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Old 09-18-11, 07:25 PM   #14
rbrown498
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Re: The 7th Annual "October Horror Movie Challenge" (10/1 - 10/31) ***The List Thread

Orange Title - Denotes first-time ever viewing

Caution: Spoilers may follow!

Last year's tally: 68 films; 38 first-time viewings

This year's goals: 75 films; 45 first-time viewings; complete all lists



10/1/2011

Spoiler:
1. Santa Sangre (1989) - I've been curious about this film since it first came out. Over the years, I'd seen the video box in various rental stores, but I never actually pulled the trigger to watch it. I'm glad that I've now finally seen it...but don't ask me to tell you what it means, because I'm still working that out. On the surface, it's the story of a boy of the circus named Fenix whose father cuts off the arms of his mother, then commits suicide. After some time spent in a hospital due to the psychic trauma inflicted on him from watching his father commit suicide, Fenix leaves the hospital, reunites with his mother, and "becomes" her arms. And I don't mean that he's merely helping out around the house, sweeping and cooking and such--he walks behind her, slipping his arms into the sleeves of her garments, and his arms become hers, complete with painted false fingernails. There's a lot more to the relationship (and the film) than this, but this is one of those films that's going to speak to each individual who watches it in a different way. So, instead of giving you MY interpretation of events, I'd rather leave you to sort it out for yourself...as I'm still doing. I really appreciate that Santa Sangre's director, Alejandro Jodorowsky, doesn't beat the viewer about the head and neck with explanations. The information he gives is elliptical, and it's only upon later reflection that what at first seemed like random plot points begins to cohere into a comprehensible narrative. I need to watch this again, though, to help that process along. A few more random thoughts about Santa Sangre:

1. Jodorowsky goes all Argento for a minute with the death of the tattooed woman.
2. U2's Bono seems to have gotten more than one costume idea from this film.
3. The "strongest woman in the world" looks a LOT like Tom Hanks in drag from Bosom Buddies.
4. The adult Alma, once she puts the white makeup back on, looks a lot like Simone Simon from Cat People.
5. For me, the film's loveliest moment comes when the soldier picks up the sleeping Alma and cradles her like a child. For some reason, that really affected me.
6. Trouser snake--best visual pun in a long time.

2. Beyond Atlantis (1973) - Delightfully dumb adventure shot in the Philippines features John Ashley, Patrick Wayne, and Sid Haig as somewhat less-than-upstanding expats. The trio, along with an anthropologist, go in search of some really big pearls. What do they find? Descendents of the citizens of Atlantis (who have eyes similar to those of the aliens in Killers from Space) and really big pearls. They also find the regular-eyed "princess" of this tribe, who has to mate with an outsider to continue the royal lineage (and keep said lineage's eyes normal). Film features some exceptionally pretty underwater cinematography (and so much of it!). The princess's dad is played by the hero of Robot Monster, George Nader. And that just seems kind of fitting. Film is the seventh in a series of films that Ashley and director Eddie Romero made together. Best line: "You WILL mate! You WILL mate!" For me, drive-in nirvana.


10/2/2011

Spoiler:
3. Konga (1961) - Okay, it's not a good movie. I understand that, but I still had an absolute blast with this big ol' hunk of cheese. Michael Gough, never the most reserved of actors, really chews the scenery in this one. He plays a botanist who discovers some sort of plant growth hormone that, when injected into animals, causes them to exhibit massive growth spurts (and they obey really well, too). So he starts injecting his pet chimp Konga with the hormone, and not only does Konga get bigger, but he also changes into a man in a gorilla costume at some point. Gough uses Konga to kill various people who have gotten in the way of his scientific research and/or his romantic interests. In the end, Gough's jealous fiancee/assistant gives Konga a super-duper dose of the growth hormone, and Konga goes medieval on London. I had two favorite lines in this one--1) spoken by Michael Gough: "Margaret, if there's one thing I can't abide, it's hysterics--especially in the morning."; and 2) spoken by the London police chief: "There's a huge monster gorilla that's constantly growing to outlandish proportions loose in the streets!" From AIP, naturally.

4. [REC] (2007) - I've seen [REC] three or four times now, and it never fails to unnerve me. It's not that it really does anything new--the "found-footage" aspect of the film was already old hat by the time this film was made (thanks mainly to The Blair Witch Project), the "rage zombie" had been introduced in 28 Days Later, the night-vision photography had been done in The Silence of the Lambs...but the combination of all these influences (along with nods to Night of the Living Dead, The Evil Dead, and even The Exorcist) makes for a very potent horror film. Part of the reason for the film's success is that it takes great care to ground the film in everyday reality before the weird stuff starts happening. I don't think the film would have been nearly as effective without the first ten minutes showing the fire station's normal routine. This ten minutes also gives us time to get to know and care about Angela, the reporter. Once the film kicks into gear, we're on her side, and don't want any harm to come to her. There are at least three tremendous jump scares, and even though I know they're coming, they get me every time. [REC] is easily one of my favorite horror films of the last decade.

5. Quarantine (2008) - So-so remake of the terrifying Spanish film [REC]. It's certainly not the worst of the spate of remakes to curse the new millennium, but the few changes that the American writers and director made to the original story don't amount to any new scares or better explanations. The character of Angela the reporter in Quarantine is infinitely more annoying than that of Angela in the Spanish version, and, wonky as it is, I prefer [REC]'s explanation of the origins of the virus to the same old "genetically-engineered supervirus" explanation given here. As for Scott, the cameraman? There's no way that he worked for a commercial TV organization. Even the worst of professional cameramen are able to keep the camera steadier than he did, and they don't constantly zoom in and out of shots, either. My final verdict: if you've seen [REC], don't bother with Quarantine.

6. The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) - Terence Fisher's remake of The Man in Half-Moon Street stars Anton Diffring as Dr. Georges Bonner, a 104-year-old guy who looks no older than his late 30s. Hazel Court is the woman who loves him, and Christopher Lee plays the doctor who loves her. It turns out that Dr. Bonner and his friend Dr. Weiss discovered the secret to eternal youth over 70 years ago, and all it takes to remain forever young are periodical gland transplants. Dr. Weiss has been the surgeon all those years, but now he's had a stroke and can't use his scalpel hand any more. Whatever will Dr. Bonner do? There's also some subplot that really doesn't go anywhere about some elixir that Dr. Bonner must drink every few hours to stay alive while he's waiting for his gland transplant. If he's late, his eyes go all googly, he turns green, and his touch goes acidic. Second-tier production from Hammer might have been more popular if two of the four leads didn't have such heavy accents.

7. Crawlspace (1986) - Typical Empire late '80s non-movie stars Klaus Kinski as a deranged Nazi/former doctor/serial killer who rents rooms in his large house to attractive women so that he can spy on them. There's not an iota of tension in the entire film, unless you count the singular agony of waiting for it to finally end. The only things that kept me watching were Kinski's performance and Pino Donnagio's score, although neither could be counted among their best work. Contrary to writer/director David Schmoeller's title, the tunnel-like area under the attic floor that Kinski crawls around in to spy on tenants is not a crawlspace; however, calling this movie "Cooling/Heating Ducts" would make it even less appealing than it already is, so I guess the misnomer is justified in this instance. Not worth expending any effort whatsoever to seek out.


10/3/2011

Spoiler:
8. Orca: The Killer Whale (1977) - Oh, how I miss the Dino De Laurentiis of the mid-to-late 1970s. It's not that I think that he made good movies; on the contrary, most of his output from that time period was sheer dreck (see also Lipstick, Mandingo and its sequel, Drum, and King Kong). I think what I miss is that De Laurentiis was a showman--he knew how to package and sell a movie, how to build anticipation for a project and deliver a film that, for all its faults, still delivered the goods. Orca is such a movie. Is it a good film? Not by any objective measure. What it does have going for it is a pretty good central performance by Richard Harris, a score by the great Ennio Morricone, and delusions of grandeur. Imagine Moby Dick as written by William Shakespeare with the whale as the tragic figure, and you'll have a fairly good idea of what's going on with this movie. I don't think that even Shakespeare would have had a dying she-whale spontaneously abort her fetus onto a ship's deck, however. Look quickly for Robert Carradine, and mute the sound during the end credits so as to avoid the atrocious theme song, "My Love, We Are One." For a while, Orca was known primarily as Bo Derek's film debut--her character in the film might as well have been named "Ingenue" for all the wide-eyed non-acting she does--but now it's practically forgotten, which is understandable, but somewhat a shame.

