfinders on the side of right and with those crazy kids driving the world to hell in a hand basket. Blood on Satan's Claw is reactionary against New Age neo-paganism, given that it associates Britain's pre-Christian pagan past with devil worship (it's by no means the only film to do this). This is as moody and atmospheric as any late sixties British Gothic, though the shadow of the Manson family hangs heavy over the proceedings. There's no ambiguity about its central horror, either. The devil is real and makes an appearance late in the film. Tigon Films, this film's producers, were unusually impoverished as the mini-Hammer wannabes go, so this doesn't have the resources to pull off some of its ambitions, but it's a gorgeous film to watch most of the time (particularly when comely coven leader Linda Hayden is on screen--Frida Kahlo eyebrow and all) and it builds up a potent head of steam as it moves toward a showdown between the forces of right and goodness who have armed themselves with a gigantic holy avenger sword and the evil one himself.
You know, if the space man puma thing turns out to be the correct religion, I for one will be very surprised.


Offline SJP

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #51 on: October 27, 2014, 03:53:55 PM »
Wow.  11 days of reviews to catch up on.  I think I'll go the short, short route.

Day 17: Hellraiser (1987)
Frank had an affair with Larry's fiancée Julia.  Frank buys puzzle box and disappears.  Larry moves into Frank's house and cuts hand.  Frank reforms out of that blood through the attic floor and asks Julia to help him reform completely so they can be together.  Reforming him revolves around him eating the life out of people Julia brings home.  Larry's daughter sees this, and turns to sex demons/Hot Topic originators the Cenobites to give Frank back to them.
Thank you, Hulu, for reminding me of one of the reasons I am glad I don't have walk in attic space.  At turns gross, disturbing, and filled with the S&M fantasies of Clive Barker, it's hard to watch at times, goofily 80s at others.  Recommended for the strong stomached.

NOTABLE MOMENTS: That horrific scream when Frank reforms, the chattering teeth Cenobite (seriously, that guy is awesome), "Jesus Wept."  It's just one thing after another in this movie.
RIFFABILITY: Pretty high up.  There's enough silliness between the gross to keep it interesting.

Day 18: House of Wax 3D (1953)
Vincent Price stars as a humble yet talented wax maker whose unscrupulous business partner decides to torch their wax museum for the insurance money...with Price still inside.  Appearing at new digs with a new museum (now filled with horrors, including a mute Charles Bronson), Price's museum reflects a more grisly view...and the possibility that the 'victims' in his horror section may be more real than first glance suggests.
It's vintage Price.  It's a little slow moving, but then, nearly every 50s horror movie was.  But the 3D on it is a fun novelty.
NOTABLE MOMENTS: The 4th wall breaking paddleball scene, Price's 'evil guy' makeup, the intermission for a film that's not even 80 minutes long.
RIFFABILITY: Medium-high, but more laughing with than at.

Day 19: The Blood Wars of Dr. Z (1971)
Yes, the MST3K version.  I've seen the full version of ZaAt.  I own ZaAt.  I did not want to watch ZaAt.  If you thought watching it with the guys was boring...well, it gets worse.  Although the scene of the "giant fish" that got cut from MST3K (where a normal-sized catfish slithers over a Lego-esque landscape) is worth watching for a laugh.
NOTABLE MOMENTS: The movie? Not many.  The episode?  Genius.
RIFFABILITY: I won't get meta here.

Day 20: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
A killer in a potato-sack mask terrorizes the locals of a Texarkana town.  Based (loosely) on real life killings that took place in the late 40s.
Ironic I should watch this after an MST3K, because I had no idea before I started watching it that it was a "shockumentary" by "Boggy Creek" legend himself, the late Charles B. Pierce.  Though heavily fictionalized, it does play its hand that it is based on true events thanks to the fact that the killer uses a gun most of the time.  Also apparently inspired by "Last House on the Left" in its use of out of place cop-based wackiness, usually involving Pierce himself as "Sparkplug," a cop even Patrolman Kelton would shake his head at.
NOTABLE MOMENTS: Sparkplug's shenanigans, the "death by trombone," the fact that the production hired classic cars of the era but everyone is dressed in 70s clothing.
RIFFABILITY: High.  It's Pierce.  It's silly Texarkana shenanigans wrapped around an America's Most Wanted dramatization.  The possibilities are rife.
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Offline SJP

