Monday, October 24, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: Wendigo

Film: Wendigo
Format: DVD from Wilmington Public Library through interlibrary loan on laptop.

Different cultures and different indigenous groups have their own monsters and myths. Some of them seem strange to us simply because the mythic monsters we grew up with are what we grew up with. It makes them seem normal, and other cultures’ versions are weird in comparison. The wendigo myth—an ancient cannibalistic spirit that invades the bodies of men and corrupts them—is a purely American myth, and one that has been variously handled by filmmakers and authors in the past. In the case of the film Wendigo, we’re losing the cannibalism aspects of the classic monster here along with just about everything else it would seem.

Wendigo is clearly a horror movie, but it also doesn’t seem to know that until the final 12-15 minutes. Oh, there are a few moments where we get hints of horror movie, but nothing really happens that puts us all the way there until the end. And even then, we’re never sure that what we’re seeing is real. It could just as easily be the dream of one character or the hallucination of another. I know I’m tipping my hand here, but there are typically two possibilities for something like this. One possibility is a mystery to ponder. The other is an unsatisfying conclusion. We’re in the realm of the second possibility in this case.

Ten Days of Terror!: Duel

Film: Duel
Format: DVD from Seneca Public Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.

One of the things that I find interesting about movies is how many acclaimed, award-winning directors started out doing thrillers and horror movies. Counted in that number is Steven Spielbeg. Jaws wasn’t his first horror-themed movie; the made-for-television Duel was. Duel is based on a Richard Matheson story and a Matheson script as well, so he started from a good place. Duel may not show the polish of Spielberg’s later efforts, but it’s a hell of a good place to start from. This is a tight thriller that uses solid camera work to ratchet the tension for the full 90 minute running time.

David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is a traveling salesmen heading out to make a sales call. On the way, he gets caught behind a dirty big rig going well under the speed limit. David passes it, and a few moments later, the rig passes him and slows down again. David goes around again and when the truck starts to approach him again, he speeds off down the highway.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: Hell Night

Film: Hell Night
Format: Internet video on The Nook.

I’ve said this before, but sometimes it bears repeating: watching movies off a list can be a real mixed bag with what you get. One needs to wade through a good amount of crap to get to something good in a lot of cases. Each time I watch something off the Fangoria list of 101 Best Horror Films You’ve Never Seen, I’m never sure what I’ll have on the other side of it. Will it be a hidden gem or will it be just another film I have to wade through? Sadly, Hell Night is much closer to the second variety than the first. It’s true that this was a horror movie I hadn’t seen before, but if this is one of the 101 best, I need to pick a better genre to be a fan of.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: at a college, a group of kids are pledging various Greek organizations. One of those organizations makes a part of its Hell Night a requirement to spend a night in a spooky, haunted mansion near the campus. Of course the house has a terrible history of grotesque monsters and horrible murder. And, of course, there are rumors of some of the former occupants having never been found after the killings. Think that this year those occupants are going to show up? Think that the terrible rumors might turn out to be at least in part true? Congratulations—you’ve seen low budget horror before.

Ten Days of Terror!: Baby Blood

Film: Baby Blood
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

I’m not really sure how film movements start, but things become in vogue at certain times and in certain places. One such movement is the New French Extremity. While the style didn’t really become a thing until about a decade or so ago, it feels like it got its start with Baby Blood from 1990, which has a lot of the same elements. Lots of gore, lots of blood, and a good amount of body horror. I’m not saying that this belongs in the genre, but that it’s one of those films that seems to presage the genre and pave the way for it.

Yanka (Emmanuelle Escourrou) is an abused woman working in a carnival as a part of a lion taming act. One day the carnival gets a leopard, but the leopard is infected with a parasite that, we’re told in voiceover from the parasite itself, has essentially been around since the very beginnings of life on Earth billions of years ago. Eventually, the parasite explodes out of the leopard and crawls into Yanka. Since a great deal of this film is going to focus on sex, I’ll leave it to your imagination where the parasite enters her body.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ten Day of Terror!: The Night Flier

Film: The Night Flier
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Normally, when a horror movie doesn’t show the monster until the very end of the film, I wouldn’t spoil that by showing that monster in the picture, but the creature in The Night Flier appears on the cover of the DVD case. It seems like a really bad choice, honestly, and it was almost certainly out of the control of the director of the film. I guess in that respect I’m piling on to Mark Pavia’s problems with The Night Flier. It’s a bit of a shame. The Night Flier does some things really well and other things demonstrate just how much of a beginner effort it is. Pavia hasn’t had much of a career, and that’s a shame. Sure, this is an unpolished movie in a lot of respects, but it shows some real promise.

The Night Flier is based on the Stephen King short story of the same name, and while it’s been some time since I’ve read the story on which this is based, it would seem that the entire story is pretty much included here. In fact, the script takes a good deal of license with the story, adding quite a bit. Some of those additions are good and some come across as really unnecessary. Still, the premise is a good one for a 90-minute horror movie, and sometimes a good premise is really all you need.

Ten Days of Terror!: Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)

Film: Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)
Format: Internet video on laptop.

My viewing of Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) comes with a number of caveats. The first is that I initially tried to watch it on one of the weird little channels I have access to on the Roku. It was Midnight Movies or Drive-In Classics, or something like that. I actually got through a pretty good portion of it that way, but I found the experience frustrating. On whatever channel that was, the film stopped for commercials every 10 minutes on the dot regardless of what was happening on the screen. Middle of a conversation, right at the moment of someone being killed. Hell, in the middle of a word sometimes. So, eventually, I went to a version I found online which was of lower quality, but was ultimately shown without breaks.

The other caveat here is that Deep Red occurs in multiple versions. The original release is slightly over two hours long, but the American release is about 101 minutes. The excised portions are evidently comedy and romance portions and were never dubbed into English. So, while I may have missed some of the movie, I’m at least convinced that I watched the entire American release of the film.