9. The Grudge (Unrated Extended Director's Cut) (2004) - The Grudge is a remake of a Japanese film called Ju-On, which was itself a remake of a direct-to-video movie. I first stumbled across Ju-On when I was living in Japan in 2003. A student of mine and I were in a video store, and she asked if I'd seen it. When I said no, she said that it was very scary, and that I should give it a try. So I did. Unfortunately, the DVD had no English subtitles, so I was pretty bewildered as to what exactly was going on in the film. A year later, I was back in the States, and I saw that Ju-On had been released on DVD. So I bought it, and the English subtitles cleared up most my confusion with the film. About that time, the DVD of The Grudge came out as well, which I avoided assiduously due to my displeasure at the remake of The Ring, or what was known as Ringu in the U.S. I had steadfastly continued to avoid The Grudge until now, and I'm sort of sorry that I did, because I think that the Americanized version is leaps and bounds better than the original Japanese version...and I rarely take the position that Americanized remakes are better than their original foreign versions. The Grudge still has some problems, with the biggest for me being the layer of artificiality that comes with having nearly all of the protagonists of the film be U.S. expats living in Tokyo. Still, if you can overlook that anomaly, the film's non-linear structure, and its lack of an ending, The Grudge provides some simply marvelous scares that you'll probably find yourself replaying later in your head. In your bed. In the dark.

10/4/2011

Spoiler:
10. Frogs (1972) - I'm lucky that I grew up in a very small town with only one hardtop theater and one drive-in, because the lack of viewing choices meant that I saw a LOT of movies when I was young. I took in double-features at least two or three weekends every month for a couple of years. Because my theater was the only game in town, the owner could get away with showing older, cheaper movies on weekends for the kiddie crowds. Probably a full ten years after they were released, I was seeing great films like Roger Corman's The Raven, Hammer's Kiss of the Vampire, and Mario Bava's Black Sabbath in a real theater. I discovered early on that I liked almost any movie released by AIP. In fact, I can't think of even one that I saw in the early 1970s in my small-town theater that I didn't like (and that even includes Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs). I made it a point to go see every horror movie that I could, and if it was an AIP movie, I was doubly-deadset to see it. So, it's rather odd that I somehow missed out on seeing Frogs. I remember my friends who DID see it telling me about it (for some reason, their retelling of the film made the scene where the frog jumps on the gramophone sound like the pinnacle of horror), and I was jealous. A neighbor kid gave me Issue #91 of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and it had Frogs as its cover story. I ended up having to tear off the cover (which featured a frog with a human hand sticking out of its mouth) because it frightened me so badly. So, tonight, after nearly FORTY YEARS, I finally caught up with Frogs. And boy, was I disappointed. I struggled to remain awake for the entire length of the film, sometimes pausing it to get up and stretch, or grab a snack, or check my email, or ANYTHING to refocus my attention on the film. I finally made it through, but it wasn't worth the effort. It's not often I see a film with so little to recommend it. Frogs isn't scary in the least, it isn't funny, it isn't really much of anything except endless shots of frogs hopping around, with the occasional snake or lizard shot to try to break up the monotony. You know a film is slow if someone gets killed by a turtle, which indeed is the case with this film. Earlier in the film, someone gets hanging mossed to death--hanging moss just drops all over him, sapping his will to live. And at the end of the film, horror of horrors, star Ray Milland is frogged to death. I don't know if it was the combined weight of the critters that killed him or what. At least they were conscientious enough to turn out the lights after killing him, so as to not waste electricity. Eminently forgettable.

11. Cronos (1992) - It's hard for me to believe, but Guillermo del Toro has only directed seven movies. He seems to be so much more ubiquitous than that. This ubiquity started (naturally enough) with Cronos, his first feature film as a director. While it's not my favorite of his films (that title would go to The Devil's Backbone), Cronos is still an incredibly rich viewing experience. A singular take on immortality, the film is about a contraption (which is a little smaller than an adult's fist) called The Cronos Device. Invented by an alchemist in the 1500s, the device is found by an antique dealer, who happens to discover it hidden in the base of a statue that he's acquired. Unsure of what it is at first, he soon finds out that it has some very special powers, and that someone else wants it very, very badly...so badly that they would kill for it. To give away any more of the plot would be a huge disservice to first-time viewers. Cronos is a multiple award winner, even taking home a handful of Ariel Awards (Mexico's answer to the Academy Awards) the year it came out. It probably requires multiple viewings to catch everything that del Toro has loaded it with (and to figure out exactly what the ending means). Worth going out of your way to see.


10/5/2011

Spoiler:
12. The Horde (2009) - It may seem like I'm damning this film with faint praise, but The Horde is probably the best French zombie film that I've ever seen. Okay, so I've only seen three other French zombie films, but the statistic still stands. In this one, we get unusual zombie setup #812: cops raid a derelict building to take out a criminal gang, but zombies overrun the building and probably all of Europe, thus making taking out the gang secondary to not being eaten alive by the living dead. I had a definite feeling of "been there, done that" for about the first half of the movie, and I found it hard to work up any real enthusiasm for the film. But then the protagonists meet up with an overweight old wacko named Rene, and suddenly the film came to life for me. This is a very good thing, because about a half-hour into the film I was beginning to have the heretical thought that maybe I was tired of zombie movies. The last half of the film proved to me that, no, I'm not tired of zombie movies...I'm just tired of zombie movies that have nothing new to bring to the table. Luckily, this zombie movie ended up overcoming its cliched start to finish strong. There are still aspects of the film that I could do without (fast-moving zombies, obviously computer-generated blood), but on the whole, The Horde ended up delivering the goods.

13. Cat Girl (1957) - Barbara Shelley stars as Leonora, the titular cat girl. You see, there's been this curse in her family stretching back hundreds of years, and it's passed down from whoever has it to the nearest...living...rel.... Sorry. I fell asleep, there. Released in the States as the bottom half of an AIP double-feature, Cat Girl is a low-budget British cousin to Cat People, although in this case it's like comparing a flat ale to an aged, single-malt Scotch. Cat Girl lifts two scenes pretty much intact from Cat People, but these scenes are staged so hamfistedly that they fail to generate much of a response of any kind. At one point in the film, Shelley either actually transforms into a were-leopard or imagines that she shape-shifts, but either way the result is pretty ridiculous, with the creature ending up looking a lot like the one in Terror Is a Man, made two years (and half a world away) later. Cat Girl isn't even so bad that it's fun--it's just so mediocre that it once it's over, it's forgotten.


10/6/2011

Spoiler:
14. Dead and Buried (1981) - I first saw Dead and Buried in the summer of 1982, on HBO. I happened to watch it with my grandmother, who laughed all the way through it. She kept saying, "Now that's just silly" when any of the assorted mayhem in the movie would happen, and she'd laugh some more. This was kind of distracting to me, since I was trying to get into the vibe of the movie. I mean, it had gory deaths, and a great creepy setting, and Melody Anderson--I loved it. Well, tonight, I watched Dead and Buried for the first time since 1982. And you know what? My grandmother was right. Jack Albertson plays a mortician named Dobbs who, unbeknownst to the sheriff (James Franciscus) of the tiny hamlet of Potter's Bluff, has been taking the dead bodies that come to the mortuary and reanimating them. Since they're dead, they have to be "touched up" weekly, which for the most part seems to entail putting flesh-colored paint on their decomposing flesh. Any stranger who comes into town (and several of the townspeople) also literally become dead meat, because the zombies of Potter's Bluff hunt them down and kill them violently. The violence is apparently done for two reasons: 1) a book that the sheriff finds tells us that zombies can only be made from those who died violent deaths; and 2) Dobbs likes a challenge when it comes to making dead bodies beautiful again. Why he's doing this is never explained, except when he gives the old "they'll never get old, never die, blah blah blah" speech that all mad scientists give eventually. The movie ends up failing because there's no rationale for the premise. I don't often change my tune when it comes to liking a movie, but I realized while I was watching Dead and Buried that this would most probably be the last time I voluntarily ever see it. So I guess that the moral of the story is: listen to your grandmother--she usually knows what she's talking about.

15. House of Dark Shadows (1970) - This may seem like a really odd choice, but House of Dark Shadows is my favorite vampire movie. I can't really put my finger on why it is--it may have something to do with my having seen it at an impressionable age, or maybe it's because, near the end of the film, practically EVERYONE has turned into a vampire, or it may be just that Carolyn Stoddard (played by Nancy Barrett) makes a really hot vampire chick. When watching it again tonight (and I can't count the number of times I've seen it), I was struck by how straight the entire cast played it. That's a unique quality about the vampire movies of the late 1960s and early 1970s: they were trying to scare us. They didn't want to make us laugh, or make us feel too sorry for the vampire--they wanted to frighten us. Many of them succeeded, but House of Dark Shadows is the cream of the crop. I really, really hope that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp don't screw it up in the forthcoming remake (and I hope that we FINALLY get a DVD--make that a real, PRESSED DVD--of House of Dark Shadows and its sequel, Night of Dark Shadows). If you've never seen it and you like vampire movies, find it and see it before the remake comes out. Just in case.


10/7/2011

Spoiler:
16. Vampire Circus (1972) - This change-of-pace film from Hammer shows the company desperately trying to make adjustments to its usual formula in order to meet changes in the cinematic marketplace. Because of this, the film is rather schizophrenic--but it's never dull. Hammer really amped-up the gore quotient in this one; I haven't done a violence survey of their films, but I feel that this one would most probably be the bloodiest by a fairly large margin. The plot is a variation on what was quickly becoming one of Hammer's most-used themes, that of "the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children." But forget the plot and watch Vampire Circus for its hallucinatory imagery, and for the incredibly lovely Lynne Frederick, my favorite Hammer damsel.


