Saturday, October 31, 2020

Ten Days of Terror!: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Films: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on The New Portable.

If I told you that I was looking forward to watching the fourth Friday the 13th movie, called Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. A big part of that lack of desire comes directly from the fact that I know it was nothing like the final chapter of the series. There are some really well-done slasher movies, of course, and the original in this series is a classic for a lot of reasons. The second one introduces Jason Voorhees as the killer and the third introduces his now-iconic hockey mask. What the hell could the fourth one offer?

The answer to that is a hell of a lot of dead teenagers. I mean, that was expected given the nature of the series and the placement of this one in the series. There’s going to be a lot of dead kids by the end of it, mostly killed with a variety of bladed weapons. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is going to follow the standard “plot” structure of the series. We’ll get a couple of initial kills from Jason, we’ll set up all of the cannon fodder (and the final girl), we’ll have some gratuitous nudity for a bit, the kids will more or less pair off for sex, and Jason will kill them for their sins.

Ten Days of Terror!: Ghost Team

Film: Ghost Team
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on the new portable.

I like horror movies, and this is naturally the time of year when just about everyone is watching horror movies. I do get tired of a steady diet of them, though. Putting together this many reviews all at once has me kind of dazed and wanting a little change of pace. Something horror-adjacent would still be close enough, I figure, but not so close that I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. So, Ghost Team looked like it would fill the bill. This is a comedy, but appears to have some relationship with undead things, so it felt like a good choice.

I’ll spoil the surprise—it wasn’t a good choice. Ghost Team commits the biggest comedy sin: it’s not funny. It also commits the biggest movie sin that there is: it’s boring. I like a lot of the cast members here. There are plenty of people I have seen here in other movies and whose work I have enjoyed, but Ghost Team is boring, nonsensical, and a bit insulting to the intelligence of the average moviegoer.

Ten Days of Terror!: Absentia

Film: Absentia
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

One of my favorite bands is a group from Dayton, Ohio called Guided by Voices. While there are several GbV discs that have great production values, there are a bunch that sound like they were recorded in singer/writer/erstwhile guitarist Rob Pollard’s basement. There’s a particular charm in these lo-fi recordings, an earnestness that simply can’t exist in more professional sessions. Absentia is like that. This is a movie made for $70,000, and it’s far better than a great many horror movies made for 100 times that.

Tricia (Courtney Bell), is a pregnant woman living in a seedy neighborhood in Glendale. Her husband Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown) has been missing for seven years, and while her pregnancy is clearly evidence that she has moved on in some respects, there is a part of her that is still wrapped up in trying to finally close that door and tie off that loose end in her life. Her sister Callie (Katie Parker), a former (and possibly current) addict arrives at her house. Callie is there to help Tricia declare Daniel dead in absentia, find a new place to live, and move on with her life.

Ten Days of Terror!: Dead & Buried

Film: Dead & Buried
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

It can take a great deal to surprise me when it comes to a movie, so I’m always pleased when it happens. I put on Dead & Buried today on a kind of whim, since it’s a difficult movie to find. What I expected was a weird little horror movie that perhaps had a decent moment or two, but was likely to be forgettable. What a surprise to discover a genuinely good horror film that has a shock ending that works as well now as it did almost 40 years ago.

We start with a photographer (Christopher Allport) taking pictures somewhere on the Atlantic coast. He meets a young woman (Lisa Blount) and begins taking pictures of her. Thus distracted, he doesn’t realize as other people show up, start taking pictures of him, and then beat him senseless. Eventually, he is tied up and lit on fire while a crowd of people watch.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Ten Days of Terror!: Black Water

Film: Black Water
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

There is a particular style of Man vs. Nature film that, when done well enough, can’t help but work. While they’ve probably been around forever, I tend to associate this style with the back half of Jaws, when the three men go out on a small boat to hunt the killer shark. There’s no help coming and it’s just the man against the creature until the final credits roll. Naturally, this works best for big, scary creatures that eat people. I mean, sure you’ve got films like The Killer Shrews that follow this formula, but it seems popular for sharks and alligators. Deep Blue Sea, Open Water, Rogue, Crawl…all of these are exemplars of the style. That’s also what we’re going to get with Black Water.

Black Water is an Australian film based (we are told) on true events. Like any good Man vs. Nature film, this is a high concept movie. Here’s the entirety of your plot: a woman, her pregnant sister, and the sister’s husband go fishing in the middle of nowhere in Australia with a guide. They are soon attacked by a very large and ferocious crocodile and attempt to survive. That’s it.

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Adapted Screenplay 2017

The Contenders:

Call Me by Your Name (winner)
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly’s Game
Mudbound

Ten Days of Terror!: Leviathan

Film: Leviathan (1989)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

Every now and then, someone hits upon an incredibly successful idea for a film and it becomes one of the new defaults. You can see this with a film like Die Hard, which spawned dozens of “Die Hard on a pseudo-sequels and copycats. There was Die Hard on a plane (Con Air, Passenger 57, Air Force One), Die Hard on a submarine or boat (Under Siege, Speed 2), Die Hard on a mountain (Cliffhanger), comedy Die Hard in a mall (Paul Blart: Mall Cop) and more. Alien is a similar film, although it’s roots certainly run deeper to films like The Thing from Another World. It’s easy to think of Alien as a haunted house in space, but it’s more a film about people trapped with a monster. They can’t get out because there’s nowhere to go, either because of weather, inaccessibility, or simply being off-planet. Underwater movies are great for this; Deep Blue Sea is an example of the form. So is 1989’s Leviathan, which also tosses in some elements from The Thing.