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #52 on: October 27, 2014, 04:28:22 PM »
Day 21: The Chair (2007)
A woman, recently released from mental care, moves into a new house, which turns out was once the home of a sadist child murderer, who tortured his victims with a strange chair.  She and her sister investigate strange ghost phenomena in the house, but when it becomes clear the spirit of the murderer is beginning to take control of the woman's life, her sister must resort to drastic action to save her.
Another low budget cheapie similar to "Paranormal Asylum," except made in Canada by people who might actually be talented if they got more work.  Unlike "Asylum," this actually has a plot.  The acting still isn't great, but it's watchable, and the effects actually do have an effect on things.  Unfortunately, it's also undone by a lack of pacing.  Not bad, but not worth the trouble, either.  Skippable.
NOTABLE MOMENTS: Apparently blacking out due to possession causes an increase in the consumption of cat food.  Yeah, I don't get it either.
RIFFABILITY: Medium.  Very low key, hard to have fun with.

Day 22: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The Monster returns, as does the Doctor (no, not THAT Doctor).  Henry Frankenstein has given up on his research until he is goaded back into it by Dr. Praetorius, and the Monster himself, who has learned to talk and seeks a mate that will not run from him in terror.  It all ends in heartbreak.  And bad teeth.
A very weird sequel to Frankenstein, when you stop and think about it, but Whale certainly knew how to be the right kind of weird with the creative freedom he was allowed.  Still memorable.
NOTABLE MOMENTS: The bottles full of little people (really, what's up with that?); the quite poignant friendship with the blind man; the Monster's easy defeat at the hands of the equivalent of Nyquil; the post-windmill burning musings of the villagers (which can be summed up as, "well, that was fun.  What can we do now?")
RIFFABILITY: Quite good.  It's all very campy in its own way.

Day 23: Jess Franco's Count Dracula (1970)
Known by a variety of different names (the copy I watched was technically called Les Nuits de Dracula), Christopher Lee took the role of Dracula upon being told the story would be faithful to Stoker's novel.  I assure you, it is not, though closer than several other notable adaptations.  Full of Jess Franco's usual horrible dub work (where even the principal actors dubbing themselves all sound like they had some of Frankenstein's Nyquil), but fun in a lurid sort of way. And a notable appearance of Klaus Kinski outside of Nosferatu makeup as a mute Renfield, who does well with no dialogue.
NOTABLE MOMENTS: Renfield's "escape" out the window; the taxidermy "Room of Horrors!"; the awesome 70s score.
RIFFABILITY: High.  I wasn't kidding about how notable that "escape" scene is.  Good grief, is that dummy obvious.

Day 25: Slugs (1988)
Reviewing Day 25 before 24 for certain reasons.  A northeastern US town is under assault from carnivorous slugs.  Like Squirm, they sneak up on people who should really see them coming.  Unlike Squirm, it's ridiculous, over the top, and incredibly gross.  No, wait...
Filmed in the U.S. by a Spanish crew, there are some noticeable ADR moments where the non-U.S. crew is dubbed, and poorly, but the real fun is that, between the film stock and ridiculous tone, it comes off less like a horror film than an extended Incredible Hulk episode with massive amounts of gore.  I actually wanted to see this since The Cinema Snob reviewed it and it was exactly what I thought it was going to be.  Like "Hellraiser," though, it gets pretty nasty...nastier than I thought, actually.  Strong stomachs only.
NOTABLE MOMENTS: The sex session interrupted by the room full of slugs nobody noticed; "You don't have the authority to declare HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"; the headache that isn't just a headache; the buddy who looks suspiciously like (but isn't) Wings Hauser.
RIFFABILITY: High.  Everyone is overacting, but everybody knows they're overacting, and that's what makes it fun.
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Offline SJP