10/8/2011

Spoiler:
17. The Mighty Peking Man (1977) - Known in the U.S. upon its original release as Goliathon, this insane Shaw Brothers' production would make an ideal double feature with their Inframan. Apparently, when Dino De Laurentiis announced that he was remaking King Kong, lots of other people started making ripoffs to get in on the gravy train. So the world got this film from Hong Kong, A*P*E from South Korea, Yeti from Italy, and Queen Kong from West Germany, among others. All of them were awful. In The Mighty Peking Man, a hunter named Johnny is sent to India to bring back to Hong Kong the Peking Man after he's sighted. So he does, but he also brings back Samantha, a blonde jungle goddess who is sort of the Peking Man's keeper. Things follow a Kong-charted course until the ape AND the girl are dead! Doesn't Johnny feel bad NOW! In the right frame of mind, this film can be pretty funny. I've got two favorite lines from this one.

The first, when Johnny introduces Samantha to his brother: "Here she is--this is Samantha. She was raised in the jungle, you know."

The second, when the APMAF (Anti Peking Man Attack Force) commander is giving orders: "All units--you are to concentrate your fire. And also intensify it. Anything to kill Peking Man! Anything to kill this Peking Man! Kill the Peking Man by any means you can! Kill the Peking Man by any means! That's an order!"

18. Someone's Watching Me! (1978) - John Carpenter directed this made-for-TV movie between Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween. In it, Lauren Hutton plays a TV director who has just relocated to Los Angeles. She rents an apartment in a high-rise apartment building (with the in-jokey name of Arkham Towers) and immediately becomes the target of a stalker's attentions. Carpenter manages to build a fair amount of suspense within the TV movie format, with Hutton essentially playing both the Jimmy Stewart AND the Grace Kelly roles from Rear Window. Look for Halloween's sheriff, Charles Cyphers, as a detective, and Adrienne Barbeau, The Fog's DJ Stevie Wayne and Carpenter's future wife, as Hutton's lesbian coworker.

10/9/2011

Spoiler:
19. Premonition (2004) - Pretty good Japanese horror film is part of the "J-Horror Theater" series of six films that includes Infection and Retribution, among others. I enjoyed this film, but it's not one that I'm going to revisit often. It's certainly well-made, but it's just so somber that I don't see myself rewatching it anytime soon. The plot is rather convoluted, but it concerns a newspaper that contains stories of future deaths showing up shortly before these deaths actually take place. And, yes, it DOES sound cheesy, and the film could have turned out really awful, but it works amazingly well. The last twenty minutes take on a very surreal, Groundhog Day tone, but the ending is satisfying, if somewhat downbeat. If you like Asian horror films, you'll probably like this a LOT better than the average viewer.

20. Ravenous (1999) - This DVD has been in my collection for probably six or seven years now, but I've just tonight gotten around to watching it--and it's another one of those films that I wish I had watched years ago, so that I could have watched it another few times by now. Ravenous is simply one of the most enjoyable films I've seen in a while. Although it takes place in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern California, it was actually filmed in Prague, Slovakia, and Mexico. It sure fooled me--it looked just like the American West as far as I was concerned. A great cast, an unusual but fitting musical score, and some intriguing plot twists all contribute to the most delightful movie I've seen so far this month. Oh, yeah...I almost forgot. The movie's about cannibalism at a remote Army outpost. That should give you some incentive to check it out now, huh?

21. Day of the Nightmare (1965) - Black-and-white hokum concerns a commercial artist who has more than his share of psychoses. His wife thinks he's having an affair, but she's only partially right, considering the relationship he's having is with the female half of his psyche. This should be fun, but once the nudity subsides about fifteen minutes in, it becomes a very long slog to the end. It does, however, feature the least-exciting chase by a knife-wielding psychopath ever committed to celluloid. That could be cinematographer Ted V. Mikels's (director of Astro Zombies and The Corpse Grinders) fault. Somehow, John Ireland was duped into being in this mess the same year he was in William Castle's I Saw What You Did. There were a couple of times that this film reminded me of Brian DePalma's later Dressed to Kill. Could this perhaps be an undisclosed influence? Nah, probably not.


10/10/2011

Spoiler:
22. The Grapes of Death (1978) - Known in its native France as Les Raisins de la Mort (which makes me think of the California Raisins gone very, very wrong), this is one of the two Jean Rollin films that I've made it all the way through. The other was Zombie Lake, which I saw waaaaaay back when it first came out on VHS and I was far less discriminating. I pretty much enjoyed this one, although it think that I liked it less for the plot than for the great views of the wine country of France. It's a gorgeous film, and it reminded me in spots of Tombs of the Blind Dead because of the architecture (and the train). As for the plot, well...been there, done that. I guess that this might have been a bit more effective when it first came out, but there have been too many zombie films in the intervening years for this one to have much of an impact. Still, the scenery alone makes it worth watching.

23. Scream of the Wolf (1974) - This made-for-TV "werewolf" movie stars Clint Walker, who made several TV movies beloved to horror fans, including the incomparable Killdozer. This one involves two hunter friends, one (Walker) quite a bit more hardcore than the other (Peter Graves). There has been a series of fatal attacks on the populace of a small town, and the clues left at the crime scenes point to the culprit being a werewolf. It turns out that it's not a werewolf doing all the killings, but Clint Walker, who's merely trying to wake the local residents (and his hunter friend Graves) out of their lethargy so that they can feel ALIVE. His reasoning is that, whether man or beast, one feels really alive only if one is in mortal danger...or some such rot. Still, it's a 1970s made-for-TV movie with horror overtones, so I love it without reservations. Your mileage may vary.

24. Moon of the Wolf (1972) - Woo hoo! Two made-for-TV werewolf movies in one night! And this one features an actual werewolf! David Janssen stars as the sheriff hunting a left-handed werewolf in the bayous of Louisiana. Also along for the ride are Barbara Rush (When Worlds Collide, It Came from Outer Space), Bradford Dillman (Bug, Piranha), and Royal Dano (House II: The Second Story, Ghoulies II). I particularly love the scene where most of the real residents of Burnside, Louisiana (the town where the film was shot) walk on a sidewalk behind some of the main actors. Suddenly, in this little podunk town where up to now we've only seen citizens in groups of two or three, dozens of people decide to take a walk downtown. On the same sidewalk. On the same block. As for the werewolf? He doesn't actually show up onscreen until the last twenty minutes or so, but when he does, the makeup is just about the worst I've ever seen.


10/11/2011

Spoiler:
25. Dog Soldiers (2002) - Before director Neil Marshall made the internationally popular The Descent, he cut his teeth on this film. Dog Soldiers is less a horror film than an action film in wolf's clothing. A group of Army guys is dropped into the highlands of Scotland for training exercises, but they soon find out that there is real danger waiting for them. It just so happens that there's a full moon out, and werewolves roam the countryside, looking for prey. That's the gist of the story, but it's made special by excellent performances and a script with a wicked sense of humor. Imagine Aliens with werewolves instead of, well, aliens, and set in the wilds of Scotland, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what this film is like. I went into this film fully expecting to hate it, but it won me over within a matter of minutes. The creature design for the werewolves is probably the most fearsome that I've ever seen--there's no hint of humanity in them at all. They're nasty beasts. While Dog Soldiers isn't my favorite werewolf movie, it's in the top five. Besides, any werewolf movie that features Debussy's "Clair de Lune" is okay by me.


10/12/2011

Spoiler:
26. Creepshow (1982) - I have to admit--I was rather dreading watching Creepshow again for the Challenge. I've seen it multiple times, including twice in the theater on its first run. It's been a while since I've last seen it, mainly because I've grown tired of it. You know the old saw: Familiarity breeds contempt. So, I was rather surprised by how much I enjoyed it while watching it tonight. Sure, it held no surprises after all these years, but I was able to better appreciate certain aspects of the film, such as the fidelity to the comic book form that the film shows. It also seems that my opinions about the individual stories have changed a bit over the years. I used to love the "Father's Day" segment, but this time around I didn't find a whole lot going on in its favor. I liked the second story a little better than I remember liking it before, and I found the third story with Leslie Nielsen to be my favorite. I think that out of all the segments, "Something to Tide You Over" best captures the feel of the old EC comics. I enjoyed "The Crate" as much as ever, and the final segment made me more uncomfortable than it ever has. I also had fun playing "spot the marble ashtray" in all the segments, and I was reminded how much I liked John Harrison's score for the film (although I think that I like his score for Romero's Day of the Dead even better). I also noticed, for the very first time, that the first song playing on the jukebox in the last segment is the song that plays on the gramophone and during the end credits of The Evil Dead. I wonder what song that is? All in all, I have to admit that Creepshow is a pretty singular achievement in horror cinema, and I'm a little ashamed to have been dreading watching it again.