The fact that a film is derivative of another film doesn’t mean that it’s not any good, clearly. There are lots of good Die Hard on a…movies and plenty of good people trapped with something nasty movies. Leviathan has the added benefit of a really good B-movie cast, including Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, Hector Elizondo, Daniel Stern, Meg Foster, and Ernie Hudson. It also includes Lisa Eilbacher, best-known to me (at least) as Axel Foley’s friend Jenny in Beverley Hills Cop. So, it’s a tried-and-true premise and a pretty decent cast, which bodes well. Sadly, Leviathan is ultimately a lot more derivative than it could be. It’s equal parts Alien and The Thing and not in the same area code as either of them.

Ten Days of Terror!: Parents

Film: Parents
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

A couple of hundred years ago in subjective time, I did a lot of podcasting. I was a guest multiple times on “The Lair of the Unwanted” with Jason Soto and Nolahn. One of those times—it might have been my first go-‘round with them—Jason made me watch Parents, a horror-comedy film about cannibalism, kinda, that stars Randy Quaid and that was directed by Christopher Guest movie veteran Bob Balaban. Jason was incredibly excited that he was going to make me watch this movie.

I’ll give you the elevator pitch. An all-American family, Nick (Randy Quaid), Lily (Mary Beth Hurt), and son Michael (Bryan Madorsky) move to a new house thanks to Nick’s job for a company with the 1950s-style classic name Toxico. Michael is very much the weird kid and is plagued by strange nightmares. He’s also pretty convinced that his parents are cannibals and the “leftovers” that he has been eating since they moved to the new house are people, perhaps from the chemical Agent Orange-like experiments his father works on.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Ten Days of Terror!: The Driller Killer

Film: The Driller Killer
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine

Every now and then, you find a movie that feels like it comes with its own oil slick. The Driller Killer is that kind of a movie. I’m not going to say this is a bad thing or a good thing, but it is very much a true thing. This might be the grimiest movie I have ever seen, and that includes the lesbian shower sequence. The Driller Killer looks and sounds like it’s straight off the grindhouse circuit; I’m actually a little surprised there weren’t a couple of “scene missing” interstitials.

The Driller Killer is about an artist named Reno (played by the film’s director, Abel Ferrara under the pseudonym of Jimmy Laine). Reno is working on a new major piece, but he and his two roommates, flight attendant Carol (Carolyn Marz) and her drug addict lover Pamela (Baybi Day) are having trouble making the rent and paying their bills. Reno asks for $500 to cover the rent from his art dealer, who reminds him of all of the money he has already borrowed from him. However, the art dealer, Dalton (Harry Schultz II), promises that if the piece Reno is working on is good, he will buy it for the appropriate amount at the end of the week.

Ten Days of Terror!: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Film: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine

I remember seeing Attack of the Killer Tomatoes when I was a kid and when it was relatively new. I didn’t see it in the theater. I remember distinctly seeing this at my friend Pat’s house. We didn’t pay a great deal of attention to it—it was more or less on in the background. I remember a couple of specific points in the film, but I remembered virtually nothing about the plot. Well…what passes for a plot, anyway.

Look, I’m not going to do the usual plot rundown here, because there isn’t one. Deciding to essentially one-up the ridiculousness of the enemy of a film like Squirm or Night of the Lepus, we’re led to believe that the world is being attacked by rampaging hordes of gigantic tomatoes that eat people. Yes, tomatoes. The title of the movie is not joke, or at least not any more of a joke than the story.

Ten Days of Terror!: We Are What We Are

Film: We Are What We Are
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine

When I first thought about why there seem to be so many cannibalism stories in horror movies, I wasn’t sure why that would be the case. There are plenty of stories about people getting eaten by something, but getting eaten by humans is its own thing. There seem to be a few of them every year, and while we will get some set in exotic locales (Cannibal Holocaust, for instance), in a lot of ways things are more disturbing when the setting is more familiar and current. We Are What We Are is a case in point. Admittedly, the cannibalism is a kind of surprise moment in the film, but it happens relatively soon, so it’s not a huge spoiler.

What makes We Are What We Are different is not that it’s a cannibal movie or that it’s a cannibal movie that takes place in the current day. No, it’s the reason for the cannibalism. Most of the time, it’s about need, or about someone being severely deranged, or (as in the case of a movie like Ravenous) about power. In We Are What We Are, the cannibalism happens for religious reasons.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Burrowers

Film: The Burrowers
Format: DVD from personal collection on basement television

A lot of horror movies are combinations of the horror genre and another genre. Science fiction, for instance, has a lot in common with horror. I think that almost everyone who is a fan of one of those two genres is going to be a fan of the other. That’s less true for other genres, and yet those crossovers exist. There are horror comedies, horror musicals, horror romances, and more. With The Burrowers, we get a horror western, and there really aren’t enough of those. There’s so much potential for the horror western, and many of them (Ravenous, Bone Tomahawk and even movies like Vampire$ and Tremors have some Western flair) are a lot of fun to watch. So I was excited by the prospect of The Burrowers, which is a classic oater and also clearly a horror movie.

