Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ten Days of Terror!: Phantasm II

Films: Phantasm II
Format: HBO Go on rockin’ flatscreen.

What’s the big sell of the movie Phantasm? It’s the flying orbs that kill people. Sure, you get the Tall Man, too, and the Tall Man is pretty damn awesome as a bad guy, but we wait for the flying orbs, especially because they aren’t really used that much. Phantasm II has the chance to correct that and it kind of doesn’t. The other thing that the sequel gets to correct is the fact that the first movie has a ton of ideas that aren’t really presented in a way that makes a great deal of sense. There’s the Tall Man digging up corpses, the flying orbs, and weird little dwarves that are apparently made by squeezing the corpses somehow into these new critters. It’s kind of a narrative mess.

Phantasm II picks up immediately at the end of the first movie, with our hero Mike (A. Michael Baldwin in this footage, which was clearly made at the same time as the original) be attacked by the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and a couple of dwarves. Pedophile-looking former ice cream man and Mike’s friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) coming to his rescue. Fast forward eight years and now Mike is played by James Le Gros and he’s just getting released from an institution since no one believed his weird story.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Ten Days of Terror!: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

Films: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Valerie a Tyden Divu)
Format: Streaming video from Kanopy on laptop.

I’m at a loss for describing Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (or Valerie a Tyden Divu in the Czech). I suppose at least a partial explanation is that it’s a part of the Czech New Wave. There are elements of surrealism here, which reminded me a great deal of Daisies. It’s also very sexually charged, and since the main character is a 13-year-old girl, there’s a high creep factor. A lot of it doesn’t make a great deal of sense without a lot of thought, which reminded me of Hausu. And some of it, not favorably, reminded me of the pure insanity of The Color of Pomegranates.

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a non-linear film, sort of. Actually, it’s a lot closer to a dream. Our title character, Valerie (Jaroslava Schallerova) is 13 and has just experience menarche (look it up), which is really what I think this entire film is about. A thief steals her prized earrings and then returns them. Valerie lives with her grandmother (Helena Anyzova) because her parents have died. Valerie is also seeing visions of vampire-like monsters, specifically one called the Constable (Jiri Prymek).

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 2010

The Contenders:

127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids are All Right
The King’s Speech (winner)
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Ten Days of Terror!: Oculus

Films: Oculus
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on laptop.

It’s been a pretty constant mantra on this blog that I tend to like horror more when it doesn’t go for gore but goes for genuinely scary instead. Sure, there are exceptions to that, but it’s a lot harder to genuinely scare an audience and it’s easy to gross them out. Gore is fine when it makes sense or, in those rare cases when it’s clearly the point of the movie. Oculus is a movie that eschews gore and goes for creating an atmosphere of dread and terror. It does this by never really letting the audience know what is going on at any time, or just giving us glimpses here and there. It’s all about the atmosphere here, and all about using that atmosphere to keep the characters (and the audience) off balance.

Oculus takes place in two different timelines that are of roughly equal importance. There is a current timeline that takes place in roughly the film’s present of 2013. The earlier timeline takes place in 2002, focused on much younger versions of our two main characters. Rather than jumping back and forth here, it’s probably easier to handle the stories in a more linear fashion. The truth is that the early timeline story exists mainly to give us context for the present-day story, so it’s actually pretty quick to understand.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Tomb of Ligeia

Film: The Tomb of Ligeia
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on laptop.

Every now and then, something wonderful happens in the film world. One of those wonderful happenings was when Roger Corman, king of the B-movies, was given the go-ahead to start adapting stories from the Edgar Allen Poe canon. Corman has made a lot of crappy movies in his career, but his best work in general is centered on his Poe movies. With The Tomb of Ligeia, we’re moving away from the main canon of Poe’s stories; “Ligeia” isn’t one that most people would consider essential Poe.