10/13/2011

Spoiler:
27. TrollHunter (2010) - Why is it that practically every country in the world can make excellent genre films except, it seems, the United States? Yeah, yeah, I know that's a grossly simple overstatement of fact, but it certainly seems that American filmmakers and studios have lost whatever modicum of originality that they once possessed. Movie audiences deserve better than the endless string of sequels and remakes that come from Hollywood. I'm sure the movie industry bean counters will say that retreads are the only sure bets in an increasingly volatile film industry, but I can't be convinced that pouring $40 million into a film with name recognition (as New Line/Warner Brothers did with Final Destination 5) will reap bigger rewards than financing four $10 million films that give audiences something fresh. Take TrollHunter, for instance. I have no idea how well it did in its native country of Norway, but in US dollars, it only cost around $4 million to make. It certainly didn't earn that back here in the States, but if you figure in worldwide theatrical and DVD sales, it would be difficult for a film as well-made and fun as this one with a budget that small NOT to make a tidy profit. TrollHunter posits that trolls are indeed real, and that the Norwegian government is covering up their existence, using a troll hunter to keep the population down to manageable levels. I was afraid that this was going to be too cutesy for my tastes, but it's both funny and thrilling (and not at ALL cutesy). Except for those who are too cretinous to bother with reading subtitles, I can't imagine anyone who gives this film a fair shake not enjoying it. TrollHunter was, for me at least, a hugely entertaining film (and the scene right before the end credits had me laughing for most of the credit roll).

28. Elvira's Movie Macabre: The Devil's Wedding Night (1983/1973) - This 1983 episode of Movie Macabre is fairly amusing, but not nearly as funny as the film Elvira keeps interrupting, The Devil's Wedding Night. The print used by Shout! Factory on the DVD is in even worse shape than the print of Blood of Dracula's Castle on those Mill Creek multi-packs. For me, that's a positive, as the beat-up Dimension logo at the beginning (and the beat-up feature that's attached to it) reminds me of nights spent at the drive-in way back when. As for the plot, Mark Damon (poorly) plays twins who end up in Castle Dracula on the night of some ritual or other that may or may not summon the devil. My bet's on the side of "may not." Sara Bay's nipples co-star.


10/14/2011

Spoiler:
29. Sauna (2008) - I don't know if you've ever been hit in the face really hard, but when the blow is delivered, everything goes cockeyed. Your vision becomes skewed, your hearing becomes muffled or goes out completely, and it's hard to tell which way is up. Everything looks and sounds strange, and it takes a few seconds for you to figure out what familiar objects even are. You may be looking at a chair, but you're thinking "What is that thing? I know what that thing is...I've seen it before...it's called a...a...a CHAIR." After you suffer a fierce blow to the noggin, it often takes several minutes for you to get your equilibrium back. The world just doesn't make sense for a while. All of this stands as a preface to my thoughts on Sauna, a Finnish film that scrambled my brains in a way very, very similar to the way a concussion-force blow does. As I write this, it's been about a half-hour since I finished watching Sauna, and I still don't feel like I've gotten my land legs back. The film's plot concerns a Russian/Swedish group sent to draw up new borders for their countries after the end of a war between them. Their mission takes them through the middle of a swamp, where they find a village that has a sauna nearby. There's something not quite right about the village, but there's something very wrong indeed about the sauna. I'd love to tell you more, but I'm not sure exactly what I've seen. I haven't felt so mind-raped by a film since Lars von Trier's Antichrist. As with Antichrist, I'm not exactly sure what I've just experienced, but I know that I like it. This is a challenging film that's not for everyone (or even most people), but those who stick with it and don't mind having to think while watching a movie will be rewarded, even though it might take two or three viewings to unravel its mysteries.

10/15/2011

Spoiler:
30. Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006) - Out of all the films in this year's checklist, this is the one that I was most dreading watching. Why? Because I hate the garbage that Troma churns out. I can't think of a single Troma film that I've ever enjoyed, so I stopped watching them around twenty years ago. Once I saw that Kaufman and Herz were going to ride the unexpected success of The Toxic Avenger for all it was worth, I gave up on the company. But then, in the weeks leading up to this year's challenge, I saw several posts from forum members who seemed to enjoy Poultrygeist. After reading those posts, I thought that maybe something unique was going on with this film. It even had a "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So, although I was dreading it, I went into the viewing of Poultrygeist with as open a mind as I could muster. My goodwill toward the film lasted about ten minutes. Once the first song was over, I realized that I was back in the same familiar ghetto that all Troma films inhabit (a.k.a. Tromaville). So, instead of dumping all over the film, I'll now list the meager rewards the film offered me: Kate Graham, who is cute enough to keep me watching her; the use of the term "lesbiotic"; and Jason Yachanin's reaction to seeing what was under Humus's traditional Muslim wardrobe. Okay, there. That's all the nice stuff I can say, except that I'm glad I only rented the DVD.

31. Event Horizon (1997) - Director Paul Anderson claims that this film has elements of Robert Wise's The Haunting and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I also feel that its atmosphere owes a great deal to Ridley Scott's Alien by way of Norman Warren's Inseminoid (a.k.a. Horror Planet), and it cribs plot elements from Clive Barker's Hellraiser as well. In fact, the big contraption at the center of the Event Horizon (that's the spaceship's name as well as the name of the film) bears a strong design similarity to both Hellraiser's Lament Configuration and the Stargate from the film of the same name. I guess that it stands to reason, then, that Event Horizon ends up seeming like a sort of filmic Frankenstein, made up of parts of other movies. As in Alien, a crew is dispatched to check out a distress call from a ship far out in space. Once they get there, they slowly come to realize that, like The Haunting's Hill House, the ship is both somehow alive and full of ghosts. After all the praise this film has received on various message boards and forums, I was really looking forward to seeing it. However, I never felt that Event Horizon's disparate elements ever actually congealed into a coherent whole. It was a relatively painless watch, and I did really enjoy the workout that my subwoofer and rear surrounds got with the DTS soundtrack, but overall, I found it to be just okay.

32. MST3K: Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders (1998/1996/1984) - Awful film made up of footage from a 1984 stinker called The Devil's Gift (which ripped off Stephen King's short story "The Monkey") and footage shot exclusively for this film. In the wraparound story, Merlin, the wizard from King Arthur's court, has opened a shop in what looks to be a sketchy part of Los Angeles, where he sells talismans, magic stones, and toy monkeys. In the first story, Merlin loans his spellbook to a guy who doesn't believe that Merlin is actually a wizard. The mean guy ends up casting a youth spell on himself that reverts him back to the age of around nine months. In the second tale, the toy monkey from Merlin's shop gets stolen and ends up in a suburban household where it wreaks havoc by clapping its cymbals together and killing, in roughly chronological order, a fly, a goldfish, three houseplants, and a dog. It tries to kill a couple of people, too, but in the end Merlin shows up to take it back to the shop. All of this is subjected to a further wraparound story in which Ernest Borgnine tells all of this to his grandson, who promptly and predictably falls asleep, sort of like in The Princess Bride. Mike and the 'bots do their best to make all of this tolerable.

10/16/2011

Spoiler:
33. Kill, Baby...Kill! (1966) - I do dearly love Mario Bava's films. I guess my love goes back to the very first time that I saw one of his films, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. Sure, it may not be his best film, but as a six-year-old, I enjoyed it a lot. The next film of his that I saw was Black Sabbath, which I saw when I was around 8 or 9 years old. That experience traumatized me. Once I got older and found out who made that film, I tried to watch as many of his films as I could. I didn't catch up to Kill, Baby...Kill! until it came out on DVD around the turn of the millennium. The first time that I saw it, I thought that it was pretty good, but every time I've watched it since then I've come to admire it more. It has an atmosphere that is truly unique, some pretty effective shocks, and one of the most memorable ghosts in the genre. The film's influence is amazing, informing the work of those other great Italian auteurs, Fellini and Argento. I can even hear echoes of Kill, Baby...Kill!'s soundtrack in the music of Goblin. And lest you think that the film only influenced those in Italy decades ago, don't forget that a similar ghost was featured in FearDotCom nine years ago. Kill, Baby...Kill! is an essential Bava film, which means that it's essential viewing for ALL movie buffs.


10/17/2011

Spoiler:
34. Asylum (1972) - A few random thoughts about Asylum:

1. I had the paperback novelization when I was a kid. It was a prized possession of mine, since I hadn't had the chance to see the film when it first came out.

2. When I finally got to see Asylum on the CBS Late Movie, I loved the first two stories. I fell asleep at some point during the third tale. I think the film would have been more effective if the order of the first three stories were reversed. Once the third story starts, I still get bored with the rest of the film.

3. I once showed the first segment to a bunch of 9th-graders for a Halloween treat. They were shrieking so loudly that the assistant principal came to the classroom to see what all the commotion was about.