We’re going to dive head-first into pioneer territory as the movie begins. It’s the late 1870s, so post American Civil War. Irish immigrant Feargus Coffey (Karl Geary) proposes to his girlfriend, only to discover that she and the family she lives with has been either murdered or captured in the night. Naturally, the local natives, specifically a tribe of Sioux, is blamed for the crime. Coffey, as well as other locals including John Clay (Clancy Brown) and William Parcher (William Mapother) form a posse, and are soon joined by a military contingent led by the racist and condescending Henry Victor (Doug Hutchison). Soon after leaving the local settlement, the group captures a native and tortures him for information. What he provides is not what they expected—he tells of what the posse assumes is a tribe called “Burrowers” that have plagued the area for centuries. They used to feed on the buffalo herds, but since the herds have been mostly wiped out, they’ve switched to human prey.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Ten Days of Terror!: Insidious

Films: Insidious
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on basement television.

I think James Wan is underrated as a horror director. While I don’t love all of his movies, he does have a particular style that genuinely works. Insidious is a good movie if not a great one, but there are moments that Wan demonstrates that he is really good at what he does. In fact, one of the better jump scares in the film comes entirely from the way Wan directs the scene, getting the audience comfortable before dropping the hammer.

The problem is that at times it seems like he’s wasting his talent directing movies like Insidious. It’s actually a decent enough film for what it is. The problem is that it’s also a movie that very clearly telegraphs the story it wants to tell. This is not an original story despite being an original screenplay. If you’ve seen a haunted house or possession movie, you’ve seen Insidious.

Ten Days of Terror: The Addams Family (2019)

Film: The Addams Family (2019)
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on the new internet machine.

I like most of the versions of The Addams Family that I have encountered, with the first two movies (yes, there is a third, with an almost entirely new cast that was considered so reprehensible that it was never released on DVD) being the pinnacle of Addams in non-print media. So I was certainly curious about the animated version that was released last year. Oscar Isaac and Charlize Theron seem like good casting for Gomez and Morticia—no one is going to touch Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston—but still, not bad. Honestly, I was curious to see how this would play as a kids’ film, and wondered if the film would bring in more of the traditional elements of the original Charles Addams comics.

And in a lot of respects, The Addams Family is true to at least the concept of the characters. The film starts with the wedding of Gomez and Morticia, which is broken up by an angry mob. The family flees, and our newlyweds look for a new home, eventually finding an abandoned and haunted asylum on a hilltop in New Jersey. We doodley-doo 13 years into the future, and now we have both Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard). And, as tends to happen in such movies, we have a confluence of events.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Night Stalker

Film: The Night Stalker
Format: Internet video on the new internet machine.

If you are or were a fan of The X-Files, you should find the time to learn about The Night Stalker. There was a one-season television show from the mid-‘70s that I remember in part. The show followed a reporter who, every week Scooby Doo-like, encountered something strange or paranormal. The difference was that, unlike Scooby Doo, the villain was never Old Man Jenkins who ran the old carnival, but actually were supernatural or otherworldly. I particularly remember an episode that was a play on the Headless Horseman story, featuring instead a headless motorcyclist. What I didn’t know was that the show came from a pair of made-for-television movie, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler.

There is a certain continuity here. The Night Stalker, the original movie, takes place in early ‘70s Las Vegas, where reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) is working a beat. Kolchak, we learn over time, has been released from large market papers all over the country, with Vegas simply being the latest place he’s decided to ply his gadfly/fly in the ointment brand of journalism. Actually, this only becomes evident after a few minutes. The actual opening of the film is Kolchak sitting in a cheap motel room listening to a tape recording of his own voice narrating the story we are about to hear.

Ten Days of Terror!: Severance

Film: Severance
Format: DVD from personal collection on basement television

If you’ve listened to any of the reviews done by Mark Kermode, you know about Danny Dyer. How exactly do I explain Dyer? Danny Dyer is what you get if you start with Jason Statham and remove all of the physicality, toughness, and lowbrow charm. He’s like someone pretending to be Jason Statham, but having nothing to back it up. What that means is with a movie like Severance, I’m torn. This is a movie I’ve been interested in seeing since I knew about it, but the presence of Dyer in a prominent role gives me genuine pause.

The basic idea for Severance has tremendous potential. A group of people who work for a weapons manufacturing company called Palisade Defense is sent to a remote location for teambuilding exercises. Through a series of planned accidents, they are instead detoured to what proves to be a former asylum about which there are a series of rumors and legends. Soon enough, they discover that there are people in the woods trying (and generally succeeding) in killing them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Ten Days of Terror!: Bad Moon

Films: Bad Moon
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

I know it’s possible for there to be good werewolf movies, because I’ve seen them. Beyond the originals that created the subgenre, movies like An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Dog Soldiers, and especially Ginger Snaps demonstrate that it’s possible to create a cool film about a werewolf. Bad Moon would really like to be among that number, and it does do some things right. It’s problem is that if there’s a trope that exists in any werewolf movie that comes before it, you’re going to see it here.

We start in Nepal, where a photojournalist named Ted Harrison (Michael Pare) and his girlfriend Marjorie (Johanna Marlowe) are doing the nasty in their tent one evening. They are caught rather terribly in flagrante by a werewolf that kills Marjorie and wounds Ted. This means, of course, that according to werewolf lore, Ted is cursed to become a werewolf.

Ten Days of Terror!: Fiend Without a Face

Film: Fiend Without a Face
Format: Internet video on the new internet machine.

The Criterion Collection is odd sometimes. There are plenty of movies that are a part of the collection because they are weird, obscure art films that tend to be fawned over by the beret and clove cigarette crowd. And then you get Fiend Without a Face, a strange little science fiction movie that could have easily been an MST3K film in different directorial hands. This film is loaded with dumb science and magic technology words about radiation, and also features free-range brains with attached spinal cords and eyestalks, so there’s that, too. I mean, I get why this is generally looked at positively, but it’s still weird as all hell.