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #53 on: October 27, 2014, 05:00:36 PM »
Day 24: The Children (1980)
The reason I saved this until after Day 25 is that, while Slugs WAS reviewed by The Cinema Snob, I don't get how he's missed this little gem of 80s schlock.  After a schoolbus drives through a cloud of radioactive fog, the children onboard go missing.  A search reveals the children are hiding out in the woods, waiting for people to come give them a hug...at which point they roast the unfortunate alive.  As it turns out, nothing can stop the children except the removal of their hands, thus leading to the most tasteless (yet bloodless) ending to a film since "Children at Play."
It's a wonder this film got made.  Despite the fact that children are the villains (and get their zombie-esque comeuppance), it's surprisingly only onscreen violent towards the adults, with most of the kid related violence happening off-screen.  It's clear that you're meant to feel bad for them even as they turn everyone around them into Original Recipe, as most of the adults are incredibly gullible, but by that measure, it's also surprisingly unpredictable.  Since most of the kids are 'zombies' from the beginning anyway, there are no rules as to who gets bumped off next, including a lot of very nice people.  It's weird that a movie like this lends its characters a lot of sympathy, despite being essentially a slasher film...or burner film.  Can't really say I liked it, but I can't really say it's all that bad of a movie.  But I can certainly see why it's obscure.
NOTABLE MOMENTS: The makeup is quite good; the victims are unpredictable (and sad at times); Molly the store clerk/shotgun toting police dispatcher; the entire film score is lifted directly from Friday the 13th (no joke; it is, and Henry Manfredini is credited for it); the wife who just doesn't get what's going on and hits someone with a vase; the medical kit that looked like a laptop for a split second that made me think the holder was researching Web M.D.
RIFFABILITY: Easily riffable, but like "Child Brides," you'd have to be really good to make it work.

Day 26: House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Rifftrax Live edition.  Siditif, please.
NOTABLE MOMENTS: Paul F. Tompkins; Vincent Price at his best; "HEADS HEADS HEADS!  WE WANT HEADS!"

Day 27: The Horror Show (1989)
Lance Henriksen is a cop whose nightmares about a serial killer can finally be put to rest as the killer (the late, great Brion James) is about to be put to death by electrocution.  However, all it does is turn the killer into an electronic ghost who then terrorizes Henriksen's family and murders people with his favorite weapon, a meat cleaver.  Since no one believes Lance Henriksen DIDN'T kill all those people (who can blame them, really?), he must get rid of the ghost before it destroys his life forever.
Again, I know why this movie is obscure.  It's not very good, and comparable to the equally not fun to watch "Shocker."  However, it gets a boost for two reasons: some good gore scenes (apparently trimmed down a bit to avoid an X rating, which is a shame that there's no extended cut since it would go a long way to rehabbing this thing) and Brion James.  James reportedly said this was one of his favorite characters, and you can tell he was having a ball.  The murderer is such a ham that every scene of him is fun.  If only they had a better wraparound film for him and Lance to have been in (the seeds were there, they just never took root).  Also, in a fun fact, this movie is the reason we have the House series numbered 1, 2, and 4; in the U.K., this movie is "House 3," even though the only similarities are that it takes place mostly in a house and Sean S. Cunningham produced it.  This is like someone releasing James Cameron's "Titanic" as "The Abyss 2" to boost ticket sales because it involves Cameron and the sea in some fashion.
NOTABLE MOMENTS: Brion James; Henriksen's completely useless partner in the flashback scene; the very good jump scare in Henriksen's nightmare; the effects (what ones stayed in, especially the electric scenes); the "What, everything is ok, HOW?!?" ending.
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Offline Darth Geek

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #54 on: October 27, 2014, 06:31:56 PM »

Day 17: Hellraiser (1987)RIFFABILITY: Pretty high up.  There's enough silliness between the gross to keep it interesting.
I would LOVE to see Hor-Riff-ic Productions riff this one! But they've got more than enough already on their plates for now *cough*thegate*caugh* and their real lives keep making their releases slow enough already.



Offline SJP

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #55 on: October 28, 2014, 05:50:26 PM »
Since the silent era was not included, I am leaving a challenge for next year. And it will probably take an entire year to gather good prints of these films anyway. The challenge: 31 silent films. For those of you who think it is impossible, I have compiled my own list of 31 silent films that can easily be found on DVD. They are presented in chronological order, should some of you insist on seeing them in that order.

I think the only reason the silent era was left off was not because there aren't any good silent films (I actually like silent movies for a lot of different reasons, though I'm certainly no scholar about them), but because they were typically not feature length.  I personally didn't know about some of the ones on your list that are (at least, by name; I've seen the stock footage of Edison's inferno before, notably in the 1930s Maniac), and I've watched feature length silent films for past Octobers (Nosferatu and Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, for starters), but I assumed horror ones prior to the 1920s were few in number.  I did watch one either last year or the year before that was not included on your list entitled Wolf Blood, which is considered the oldest surviving "Werewolf" film (in quotes because it's not really about werewolves, but a guy who believes he might be).  It's 67 minutes and easily watchable.