4. Asylum was in the first handful of VHS tapes I bought. It was an Interglobal Video (from Canada) tape that I bought somewhere around 1983 or so. I've still got it because it opens with the Cinerama logo and the DVD doesn't.

While I enjoy the first two stories in Asylum (and was surprised to find that the second tale had been adapted for Boris Karloff's Thriller TV series as well), the rest of the film is a big letdown. I would still probably rank it as my third-favorite Amicus film, behind The House That Dripped Blood and Tales from the Crypt.

10/18/2011

Spoiler:
35. Pumpkinhead (1988) - Here's a sample question from the HMAT (the Horror Movie Analogies Test): Pumpkinhead is to a good horror movie as a connect-the-dots picture is to _____________________. Your answer choices are a) rocky road ice cream; b) Sylvester the Cat; c) Queen's worldwide hit single, Bohemian Rhapsody; or d) the Mona Lisa. The correct answer is, of course, d. Stan Winston was an incredible makeup artist, but a great director he wasn't. Pumpkinhead looks great, but it fails to build the necessary tension needed to make its clockwork plot work. It also has the problem that it contains approximately one-and-a-half likable characters, with the one being killed off early on, and the other ceasing to be likable once the other has been killed off. Pumpkinhead suffers from the same problem that many films made in the late 1980s suffer from: a lack of heart. It's sort of like a birthday cake made entirely of frosting. That time period produced a glut of films that sacrificed sturdy plots for surface flash (rather like the decade itself) and they suffered for it. I really wanted to love Pumpkinhead, but I feel it's fatally flawed.


10/19/2011

Spoiler:
36. The Stepfather (1987) - Man, but I used to love this movie! I still sometimes catch myself saying "Buckle up for safety!" to people putting on their seat belts. It's probably been 15 years since I'd seen The Stepfather, so I was keen to rewatch it tonight. It didn't hold up quite as well as I had hoped...the music score sounded just like dozens of other cheap thrillers from the '80s, the romantic subplot between the teenagers was awful, and every once in a while the Jerry Blake character lapsed into a Freddie Kruegeresque one-liner. But, for every groan-inducing one-liner, there's a quotable line such as "Wait a minute...who am I here?" Still, after nearly 25 years, the film works. It was the first time I'd ever seen Terry O' Quinn in a film, and I became an instant fan. I also developed a pretty big film crush on Jill Schoelen--what ever happened to her? Even though The Stepfather has lost some of its luster over the years, it's still a pretty solid little thriller, with a rousing finale and a career-making performance by Terry O' Quinn.

37. Attack of the Puppet People (1958) - Poor Mr. Franz...everybody the dollmaker has ever loved has left him, so he comes up with a way of keeping them around forever. He shrinks them to doll size and puts them in suspended animation, waking them up whenever he needs company. Fast-moving riff on Dr. Cyclops is a lot of fun, if it's taken in the right spirit. Director Bert I. Gordon's special effects are, for the most part, pretty good for such a low-budget picture. Albert Glasser did the music for this and most of Gordon's early films. I knew his ex-wife and copyist Katherine, for whatever THAT's worth.


10/20/2011

Spoiler:
38. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) - From Dusk Till Dawn is an enjoyable, if incredibly schizophrenic, crime caper/vampire movie. George Clooney, in his first starring movie role, and the film's writer, Quentin Tarantino, star as the Gecko brothers, who are in the middle of leaving a wide swath of murder and destruction on their way to Mexico. On the way, they kidnap a family and hold them hostage to use them and their RV as a way of crossing the Mexican border. Once there, they stop at a biker bar which turns out to be the base of operations for a mess of vampires. It's pretty obvious that none of this was to be taken seriously, but everything that happens before they get to the bar is uncomfortably violent. Once the vampires appear, the tone of the film lightens considerably, even as the bloodshed goes up to eleven. There are no weak links in the cast, with lots of surprise cameos for drive-in movie lovers. Salma Hayek's erotic dance instantly cemented her sex goddess status, makeup effects deity Tom Savini gives a memorable performance (for all the right reasons) as a biker named Sex Machine, and Cheech Marin plays three roles. Tarantino's foot fetish is in full bloom as well. Trashy fun for those who can get through the mean-spirited first 45 minutes.


10/21/2011

Spoiler:
39. Night of the Comet (1984) - Night of the Comet has been one of my guilty pleasures since I first saw it on VHS back in the '80s. Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney are just perfect for their roles, and Mary Woronov shows up playing a scientist. The film has lots of quotable lines, with my favorites coming from the stockboys-turned-zombies. Writer/director Thom Eberhardt does a really good job of depicting an empty Los Angeles, and the pace never flags. It's not a classic, but it's a fun little film that deserves to be better known.

40. Phantasm (1979) - I seriously doubt that anyone reading this has never seen Phantasm. It's been a favorite of mine ever since it came out. I originally saw it at a drive-in, and if I'm remembering correctly, it was on the bottom-half of a double-bill with The Fog. The score is one of the best ever for a horror film, and I doubt that the film would work at all without it. Phantasm's one of those films that I never get tired of, and it's good to pull it out every year or so and revisit it.

41. Phantasm II (1988) - My anticipation to see this film was palpable back in the summer of 1988. For some reason, though, it didn't show up in my town on its national opening day. So, I drove 25 miles to the nearest town to see it in a brand-spanking new theater on its first day of business. I paid for my ticket, sat in my seat, and waited for it to start. And waited. And waited. Eventually, a teenager came out and announced to the rather sparse crowd that they were having difficulties and the show was cancelled. So I got my refund and went home disappointed. I drove back two days later and tried again. Everything seemed to be up and running this time. I was really getting into the mood of the film when, about 25 minutes in, the film broke. The house lights came up and someone came out and announced that it would be a few minutes until they got the film repaired. So, again, I waited. And waited. The house lights went down, and the film started again, and ran for about three seconds. Then nothing. The lights came back up, we waited, and finally we were refunded. Again. So about five days later, I decided to try one last time. The stars aligned and the film ran all the way through (with a decidedly big jump where the print damage had occurred last time). I loved it. It fulfilled every expectation that I had for the film, other than the recasting of the part of Mike. Watching it back-to-back with the original, I still like the film a lot. It's really difficult to compare it to the original, as it seems like Phantasm II is like the first film on steroids. Everything was bigger and louder. Instead of one car explosion like in Phantasm, there was a car explosion AND two house explosions in the sequel. The silver sphere was awesome in the first one, so there are three in the sequel. What once fulfilled eight years of pent-up expectations now seems to have a touch of overkill. I'm not complaining--it's just that Phantasm II has a much different vibe than Phantasm, and these days I think I like the feel of the first one better. But I love them both dearly.


10/22/2011

42. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) - Same song, third verse. Although I liked this one slightly more than Paranormal Activity 2 (and I loved the first one), it failed to scare me at all. I never even really got a sense of unease. So, it played itself out, and I watched it with about the same level of fright as I can muster on the "Haunted Mansion" ride at the Disney parks. Having said that, there were still some mildly spooky moments, and the audience I saw it with seemed to be wholeheartedly into it, so we may well see Part 4 next October. I just hope that they lose the "found footage" conceit--this one stretched the credibility of carrying around a camcorder to the breaking point.

43. Deathdream (1974) - Also known as Dead of Night (among other titles), Deathdream is a relentlessly grim film from the gang that gave the world Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things. While I love Children, I have yet to warm up to this one as much, although by all measurable standards it's a much better film. I think that my problem with Deathdream is that it's such a downer, with absolutely nothing to relieve the film's relentless march to an unhappy ending. Deathdream has an incredible cast, especially for such a low-budget example of regional filmmaking. It also offers a really intriguing analogy to the plight of returning Vietnam war veterans, highlighting the feelings of being dead inside that many of these men felt upon coming home. Deathdream features early makeup work by Tom Savini, and one of the few movie roles for Jane Daly, who should have been a much bigger star. Keep an eye out for cameos from Alan Ormsby and Bob Clark, Deathdream's writer and director. Worth seeing--but not on a regular basis.

44. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) - I should probably preface my statements about Sweeney Todd with a few caveats:

1. I tend to dislike musicals. And by "dislike," I mean loathe.

2. When on a band trip to New York in the summer of 1979, while most of the other band nerds were geeking out to Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd on Broadway, I and a few other like-minded oddballs were watching Dawn of the Dead in one of the skeeviest theaters I've ever encountered.

Now that I've given sufficient background information about things, I must say that Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd is, by far, the best film I've seen all month. I really only watched it because it fulfilled two checklist items: "musical," and "won an Academy Award (any category)." (I suppose it could also have fit the "cannibalism" item, but I'd already watched Ravenous for that.) I do tend to enjoy most Tim Burton films, and I think that Johnny Depp is one of the most fearless actors to ever stand in front of a camera and emote. When they work together, some sort of weird alchemical magic usually takes place (with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory being a notable exception). This may be their finest collaboration. If you're on the fence about seeing this one, it may help to know that while Tim Burton considers Sleepy Hollow to be his Hammer homage, he considers Sweeney Todd to be his "what if Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi had made a musical" film. It's a masterful film, and I'm already looking forward to watching it again.