We’re spending our time in this film in Manitoba around an American air force base put in place more or less to protect Canada and the U.S. from Russian attacks from over the pole. Quite suddenly, there is a rash of deaths in the surrounding countryside. The people in the area naturally blame the radiation coming from the nuclear power plant at the military base. Autopsies on the victims, though, indicate something very different is afoot. The victims all have a pair of holes at the base of their necks. More disturbing, their brains are missing, as are their spinal cords.

Ten Days of Terror!: Night of the Lepus

Film: Night of the Lepus
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on the new internet machine.

There is a particular odd little subgenre of horror movies that involves taking small critters and making them giant and dangerous. This isn’t The Meg or Jaws, mind you. Sharks are plenty scary already, and making them bigger just makes them more of a threat. No, I’m talking about movies like Tarantula, Them! or The Deadly Mantis, where something small(ish) is suddenly made gigantic, and thus a threat. Within this subgenre, there exists a further collection of films where the critters in question are ones that aren’t even slightly threatening. Frogs or Black Sheep are good examples of this, but The Killer Shrews is maybe the most classic, that is, until you remember the existence of Night of the Lepus.

Our monsters in this case are giant rabbits, lagomorphs in the 100-150 pound range, human-sized, blood-thirsty bunnies that rampage across the Arizona desert. But clearly, I’m getting ahead of myself here. The source of the massive stampede of rabbits (technically, lepus is the Latin name for “hare”) is important here.

Ten Days of Terror!: Thirst (Bakjwi)

Film: Thirst (Bakjwi)
Format: DVD from personal collection on basement television.

There are some myths that I think are endlessly mutable into something new while retaining a sense of the old. The Frankenstein story, for instance, has been reformulated and recrafted hundreds of times into movies as diverse as Re-Animator, Splice, and Ex Machina. Vampire myths are pervasive as well in the sense that I think just about every culture has some type of vampire story, and these are in many ways just as varied. Because of that, it’s always fun to see a new take on the story. Thirst (or Bakjwi if you prefer the Korean) is rooted in the classic vampire story, but just as much a new take on that story.

The truth is that I like just about everything about Thirst. I love the fact that the vampirism is never really explained—it’s just something that happens. I like that it rather aggressively addresses the hypocrisy of religion (specifically Catholicism) at its core and in the practice of it. This is a smart movie hiding in the guise of a supernatural thriller with erotic overtones. It’s a reminder of just how good Park Chan-wook is with great material, and this is great material.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Ten Days of Terror!: The Creature Walks Among Us

Film: The Creature Walks Among Us
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

Evidently, there is something irresistible about creating a trilogy, so despite the lackluster second Creature from the Black Lagoon film, we’re going to be treated to a third, called The Creature Walks Among Us. Like the sequel, the only real connection here is going to be the Creature himself—we’ve got a whole new group of scientists and adventurers who want to capture the Creature, who managed to survive the ending of the previous movie and go hiding in the Everglades. Honestly, though, “The Creature from the Everglades” doesn’t have that same ring to it.

This time, our team of scientists is led by Dr. William Barton (Jeff Morrow), who we soon learn is mentally unstable. A part of his instability comes from the person of his wife, Marcia (Leigh Snowden). It’s clearly not a very happy marriage, in part because of his possessiveness and the fact that Marcia is very quickly the target of advances from the group’s guide, Jed Grant (Gregg Palmer).

Ten Days of Terror!: Revenge of the Creature

Films: Revenge of the Creature
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

There’s plenty of old-school horror in the original Universal monsters, but not a great deal that’s genuinely scary. What’s interesting is just how many of the monsters are, once you dig past the horror trappings, really tragic. The Gill Man, better known as the Creature from the Black Lagoon, is one such tragic monster. While much of his tragedy is the story, perhaps the bigger tragedy is that he never got a really good sequel. Revenge of the Creature is about as good as we’re going to get for him, the poor fishy bastard.

So what’s wrong with the sequel? Well, for starters, it stars John Agar, the square-jawed, mostly talentless version of an A-list actor in B-list movies. A lot of Agar films, including this one, wound up on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I have, in fact, seen the MST3K version of this film so many times that I remember particular quips from it. Still, it’s only fair to give this its honest due for this website.

Ten Days of Terror!: Phantom of the Paradise

Films: Phantom of the Paradise
Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on various players.

There are times when you realize just how failed we are as a species. In the 1970s, we had a choice of rock operas with which we could have become collectively obsessed as a culture. Tommy might have been the choice of pinball had become a thing, even if Quadrophenia is clearly the better Who-based choice. Had we been an even more religious society, Jesus Christ Superstar might have been the one. But for off-the-wall entertainment value, the world collectively decided to fawn over The Rocky Horror Picture Show when we could have instead been going to midnight shows of Phantom of the Paradise.

At first blush, you figure you know what is going on here. It’s clearly going to be an updated version of The Phantom of the Opera, but with different songs and a different kind of theater. Truthfully, it kind of is that, but it’s so much more. It’s as much a version of Faust as it is anything else, and there are elements of The Picture of Dorian Gray here as well. Three classic horror tales for the price of one.

Ten Days of Terror!: Blacula

Film: Blacula
Format: IMDb TV on basement television.

There’s something special about exploitation movies of the 1970s regardless of exploitative genre. Blaxploitation films were such a natural outgrowth of the film industry and the rising realization that there was an African-American (Afro-American at the time) audience for films that showed them as the stars. Genre films beyond the crime film, action movie, and police film were natural extensions of this. Since there is a particularly odd strain of conservativism in horror films, co-opting the genre to show Black heroes was a natural choice. Of these films, Blacula is the granddaddy for a lot of reasons.