I feel like I should cover the story itself before getting to the actual film. In Poe’s original tale, the narrator tells us of his wife Ligeia, who like most of the ill-fated women in Poe’s stories, is resplendently gorgeous and of supreme intelligence in all things philosophical, linguistic, and scientific. Of course Ligeia isn’t going to live that long, and our narrator eventually enters into a second marriage with a woman named Rowena. It’s a loveless affair, but when she takes ill as well, our nameless narrator is still upset. Eventually, the Lady Rowena dies, and during the vigil for her death, he tries to revive her multiple times. Each time, she seems closer to coming back to life. When, at the end of the story she finally does, she has transformed into Ligeia.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Finishing October

For the last several years, really since I’ve managed to finish the 1001 Movies list the first time, I’ve ended October with horror movies. If you’ve been a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been slowly upping the horror content of this blog, especially this year as the Oscar project winds down to a spot where it’s yearly maintenance and the continued Oscar Got It Wrong posts.

Last year, I posted about three dozen horror movie reviews over the last ten days of October. Part of the reason for that is that I had a huge backstock of horror reviews written and unposted. I’d love to tell you that I caught up on that, but the opposite is true. My unpublished backlog is far larger now than it was last year. I have more than 100 unposted reviews of horror and horror-related movies sitting in a folder.

So, I’ll be doing something similar this year. New reviews will go up daily (starting tomorrow) at 1:00 and 7:00, both AM and PM, Central time. On Mondays and Friday, the 1:00 review will instead be the traditional Oscar post.

I'll be creating the list of upcoming reviews and posting them here--if there's one you'd really like to read, this will allow you to find it more easily.

Brace yourself. Horror is coming.

Monday, October 22
1:00 AM--The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)
7:00 AM--Oculus (2013)
1:00 PM--Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 2010
7:00 PM--Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

Tuesday, October 23
1:00 AM--Phantasm II (1988)
7:00 AM--House on Haunted Hill (1999)
1:00 PM--Spider Baby (1967)
7:00 PM--The Cell (2000)

Wednesday, October 24
1:00 AM--The War of the Worlds (1953)
7:00 AM--Devil (2010)
1:00 PM--Images (1972)
7:00 PM--The Ghost Breakers (1940)

Thursday, October 25
1:00 AM--Mimic (1997)
7:00 AM--Splice (2009)
1:00 PM--Bad Taste (1987)
7:00 PM--I Bury the Living (1958)

Friday, October 26
1:00 AM--Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
7:00 AM--The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)
1:00 PM--Oscar Got It Wrong!
7:00 PM--The Woman in Black (2012)

Saturday, October 27
1:00 AM--House of Usher (1960)
7:00 AM--The Witches (1990)
1:00 PM--Quarantine (2008)
7:00 PM--My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Sunday, October 28
1:00 AM--The Mummy (1959)
7:00 AM--Venus in Furs (1970)
1:00 PM--White Zombie (1932)
7:00 PM--Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)

Monday, October 29
1:00 AM--eXistenZ (1999)
7:00 AM--Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
1:00 PM--Oscar Got It Wrong!
7:00 PM--Altered States (1980)

Tuesday, October 30
1:00 AM--The Ghost of Yotsuya (1959)
7:00 AM--Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
1:00 PM--The Craft (1996)
7:00 PM--28 Weeks Later (2007)

Wednesday, October 31
1:00 AM--13 Ghosts (1960)
7:00 AM--Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
1:00 PM--World War Z (2013)
7:00 PM--The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

Saturday, October 20, 2018


Films: Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

I’ve said a number of times on this blog how much I enjoy it when an established actor plays significantly against type. That’s at least a big part of the appeal of Roman J. Israel, Esq. for me, even if this isn’t that big of a difference for many of the acclaimed roles of Denzel Washington of the past few years. He’s a straight bastard in Fences and a drunk and an addict in Flight, so in that respect, where this character goes runs at least in part in the same circles in this film. It is different in a lot of ways, though, and it’s different in that way that Oscar tends to like a great deal.

Denzel Washington plays our title character here, an aging lawyer who works for a firm that consists of himself, another lawyer, and a receptionist. Roman, who makes about $500 per week, spends his days essentially writing briefs and doing a great deal of the legwork for cases, frequently dealing with their defendants’ civil rights. The other lawyer is William Jackson, and it is he who takes the cases to trial. In moments of his spare time, Roman works on a massive brief that has occupied him for years. This brief is in regard to a class action suit about the complete overhaul of the plea bargaining system.