10/23/2011

45. Hour of the Wolf (1968) - Well, now, THAT was something different. I haven't seen many of Ingmar Bergman's films, but I've liked all of the ones that I HAVE seen. This one's no different; I liked it, and I actually think that, for the most part, I understand it. It reminded me quite a bit of Persona, at least structurally. I do wonder whether the boy on the rocks was supposed to be the painter's son, and he was keeping it hidden from his wife that he had killed him by "sending" him the 50 kroner as a birthday gift, or whether it was another boy entirely. I find that I have to be in a particular mood to want to watch Bergman, but, luckily, I was in that mood today. The feel of this film just had to have influenced Lars von Trier when he was making Antichrist--it just had to.

46. Pink Flamingos (1972) - From the sublime to the ridiculous. I'll admit, following up a Bergman film with a John Waters film is some sort of cinematic sacrilege. But then again, Pink Flamingos itself is cinematic sacrilege, an act of movie terrorism. It's a film that, almost forty years after it was made, still leaves first-time viewers disgusted and appalled. This was probably my third time to see it, and there are parts that I still can't believe I'm actually seeing. While Deep Throat tends to get most of the credit for exploiting cultural taboos and making them somewhat more palatable for 1970s film-goers, I think that, to a lesser extent, Pink Flamingos did the same thing. In fact, even though fewer people saw it than Deep Throat, Pink Flamingos might even be more subversive, as the taboos it breaks span a much wider range of topics. I guess that I must be getting more jaded, because I found much of the film this viewing to be funnier than I remember it being. I still wouldn't recommend it to my mom, however. For those who may not think that this is a horror movie, think again, as it features mutilation, torture, cannibalism, and most infamously of all, doggy poop-eating. If you're a first-time viewer, proceed with caution.

10/24/2011

47. Dr. Renault's Secret (1942) - Dr. Renault's Secret is a fairly standard 1940s science-gone-wrong film, not particularly better or worse than any number of films coming out of the poverty row studios at that time such as The Monster Maker or The Ape Man. In it, George Zucco plays a mad scientist for the umpteenth time (as he did in The Mad Monster). Zucco's Dr. Renault had apparently seen Island of Lost Souls a decade earlier and decided to try it for himself, so he goes to Java, gets an ape, and transforms him into J. Carroll Naish. Thematically, there's nothing new going on here. The film does stand out in a couple of ways, however. First, there's Naish's performance as Noel. Naish manages to both show Noel's untamed animal side and build empathy toward him as a creature who's trapped between two natures. His performance is what really makes the film worth watching. The second bonus that the film has going for it is the sensual nature of the art direction. The digital restoration process has really brought out the textures of objects in the film, particularly the rough surfaces of stone, burlap, and rope. It's incredible how much detail is shown in the suit that Naish wears in the film. The film's plot may be standard, but Fox's presentation of Dr. Renault's Secret is noteworthy. Worth a gander if you've got a spare hour.

48. Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1993) - And so it's back to the land of the Tall Man. Mike and Reggie are still looking for the Tall Man, but when the Tall Man takes Mike, Reggie is forced to look for them on his own. While looking, he stumbles across a kid and a militant chick, and the three of them team up to seek out the Tall Man and Mike. While the effects of having a too-small budget definitely show, Phantasm III makes up for it in gonzo inventiveness. Unfortunately, it also steals ideas and lines from other movies in the process--Tim's house and his methods for dispatching unwanted visitors is similar to Home Alone (albeit cranked up a notch), and Reggie has a couple of one-liners stolen from other movies. Still, while not quite up to the standards of its predecessors, Phantasm III is diverting fun, and it expands the mythos of the series in substantial ways.

49. Act of Vengeance (a.k.a. Rape Squad) (1974) - Director Bob Kelljan's fourth film in a row (and last) for AIP, following the Count Yorga films and Scream, Blacula, Scream, Act of Vengeance (the film's video title; it was released to theaters as Rape Squad) is sort of like I Spit on Your Grave in reverse. Instead of featuring a gang rape of one woman who then gets her revenge, we have a serial rapist whose victims get together to get their revenge. It's not very good, but it's very, very typical of '70s drive-in fare. The rapist wears a hockey mask, predating Jason Voorhees by about eight years. If you recognize any of the cast, you're a true '70s exploitation aficionado.

50. Night School (1981) - If you've never seen a slasher movie before, this would be a good place to start. If you're an old pro at viewing this kind of thing, however, you should be able to figure out who the killer is pretty early on. Night School isn't as bad as most folks online tend to make it, but that doesn't mean that it's very good, either. Someone is decapitating the night school students of a women's college and leaving their heads in things that contain water--a barrel, a city aquarium, a sink, a duck pond, a toilet.... Rachel Ward stars as an exchange student in her first theatrical film.

10/25/2011

51. Theater of Blood (1973) - I remember first reading about this film in Famous Monsters. Randy Palmer had written an article called "R is for Revenge," in which he detailed the plots of three Vincent Price films that all had revenge as a motif: The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, and Theater of Blood. Because The Abominable Dr. Phibes was one of my favorite films at the time (and still is, for that matter), the article became my favorite ever published in FM and I was determined to track down Theater of Blood and watch it. (Years later, when I was living in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, I became acquaintances with Randy Palmer, and I told him how much his article had meant to me in my youth.) When I finally saw Theater of Blood, I was a little disappointed. I felt (and still feel) that the first Phibes film is the superior film. My opinion has mellowed over the years, however, and I enjoy Theater of Blood now...but it's no Phibes.

10/26/2011

52. The Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971) - Someone is killing women by first injecting them with a paralyzing venom then stabbing them. Who could it be, and why are they doing it? I found this really good-looking Italian/French co-production (with a great score by Ennio Morricone) to be oddly uninvolving. I think that my problem with it is that the audience is put on the same footing as the detective, which means that we (and he) have no idea who's doing the killing or why. Because of this, the film becomes a string of murder set-pieces that weren't visually interesting enough to keep my attention from wandering. (Another debit was the film within the film wherein an entomologist identified what looked to be a garden spider as a tarantula. What a keen scientific mind HE had! And while I'm at it, I was disappointed that Barbara Bach only showed up long enough to be introduced, then promptly killed. I also expected "Yakety Sax" to start playing every time the gay guy that worked at the spa was onscreen.) Some may find that keeping the audience in the dark as to the rhyme and reason of the killings is a good thing (after all, it certainly worked for Psycho), but rather than drawing me into the film, it served instead to distance me from it.

10/27/2011

53. Repulsion (1965) - Wow. I can't believe that this is the first time that I've ever seen Repulsion. I'm kind of floored by the whole experience. At first, I didn't think that I was going to like the film. But as is so often the case with me, a seemingly inconsequential moment occurred that made me suddenly realize that I was about to get behind the film one hundred percent. In Repulsion, that moment came when the banjo busker and his spoons-playing sidekicks first showed up in the film. The scene really didn't add anything thematically to the film, but it surprised me that what I at first thought was just another musical cue of the interesting score by Chico Hamilton turned out to be coming from people in the scene. It faked me out...and made me realize that Polanski was going to have some tricks up his sleeve. That was the exact moment that I gave in to the film, and I realized that, wherever Polanski was going to take me, I was ready to follow. It's a chilling film, but it has a sly wit about it as well, as do all of the really great horror films (such as Bride of Frankenstein and Psycho). It's not currently my favorite Polanski film, but I'm beginning to think that a rewatch or two might change my opinion.

10/28/2011

54. Burn, Witch, Burn (1962) - I was quite surprised that Burn, Witch, Burn was as good as it was. It reminded me a lot of Curse of the Demon, but that could have been just because both films were set in England, were shot in black and white, and had some sort of supernatural basis. I won't go as far as Trevor and Undeadcow and say that this was my favorite FTV of this year's Challenge, but it was mighty tasty.

55. Shivers (a.k.a They Came from Within) (1975) - Pretty amazing first film (not counting his earlier experimental works) from director David Cronenberg plays like a cross between Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 28 Days Later, and The Devil in Miss Jones. What I find really astounding about the film is that traces of all the themes that he's addressed in his career can pretty much be found here (even an impressive car crash in an underground parking garage). It's a little sketchy on the technical side of things, and some of the performances could have been more polished, but the sheer audacity of the story carries this one a long way. Near the end, as the doctor is trying to escape the building, I was reminded of Wendy Torrence's flight from the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Really disturbing and surreal images show up in both of these sequences; the one that really disturbed me in this film was the two kids being walked as if they were dogs. While it's hard for me to pick a favorite early Cronenberg film, I'd probably choose this one if forced to make a decision, as I find it more interesting every time I see it. Apropos of nothing--when the film was playing in my town as They Came from Within, my best friend's sister went and saw it. The next day I pressed her for details, and she said that it was the grossest movie that she'd ever seen. She described it as "people throwing up lizards," and she left the theater about midway through the showing. Her description wasn't too far off the mark.