We start with Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall), sent by the Abani nation to seek help from Count Dracula (Charles Macauley) in suppressing the slave trade. Mamuwalde and his wife Luva (Vonetta McGee) are instead attacked by Dracula, who both thinks that the slave trade has some benefit and, of course, is a vampire. Dracula turns Mamuwalde into a vampire for his impertinence and then locks him in a coffin, sealing both him and Luva in a room—Luva to die and Mamuwalde to suffer. Dracula also dubs Mamuwalde “Blacula,” giving us our title.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Ten Days of Terror!: Grave Encounters

Film: Grave Encounters
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

I don’t love found footage movies as a general rule. While there are a few exceptions, they all tend to flow together for me at some point. We get some set up of our protagonists going somewhere and doing something in a place that is supposed to be dangerous, bad things happen, there’s a lot of shaky cam and night vision footage, and everybody dies. The ones that work best for me are the ones that either did something relatively new (The Blair Witch Project), go outside of the genre (Chronicle), or don’t follow that basic path ([REC]. Grave Encounters does none of those things. It follows the basic formula to the letter, and while it does provide a few decent scares (and one very iconic moment), there’s not a great deal here that you haven’t seen before.

The set up is that we’re dealing with a reality television show called “Grave Encounters” that is more or less the precursor of the ghost hunter shows on The History Channel and the like. A team of paranormal investigators goes into supposedly haunted places and sees if they can find any evidence of the supernatural. We’re told by the show’s executive producer (Ben Wilkinson) that what we’re going to be shown has been edited down from the recovered footage of the proposed sixth episode of the show. In this episode, the team investigates the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where a number of paranormal and unexplained phenomena have been reported. We get a little background—like one of the doctors at the facility had a penchant for lobotomies and was eventually killed by the patients. We also get a little bit of the history of the place in general.

Ten Days of Terror!: House of 1000 Corpses

Film: House of 1000 Corpses
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

If I remember correctly, House of 1000 Corpses was one of those movies that had a weird development history. I think there was a trailer for it several years before the film actually dropped. I knew about it at the time and had no real interest in seeing it, and now that I have seen it, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. There’s a definite sense of style here, or at least there wants to be a sense of style, but I’m not sure how good the damned thing actually is.

House of 1000 Corpses is a film that is almost entirely plotless. The traditional group of young people are on a long road trip to discover weird roadside attractions. The quartet is made up of Jerry (Chris Hardwick), Bill (Rainn Wilson), Mary (Jennifer Jostyn), and Denise (Erin Daniels). They discover Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen. Spaulding (Sid Haig) tells them of a local legend called Dr. Satan who was eventually captured and hanged from a nearby tree. He draws them a map, and off the four go. The pick up a hitchhiker named Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie, wife of director Rob Zombie) along the way, who leads them to her house when the group has car trouble.

Ten Days of Terror!: Panic in Year Zero!

Films: Panic in Year Zero!
Format: Internet video on the new internet machine.

I’m a fan of apocalyptic films of most varieties. As someone who came of age in the ‘80s, the apocalypse variety that was most prevalent in my own imagination was not the zombie variety, but the nuclear one. The Day After was a formative film for a lot of us, and Threads is perhaps the most disturbing nuclear holocaust film ever made. There’s something about a good apocalypse movie that makes me feel like I’m coming home. These films got gorier and more graphic as the years rolled on, so finding a movie from the ‘60s like Panic in Year Zero! was a lot of fun.

Since this is a nuclear apocalypse film, you know where this is going right away. The Baldwin family, Harry (Ray Milland, who also directed this movie) and his wife Ann (Jean Hagen) along with kids Rick (Frankie Avalon), and Karen (Mary Mitchel) are leaving home for a camping vacation. As they leave, they see a huge flash behind them, and soon find out that Los Angeles has been hit with some sort of atomic weapon. Over the next few hours, Harry comes to the realization that the world is going to become much less civilized over the coming days. He heads off the highway to find a grocery store in the middle of nowhere before anyone else has been there. At a nearby hardware store, Harry runs out of money and essentially holds up the owner of the store for the guns he wants to buy, promising to pay him when he can. At a gas station, the attendant tries to gouge Harry by multiplying the price of the gas by 10, and Harry, realizing that civilization is breaking down faster than he thought it would, assaults the man, leaves him the cash for the real price, and the family heads off once again.

Ten Days of Terror!: Grizzly

Films: Grizzly
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on the New Portable.

Every now and then, a movie changes the game. The Matrix affected just about everything that came after it for the next few years. Jaws had that kind of effect as well. In the years that followed its release, there were all sorts of “animal goes on a human-killing rampage” films. One of the first to attempt to capitalize on the trend was Grizzly that followed the next year. Lots of movies owe a debt to Jaws in that respect, but few are so obviously clear about their position as this one. Grizzly really wants to be a land-based Jaws and it makes no bones about it.