In other words, I in no way say not to watch silent films, since I enjoy them as well.  But I assumed anything prior to the 1930s (especially when the list was made) would be difficult to find good, watchable copies of for the purposes of the challenges.  Of course, I've fallen down on the job when it comes to enforcing those (there used to be downloadable sheets and awards and everything), but silent films are definitely worth watching if you find them.
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Offline stethacantus

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #56 on: October 31, 2014, 11:22:04 PM »
I think the only reason the silent era was left off was not because there aren't any good silent films (I actually like silent movies for a lot of different reasons, though I'm certainly no scholar about them), but because they were typically not feature length.

A  misconception, along with the misconception that they were all comedies, and the misconception that they were filmed in fast motion. The first decade of motion pictures were very short, about a minute long, because they were made for those coin operated hand cranked boxes you now only see in museums. The invention of the projector moved the motion picture into theaters. Some studios released a series of one minute films that when combined made a single story. This allowed the theater owner to not only decide which scenes to censor, but in what order to show the scenes. With the movie The Life of an American Fireman ( 1903 ) Edison had the scenes pre-edited and spiced onto a single half reel. Theater owners complained that they were denied the right to edit. A few months later Edison released The Great Train Robbery which ran for an entire reel ( about 12 minutes projected at the correct speed ). It became the world's first blockbuster, leading film makers to abandon one minute films in favor of longer films. Wanting to go beyond 12 minutes, experiments were made using more than one projector in order to project two consecutive reels without the audience noticing the reel change. This was when those count down numbers were introduced to the beginning of reels, and when those dots began flashing at the end of each reel. Both are used by the projectionist to synchronize the swap between projectors. Once that was figured out, by 1906 feature films began running longer than an hour in length. News reels, cartoons and serials stayed at 1 reel in length. Comedies ran between two and four reels. But once a comedian became as popular as Chaplin, he would move up to feature length films. Erich von Stroheim's epic Greed ( 1925 ) was originally 7 hours and 40 minutes long before M.G.M. had it edited down to 2 hours and 20 minutes for the general release.

I had not realized that only feature length films were permitted in this challenge. Not that there were many short horror films to begin with. But there are a lot of great horror based two-reel comedies, and even some memorable horror based cartoons.


I personally didn't know about some of the ones on your list that are (at least, by name; I've seen the stock footage of Edison's inferno before, notably in the 1930s Maniac), and I've watched feature length silent films for past Octobers (Nosferatu and Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, for starters), but I assumed horror ones prior to the 1920s were few in number.

There were just as many horror films per year in the 1920s as there were in the 1930s.  After all, the silent era was where Lon Chaney made all of his horror films. ( He made only one sound film, the crime melodrama called The Unholy Three ( 1930 ) before dying of throat cancer. )

....... But I assumed anything prior to the 1930s (especially when the list was made) would be difficult to find good, watchable copies of for the purposes of the challenges.  Of course, I've fallen down on the job when it comes to enforcing those (there used to be downloadable sheets and awards and everything), but silent films are definitely worth watching if you find them.

The 1930s are just as bad when it comes to finding preserved films. Almost as many early sound films are lost as late silent era films. Or worse, sometimes the film is still extent, but the soundtrack is lost. I picked the films on my list because they were all out on DVD, and in either good condition, or available in pristine condition. The rule of thumb is, if you buy a silent film from a budget company, then expect a bad print. The distributors you want to buy from are Keno and Criterion because they go through the most expense in presenting a silent film as close to complete as possible. You are probably better of with Keno because their catalog is usually in print. Image is also acceptable, but has a catalog that is more often than not, no longer in print.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2014, 11:24:04 PM by stethacantus »


Offline SJP

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Re: October Horror Movie a Day 2014
« Reply #57 on: November 02, 2014, 04:34:02 PM »
Yes, I know about Kino.  We got in quite few of their Buster Keaton collections where I work.  I'll have to scan the rest of their catalog.

But as it is November 2nd, congrats to all those who made it.  It has been a wacky year behind the scenes, so I wasn't able to go all out on awards and stuff this year like I would have liked, but I'm definitely looking towards planning a bigger gala as well.  Plus, I need to finish my reviews of what I finished up the month on, but that will have to wait just a wee bit longer.
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