10/29/2011

56. Amusement (2008) - If you put your brain on hold for an hour and a half, you just might enjoy certain aspects of this film. The things that it gets right, it gets very, very right. For starters, the film looks absolutely amazing. I guess that production budgets go farther in Hungary (where Amusement was shot) than they do in the States, but even taking that into account, this is one mighty fine-looking film (and the run-down pension in the third segment is just about the creepiest-looking place that I've ever seen). Another thing that I liked about it is that it's an anthology film...but it's not. The story structure was intriguing, with three seemingly-unrelated stories getting tied together in the fourth story. I also thought that all three lead actresses were gorgeous. As for the things that Amusement gets wrong, the most egregious of its errors is that it doesn't even try to be logical. As you're watching, there's a goodly bit of directorial sleight-of-hand going on that keeps you from questioning the logic of the film, but after it's over, you'll probably find yourself thinking back over it and going "Now wait a minute...." For instance, ask yourself how and why the trauma specialist lady was there to talk to one of the characters. There's also the problem that the villain, besides having the ultra-stupid name of "The Laugh," is operating from a totally unbelievable motive. I really can't believe that an adult could be driven to such incredible lengths to get revenge simply because three girls were disapproving of his "art" project when they were all ten years old. Another thing that I really hated was the narration at the end of the film. It's okay for a film to have narration--I'm not knocking the use of it in general; however, to go eighty minutes without it and suddenly use it to wrap up a film is irritating and condescending. Even with the faults that it has, I still found myself, almost against my will, enjoying Amusement, and I'll probably watch it again in the future, just to check out that pension again.

57. Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare (1975) - A live filming of Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare show from the mid-'70s, this film brings back a lot of musical memories. It was just around this time that I was beginning to listen to Alice Cooper, and I've always loved the Welcome to My Nightmare album. The film is a mixed bag, however. Visually, the DVD producers have probably done the best that the could with the material that they had, but the audio could still have used more work. I felt that the first part of the film dragged horribly--the pacing was all wrong. I looked at the counter on the DVD player at one point, thinking that at least an hour had gone by, and it was only up to a little over twenty minutes. Somewhere around the 35-minute mark, however, the film settled into a good pace and I enjoyed the rest of the show. For me, the showstopper was the song "Escape"; while the song itself is rather forgettable, the way in which it was staged was fascinating. Other highlights: hearing Vincent Price's voice booming throughout Wembley Stadium at the beginning of "The Black Widow"; the spider costumes for the same song; and, of course, The Cyclops. All in all, Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare turned out to be a mostly pleasant trip into nostalgia.

10/30/2011

58. Child's Play 2 (1990) - Child's Play 2 is just about what I expected from the sequel to a surprise hit movie about a killer doll. If you saw Child's Play, you should pretty much know what you're gonna get before you ever sit down to watch this first sequel. Among the more pleasant aspects of the film: seeing Jenny Agutter and Gerrit Graham in any film, ever, is always nice; Kevin Yagher and his crew have broadened the range of expressions that Chucky can make; it's good (and unusual) that the first film's writer, Don Mancini, is back for the second go-round; and the finale in the toy factory is fun. Child's Play 2 is like last Thursday's lunch--satisfactory while it's going down, but you won't remember much about it a week later.

59. The Possession of David O'Reilly (2010) - I think that, in all fairness to this film, I should hold off any sort of critical judgement until after I've seen it again. It's taken me approximately four hours to get through this film, as my ISP has apparently decided to take a weekend break; ergo, my Netflix streaming doesn't. It will trickle a bit here and there, but I never get more than about six minutes of uninterrupted video, and then it has to "refresh" for about ten. I called said ISP and asked them to check on it; they said that there did seem to be something wrong with the line, but no one would be available to look at it until tomorrow. At least this was the last of the streaming subset films for me. I have a feeling, though, than an uninterrupted watch won't help tremendously--I was getting the same vibe while watching The Possession of David O'Reilly that I got when I watched Session Nine, and I really don't like that movie. I'm not a fan of most movies that try to get inside the mind of a mentally unhinged person and show us what's it's like in there (Repulsion being a notable exception), and that's what this one seemed to be doing (except, of course, for the last shot, which makes me think that the directors couldn't make up their minds). I WILL say that I thought that the music was great.

60. Home Movie (2008) - Last year, when posting my thoughts on the British film The Children, I had this to say about killer kid movies: "I guess because I spend most of my day around large numbers of children (as a public school district employee), I usually don't find killer kids movies to be too scary. I mean, kids are small, and they don't have sharp fangs or claws like dangerous animals. So even if dozens of children suddenly turned rabid, I don't think that it'd be that difficult to defend yourself against them or escape." After watching Home Movie, I take all that back. I've finally watched a film about evil kids that actually made me uncomfortable. The kids in Home Movie aren't merely bad...they're dangerously psychotic, and some of the things that they did in this movie really unnerved me. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it, but I will say that if the killers in Funny Games had been 10 years old, it would have turned out a lot like this film. Easily one of the highlights of this year's challenge for me.

10/31/2011

61. Lady in White (1988) - An interesting (if overlong) ghost story set in 1962, Lady in White is also a pretty engaging mystery. Someone killed a child in the cloakroom of the school ten years ago, and, because he's been locked in that same cloakroom due to a prank, 10-year-old Frankie sees a ghostly reenactment of the murder. Unfortunately, he also sees the killer come back to retrieve a piece of evidence, and Frankie almost gets killed when he's discovered by the killer. The room is too dark for him to see the face of his attacker, and thus the mystery gets set in motion. The ghost story is actually rather incidental to the plot (save for one big clue that Frankie gleans from the ghostly reenactment), and it serves mainly to inject a bit of Spielbergian magic into the proceedings. While I liked this film a lot when it first came out, it hasn't worn well, with too much comic relief from the main character's grandparents and too many loose plot threads. For instance, the film begins with Frankie flying into the local airport and hiring a cab to take him from the airport to (presumably) his father's house. In the cab, we learn that he's a writer of horror novels. Adult Frankie asks the cab driver to stop at a cemetery, where he visits two gravestones. The film then segues into the past, where Adult Frankie chimes in with helpful narration a time or two. When the film ends, it ends in the past, and we never find out what happened to Adult Frankie. He never even adds a voice-over saying "And that's what happened when I was ten," or something to that effect, a la Stand by Me. Still, it's a much better film than LaLoggia's previous Fear No Evil, and except for a few cheesy special effects, it looks pretty good. It's not a fully satisfying film, but it's not a total waste of time, either.


31 Films Subset - Complete!

Spoiler:
-X- Any Day of the Month: Everybody - Any Theatrical Showing - Bonus Day - Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
-X- 10/01: Bladz - Santa Sangre (1989)
-X- 10/02: coyoteblue - [●Rec] (2008)
-X- 10/03: rbrown498 - Orca: The Killer Whale (1977)
-X- 10/04: orlmac - Frogs (1972)
-X- 10/05: Darkgod - The Horde (2009)
-X- 10/06: Mister Peepers - Dead & Buried (1981)
-X- 10/07: mallratcal - Vampire Circus (1972)
-X- 10/08: Screwadu - The Mighty Peking Man (Goliathon) (1977)
-X- 10/09: tarfrimmer - Premonition (2004)
-X- 10/10: Undeadcow - The Grapes of Death (1978)
-X- 10/11: Gobear - Dog Soldiers (2002)
-X- 10/12: Trevor - Creepshow (1982)
-X- 10/13: Chad - Trollhunter (2010)
-X- 10/14: J. Farley - Sauna (2008)
-X- 10/15: SterlingBen - Poultrygeist (2006)
-X- 10/16: BobO'Link - Kill Baby, Kill (1966)
-X- 10/17: kyleblack - Asylum (1972)
-X- 10/18: shellebelle - Pumpkinhead (1988)
-X- 10/19: takingchase - The Stepfather (1987)
-X- 10/20: shadokitty - From Dusk till Dawn (1996)
-X- 10/21: nezumi - Night of the Comet (1984)
-X- 10/22: Mondo Kane - Deathdream (1974)
-X- 10/23: MinLShaw - Hour of the Wolf (1968)
-X- 10/24: Cool Ghoul - Dr. Renault's Secret (1942)
-X- 10/25: Doc Moonlight - Theater of Blood (1973)
-X- 10/26: SethDLH - The Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971)
-X- 10/27: clckworang - Repulsion (1965)
-X- 10/28: NoirFan - Burn, Witch, Burn (1962)
-X- 10/29: terrycloth - Amusement (2008)
-X- 10/30: dcrw6 - The Possession of David O'Reilly (2010)
-X- 10/31: riotinmyskull - The Lady in White (1988)


Theme Nights - Complete!