When I say that this wants to be a land-based Jaws, I mean that as clearly and as sincerely as I can. Grizzly has almost the same beats and pretty close to the same body count. It even goes for about the same distance into the movie before showing us the big ol’ bear who is doing the attacks. The problem is that Grizzly uses a trained bear for the animal photography and what is clearly an artificial bear paw on a stick for the attack sequences. Every character in Jaws has an analogue here, and, for the main characters, all but one suffers the same fate. Even the ending is almost identical—so much so that I’ll put it under a spoiler later.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Ten Days of Terror!: Wishmaster

Film: Wishmaster
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

For many a horror movie, the difference between success and failure comes down to the quality of the monster. The Hellraiser franchise would be nothing without Pinhead. More specifically, it would be much less without Doug Bradley’s specific interpretation of Pinhead. The same is true of Robert Englund and Freddy Kruger. I like Jackie Earle Haley as much as the next guy, but there’s a reason that the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t considered that interesting, and the fact that Englund isn’t playing Freddy is a part of that. This is one of the main things that Wishmaster got right. This is not a particularly scary movie or even a particularly good one, but casting Andrew Divoff in the role of the djinn is an absolute triumph of casting.

We get an opening scene to more or less introduce us to the idea of a djinn, and it’s here that we’re introduced to the basic premise of the film. The idea is that we tend to think of genies in terms of, say, Disney’s Aladdin, but the ancient stories are much more vicious. Djinn are creatures that must serve when commanded, but will always strive to grant wishes in the worst way possible, a sort of malevolent and consciously evil monkey’s paw. The story that the film wants to put forth is that someone who releases a djinn can receive three wishes, but upon the third being granted, all djinn are able to freely enter the mortal world and, more or less, destroy humanity.

Ten Days of Terror!: Shock/Beyond the Door II

Films: Shock/Beyond the Door II
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

Beyond the Door was a movie that was clearly designed to attract the same audience as The Exorcist. The plot was similar in a lot of ways, but it was a cheap knock off, about as scary as one of my chihuahuas. A few years later, we got Beyond the Door II, which was so exploitative that the only thing it had in common with the first movie was the child actor. In truth, the movie was also released as Shock, so it’s not entirely a cashgrab.

We’re going to be focused on Dora Baldini (Daria Nicolodi), who has moved back into her old house with her son Marco (David Colin Jr.) and her new husband Bruno (John Steiner). It turns out this is a house she lived in before, with her first husband, Carlo (Nicola Salerno). While Dora was pregnant with Marco, Carlo became abusive and addicted to heroin, and was thought to have committed suicide when his boat was found abandoned and adrift. Dora ended up in an asylum, treated with electroshock therapy. It’s seven years later, Carlo has been declared legally dead after being missing for seven years. And now, with her shattered memory, she has returned remarried.

Ten Days of Terror!: Castle of Blood

Films: Castle of Blood (Danza Macabra)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

You never really know what you’re going to get into with an older horror movie, and for me, that’s especially true when it’s an Italian horror movie. I don’t always love Italian horror movies, finding them to be much more about the spectacle and very often short on plot and coherence. Castle of Blood (or Danza Macabra in the original Italian) comes from before the era of the giallo, though, and also features Barbara Steele in a prominent role. Steele is always a net positive.

The plot is straight out of the mid-‘60s horror playbook. A journalist named Alan Foster (Georges Riviere) confronts Edgar Allan Poe (Silvano Tranquilli) about the authenticity of his stories. In the world of this film, Poe’s stories are viewed not as fictions, but as eyewitness accounts of the supernatural. Confident that there is no supernatural, Foster takes a bet with Lord Thomas Blackwood (Umberto Raho) to spend a night in the man’s castle. Specifically, he is to spend All Souls’ Eve (otherwise known as All Saints’ Day) in the castle. According to Lord Blackwood, no one has done this successfully; everyone who has attempted it has died.

Ten Days of Terror!: Vacancy

Film: Vacancy
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

I can’t say that I was thrilled about the prospect of watching Vacancy. Once you know the elevator pitch for the film, what’s going to happen certainly follows as a guarantee. Vacancy is essentially The Strangers only in a motel instead of someone’s house. That’s it. I can imagine the pitch meeting, as can you. And you’d be wrong, as would I be. Vacancy came out the year before The Strangers, so in that respect, the pitch meeting for The Strangers would be, “Vacancy,” but with people at home.

All joking aside, this is the case here. The elevator pitch for Vacancy is that a couple in the middle of a divorce ends up at a seedy motel in the middle of nowhere. They discover soon that the motel, and their room specifically, has been used to create a series of snuff films of unwitting motel guests being brutally murdered. And, since they are the only guests at the motel, it’s their turn now.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Ten Days of Terror!: The Phantom of the Opera (1962)

Films: The Phantom of the Opera (1962)
Format: DVD from Nippersink District Library through interlibrary loan on basement television.

One of the things I find interesting in looking at different variations of the same story is those variations. For instance, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers takes place at the beginning of the eponymous invasion. The first remake seems to take place a lot further into the alien takeover. But the story is essentially the same. Other times, the remake is wildly different from the original. The John Carpenter remake The Thing has the basic skeleton of The Thing from Another World, but is considerably different. The 1962 version of The Phantom of the Opera is nothing like the others that I’ve seen. It’s a kinder, gentler Phantom, and I’m not convinced that this is an improvement.

The basics of the story that you almost certainly know are here, though. There’s an opera, after all, and a phantom who haunts the theater. There is an ingĂ©nue who the Phantom will attempt to take under his cape, and there will be some terror and death when the Phantom doesn’t get his way. But there’s a hell of a lot else here that is going to be very different from what you likely know.

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 2018

The Contenders:

Melissa McCarthy: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Olivia Colman: The Favourite (winner)
Yalitza Aparicio: Roma
Lady Gaga: A Star is Born
Glenn Close: The Wife

Ten Days of Terror!: Chopping Mall

Film: Chopping Mall
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

Friend of the blog Nolahn is a huge fan of a movie called Deathstalker II. He’s a big enough fan of that movie that he made me watch it. I bring this up in a review of Chopping Mall because both were directed by Jim Wynorski. In fact, these were consecutively directed by Jim Wynorski, and were his second and third movies, with Chopping Mall coming first. You can tell a great deal about a director by looking at that director’s oeuvre. Among the films Wynorski has directed include such magnum opera as Scream Queen Hot Tub Party, Alabama Jones and the Busty Crusade, and The Witches of Breastwick. Diving into his IMDb page is a strange journey.

It’s actually a little sad to see a guy who had some skill slide into direct-to-video softcore porn movies like The Devil Wears Nada. I’m not going to pretend that Chopping Mall is Shakespeare, but there are elements of this movie that demonstrate talent and even some wit. This isn’t a great movie, but it’s a fun one, and one that is difficult to dislike, especially for anyone who came of age in the ‘80s. In that respect, this might be one of those movies that perfectly encapsulates its era.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Nanny

Film: The Nanny
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on The New Portable.

Of all the genres and subgenres of film, the one that I find the most inexplicable is hagsploitation, or my preferred name for it, psycho-biddy. Seriously, who decided that crazy old ladies would make for the sort of film that people would really enjoy? I mean, I’m not upset that they did, because there are some great films in the genre, but there are also a few missteps, like The Nanny. Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a terrible film, but it is an ultimately disappointing one. We’re given an ending that the film absolutely doesn’t earn, and it’s a damn shame.

What we have is a very wealthy family that has undergone some terrible hardships. Bill Fane (James Villiers) is cold and distant from his family, perhaps due to the tragedy that befell them. Wife Virginia (Wendy Craig) has been almost infantilized, while son Joey (William Dix) is just now returning home after being sent to a boarding school that specializes in problem children. Why is Joey a problem? Because his sister Susy (Angharad Aubrey in flashbacks) died in an accident that hasn’t been fully explained.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Ten Days of Terror!: The Conjuring 2

Film: The Conjuring 2
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on The New Portable.

So what do I think about The Conjuring 2? Movies like this put me in a very interesting and uncomfortable position. The truth is that I liked The Conjuring well enough, and I liked The Conjuring 2 as well. These are hard movies to dislike, to be honest. I enjoy that they feel very much like slices out of the lives of the Warren family. There are things that happen in the movie that aren’t really tied to the plot in any way, but that help create the characters, or that eventually build up in to other movies. The Annabelle movies all came from a prop used in the first film, and the recent The Nun comes from something that plays a part in this one.

So, I like the world building a great deal. I like Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in their respective roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren. But here’s the thing: I am of the opinion that the Warrens are very advanced grifters who pulled a series of hoaxes on the world and made their living from it. I know this is not the most popular opinion, but when I see the notation at the start of the film that this is “based on a true story,” I can’t help my eyes from rolling.

Ten Days of Terror!: Sleepaway Camp

Film: Sleepaway Camp
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

When it comes to summer camp movies, there are a few movies that immediately spring to mind. For comedy lovers, Meatballs might be the go-to. I’d put forward Addams Family Values as the best movie with summer camp scenes, but some might suggest Heavyweights or Moonrise Kingdom. Horror fans are almost certainly going to reflexively name Friday the 13th as their first choice, but here will be a subset that instead goes with Sleepaway Camp.

If you’ve seen this movie, you know why this is the case. If you haven’t seen this movie, you’ve almost certainly heard of its reputation. For me, Sleepaway Camp has been a whole in my viewing history, and for a horror fan, one of the biggest holes I’ve had. And, honestly, I can’t say it lived up to the hype until the last few moments. Again, if you know the movie, you know what I mean.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Blackcoat's Daughter

Film: The Blackcoat’s Daughter
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on the new portable.

There is a trend in horror movies that perhaps has been around for longer than I’ve been aware of it. I’ve noticed it several times in the past, and someone is welcome to bring up a movie from before the last decade that follows this pattern, but it’s one I’ve really only noticed in movies from the past 10 years or so. That trend or common element is a movie that spends about two acts developing an atmosphere of dread or at least something disturbing and then going completely off the rails bonkers in the third act. Starry Eyes did this, as did Kill List and Honeymoon. I’m not specifically talking about a plot twist—I’m talking about a movie building up to something that turns out to be fully insane. That’s exactly what I experienced with The Blackcoat’s Daughter.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a twist in this movie; there is, and it’s a big one. Naturally, this means that I won’t be spoiling it when we get there. The movie has three interweaving storylines. Two of these are clearly entwined, while the third connects with the others eventually. More or less, we figure that it’s got to be connected in some way because it’s a part of the same movie.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Curse of Frankenstein

Film: The Curse of Frankenstein
Format: DVD from NetFlix on the new portable.

Hammer horror movies are sort of their own thing; you either love them or you don’t. As it happens, I love them. The Curse of Frankenstein is in many ways the Ur Hammer horror film. The Curse of Frankenstein was the first horror hit for the studio. It also has the honor of being the first real on-screen pairing of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. They’d been in movies together before, but not in starring roles. This was the movie that created their friendship, which lasted until Cushing’s death.

There was some interesting controversy regarding the film as well. Evidently, Hammer was not allowed to do anything that was reminiscent of the Universal Frankenstein films, which meant that everything here had to go in a very different direction. The plot is still in the same direction as Mary Shelley’s novel, of course, but it’s significantly different, especially in the look of the monster.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Ten (More) Days of Terror!