Spoiler:
-X- 10/01: Don't Drink the Kool-Aid! - Cult Horror Films - Santa Sangre
-X- 10/02: Down with the Sickness - Infection / Epidemic / Viral - [REC]
-X- 10/03: One Good Ripoff Deserves Another - JawsSploitation - Orca: The Killer Whale
-X- 10/04: Dawn of the Disco - 1970s Horror Cinema - Frogs
-X- 10/05: Inside Them Faceless Frontiers - French Horror Films - The Horde
-X- 10/06: Condemned to VHS Hell! - Video Nasties - Dead and Buried
-X- 10/07: Bloody Tea & Crumpets - Hammer / Amicus / Ealing / Black and Blue - Vampire Circus
-X- 10/08: Supercharged Zombie Go Boom! - Action Horror - The Mighty Peking Man (Goliathon)
-X- 10/09: The Asian Buffet of Tantalizing Terrors! - Korean / Thai / J-Horror - Premonition
-X- 10/10: Passport to Bloodcurdling Terror! - BFI's 100 European Horror Films - The Grapes of Death
-X- 10/11: Full Moon Madness - Werewolves - Dog Soldiers
-X- 10/12: Hail to the King, Baby! - Cinema Inspired by Stephen King - Creepshow
-X- 10/13: Don't Go Lookin' for Trouble. Trouble will Find You. - Found Footage - TrollHunter
-X- 10/14: Oozing Ectoplasm Euphoria - Supernatural / Haunted House / Ghost - Sauna
-X- 10/15: Meat's Meat, and a Man's Gotta Eat - Comedy / Spoof Horror Films - Poultrygeist
-X- 10/16: Bavas, Argentos and Fulcis, Oh My! - Italian Horror Films - Kill Baby,...Kill!
-X- 10/17: Once, Twice, Three Times the Lacerations - Horror Anthologies - Asylum
-X- 10/18: Franchise Fantástico - Icons of Horror - Pumpkinhead
-X- 10/19: It Slices, Dices & Guts You Like a Fish - Slashers / Giallos / Serial Killers - The Stepfather
-X- 10/20: A Reel Cinematic Suckfest! - Vampire Films - From Dusk Till Dawn
-X- 10/21: It's the End of the World As We Know It - Apocalyptic Horror - Night of the Comet
-X- 10/22: Mausoleum Mayhem, Gangrene Brainstem! - Zombie Films - Deathdream
-X- 10/23: Atmosphere, Castles and Fog Machines - Gothic Horror - Hour of the Wolf
-X- 10/24: The Freaks Come Out at Night - Mutants - Dr. Renault's Secret
-X- 10/25: The Master of the Macabre Centennial - Vincent Price Filmography - Theater of Blood
-X- 10/26: eXtReMeLy Disturbing Depravity - Splatter / Gore - The Black Belly of the Tarantula
-X- 10/27: Freudian Fragments and Monster Mindfucks - Psychological Horror - Repulsion
-X- 10/28: That Sly Come-Hither Stare - Witchcraft - Burn, Witch, Burn
-X- 10/29: Mass Marathon of the Damned 2: Electric Chainsaw Blues - Amusement
-X- 10/30: The Demented Debauchery of Devil's Night - Demonic Possession / Satanic - The Possession of David O'Reilly (2010)
-X- 10/31: All Hallows Eve Hellfest - Halloween Related - Lady in White


The Checklist

Spoiler:
Watch a film starring:
-X- Barbara Crampton -or- Barbara Shelley - Cat Girl
-X- Doug Bradley -or- Sid Haig - Beyond Atlantis
-X- Hazel Court - The Man Who Could Cheat Death
-X- Klaus Kinski - Crawlspace
-X- Lance Henriksen -or- Ken Foree - Pumpkinhead
--- Lon Chaney Jr. -or- Lon Chaney Sr. -
-X- Michael Gough - Konga
-X- Ron Perlman -or- Tom Atkins - Cronos
-X- Ted Raimi -or- Reggie Bannister - The Grudge (Unrated Extended Director's Cut), Phantasm
-X- Vincent Price - Theater of Blood

Watch a film composed by:
--- James Bernard -
-X- Simon Boswell - Santa Sangre

Watch a film directed by:
-X- David Cronenberg - Shivers (a.k.a. They Came from Within)
-X- Jean Rollin - The Grapes of Death
-X- John Carpenter - Someone's Watching Me!
---Sergio Martino -or- Riccardo Freda -
-X- Terence Fisher - The Man Who Could Cheat Death

Watch a film with make-up effects by:
-X- Dick Smith - House of Dark Shadows
-X- Tom Savini - Creepshow

Watch a film in each of the following sub-genres / types:
-X- Anthology Film - Asylum
-X- Appears on Video Nasties List - Dead and Buried
-X- Based on a Novel - Moon of the Wolf
-X- Blue Underground - Dead and Buried
-X- Called "Attack of ..." - Attack of the Puppet People
-X- Called "Day of ..." - Day of the Nightmare
-X- Called "Night of ..." - Night of the Comet
--- Called "Return of ..." -
--- Called "Revenge of ..." -
-X- Cannibalism - Ravenous
-X- Documentary - Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare
--- Extraterrestrial -
-X- Film and at Least Two of its Sequels - Phantasm, Phantasm II, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead
-X- Film and its Remake - [REC], Quarantine
--- Frankenstein -
-X- Ghost / Haunting - Lady in White
-X- Giallo - The Black Belly of the Tarantula
-X- Horror Host (Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, etc.) - Elvira's Movie Macabre: The Devil's Wedding Night
-X- J-Horror - Premonition
-X- Killer / Evil Animal - Orca: The Killer Whale
-X- Killer / Evil Child - Home Movie
-X- Killer / Evil Doll - Child 's Play 2
-X- Made-for-TV Movie - Someone's Watching Me!
--- Monster / Creature Feature / Godzilla -
-X- MST3K / RiffTrax / Cinematic Titanic - MST3K: Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders
--- Mummy -
-X- Musical - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
-X- Rape / Revenge - Act of Vengeance (a.k.a. Rape Squad)
-X- Slasher / Psycho / Homicidal Maniac - Night School
--- Silent Film -
-X- Spoof / Comedy - Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead
-X- Takes Place in Space - Event Horizon
--- Takes Place on a Holiday -
-X- Takes Place on or Under the Sea - Orca: The Killer Whale
-X- Vampire - House of Dark Shadows
-X- Werewolf - Moon of the Wolf
-X- Witchcraft / Satanic / Religious - Burn, Witch, Burn
--- With Commentary -
--- With the Words "Living Dead" in the Title -
-X- Won an Academy Award (any category) - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2008, Art Direction)
-X- Zombie - Dead and Buried

Watch films in at least three formats (Blu-ray, DVD, streaming, etc.):
-X- First format: VHS (Cat Girl)
-X- Second format: DVD (Beyond Atlantis)
-X- Third format: Blu-ray (Quarantine)

Watch films in at least three languages other than English:
-X- First language: Spanish ([REC])
-X- Second language: French (The Horde).
-X- Third language: Japanese (Premonition).

Watch one film from every decade of film history:
--- 1890 OPTIONAL -
--- 1900 OPTIONAL -
--- 1910 OPTIONAL -
--- 1920 -
--- 1930 -
-X- 1940 - Dr. Renault's Secret
-X- 1950 - Cat Girl
-X- 1960 - Repulsion
-X- 1970 - Frogs
-X- 1980 - Night of the Comet
-X- 1990 - Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead
-X- 2000 - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
-X- 2010 - Paranormal Activity III

Watch a film for each rating:
--- G -
-X- PG - Frogs
-X- PG-13 - Lady in White
-X- R - Child's Play 2
-X- X / NC-17 - Pink Flamingos
-X- Unrated - The Grudge (Unrated Extended Director's Cut)

Venture Into the Literary World:
--- Read a Horror Novel or Novella OPTIONAL -


This Year's Stats -- Final Tally

Goal: 75 Total Watched: 61

First Time Viewings: 39 (64%)

Formats Watched:

48 DVD – 79%
7 Netflix Streaming – 11%
3 VHS - 5%
2 Blu-ray - 3%
1 Theatrical Screening - 2%


Decades:

1940s: 1 (2%)
1950s: 3 (5%)
1960s: 6 (10%)
1970s: 20 (33%)
1980s: 10 (16%)
1990s: 7 (11%)
2000s: 11 (18%)
2010s: 3 (5%)

Longest Film Viewed: Santa Sangre (123 minutes)
Shortest Film Viewed: Dr. Renault’s Secret (58 minutes)

New favorites: Ravenous, Sweeney Todd, Repulsion, Home Movie, Sauna

Hope to never, ever see again: Crawlspace, Day of the Nightmare, Poultrygeist, Pumpkinhead
__________________
October Horror Challenge: 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016
DVD/BR Spending Tab: 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016 / 2017
My collection at Film Aficionado
My blogs: Psychotronica Redux / Unpopular Culture

Last edited by rbrown498; 11-13-11 at 10:04 PM.
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