Since 2014, I have ended October with horror movie reviews. Since a lot of what I do these days is horror movies anyway, this is not that exceptional. What is exceptional is the volume, something I will keep up with this year.

Starting tomorrow morning at 1:00, I will be posting four times per day--1:00 and 7:00 AM and PM, or every six hours. All of these posts will be horror movies with the exception of the 1:00 PM posts on the 23rd and 30th, which will both be the standard Oscar Got It Wrong! posts.

Otherwise, it's all horror all the time until November 1st. Brace yourself: the scares are coming. I'll update this page with links to the new posts. (There are only three posts for the two Fridays--the missing post in each case are those Oscar Got It Wrong! posts, so not horror-specific, so not included here.)

10/22/20
The Curse of Frankenstein
The Blackcoat's Daughter
Sleepaway Camp
The Conjuring 2

10/23/20
The Nanny
Chopping Mall
Phantom of the Opera (1962)

10/24/20
Vacancy
Castle of Blood
Shock/Beyond the Door II
Wishmaster

10/25/20
Grizzly
Panic in Year Zero!
House of 1000 Corpses
Grave Encounters

10/26/20
Blacula
Phantom of the Paradise
Revenge of the Creature
The Creature Walks Among Us

10/27/20
Thirst (Bakjwi)
Night of the Lepus
Fiend Without a Face
Bad Moon

10/28/20
Severance
The Night Stalker
The Addams Family (2019)
Insidious

10/29/20
The Burrowers
We Are What We Are
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
The Driller Killer

10/30/20
Parents
Leviathan
Black Water

10/31/20
Dead & Buried
Absentia
Ghost Team
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Faerie Tale

Film: Gretel & Hansel
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on the new portable.

I’ve liked the two films Oz Perkins has directed that I’ve seen. There is a sense that he is very much trying to tap into something deeper with his horror movies, something more than just the surface level jump scare and gross-out moments that are the mainstay of cheap horror films. While perhaps not as high profile as some of the other new horror directors, Perkins has an interesting voice and style. And so it was a disappointment to me that Gretel & Hansel appeared in many ways to be Perkins attempting to riff on Ari Aster.

Clearly, Gretel & Hansel is a riff on the Hansel and Gretel story. You remember the one—two kids are kicked out of their house by their stepmother because of terrible famine. The children wander through the woods until they come to a house that appears to be made out of sweets. Famished, the kids nibble on the house until the owner, a witch, arrives and brings them in. Of course, the witch is cannibalistic and plans to fatten the children up and eat them, but is ultimately outwitted by Gretel. The children find the witch’s treasure and return home with the aid of a swan to discover that their evil stepmother has died, and the live “happily ever after” with their father.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Now Do Bob Ross

Film: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on the new portable.

Like a lot of Gen-X, I grew up with Fred Rogers as a constant part of my childhood. When I was in my teens, bagging on Mr. Rogers was an easy go-to punchline. Like most teens, I was jaded and too cool for such things as the simplistic Mr. Rogers. Now, as an adult, I see just how wonderfully pure he really was. Fred Rogers would have been the first to say he wasn’t a saint, but he might be the closest we’ve seen to one in a very long time. Fred Rogers genuinely tried to see the good in everyone, and tried to show that good to everyone as well. The mantras he had of acceptance, of liking people for who they were, are easily mocked, but almost impossible to dismiss. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? only cemented this truth. The semi-fictional A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood takes a different path, and while it focuses more on a fictionalized version of a real journalist, Fred Rogers (played by Tom Hanks very much channeling the man himself), casts a long shadow over the proceedings.

Our journalist is Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a talented investigative journalist working for Esquire magazine. Lloyd, while a good writer, is a miserable son of a bitch by all accounts. He has a child with his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson), but he’s inattentive at best, spends very little time with the infant, and works too much. He’s cynical about his sister’s upcoming wedding (she appears to be a serial bride), and much more distressed when he discovers his father (Chris Cooper) will be attending. We learn over time that Jerry Vogel abandoned his family while his wife—Lloyd’s mother—was dying. Naturally, there’s a lot of anger just below the surface here. In fact, at the wedding, Lloyd and Jerry get in a fist fight.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

They'd End Up Calling Me "Chicago"

Film: Zombieland: Double Tap
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on the new portable.

A sequel to Zombieland was inevitable. I’m most surprised, in fact, that it took a decade to get there. The original film quickly became a favorite of a lot of people. While generally standard zombie fare in terms of the action, it gave us characters that were a lot of fun, a specific character who was like a Max Brooks character come to life, and, of course, one of the great cameo appearances in film history. And thus, Zombieland: Double Tap, which even plays into the appeal of the first movie in its name.

So, we’re back with the same quartet of characters. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) have decided to move into the White House, and spend their time using American treasures for their own entertainment and letting Tallahassee spend time in the Oval Office, possibly with greater skill than we have at current. Little Rock is restless, though, and wants people her own age. When Columbus proposes to Wichita using the Hope Diamond, it becomes enough impetus for the sisters to hit the road. They leave, taking Tallahassee’s modified presidential limo, now equipped with a roof-mounted mini-gun.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Not Another Anthology Movie

Film: Asylum
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

When I tell you that I watched an anthology film, you almost certainly think immediately that it was a horror film. Horror anthologies do seem to be the most popular of the style, perhaps because horror movies often work very well without a lot of characterization or without a great deal of plot. I might argue that a film like Short Cuts is a kind of dramatic anthology, but it’s not one that is more or less pure—specific stories placed end-to-end in a linear fashion. A lot of anthologies don’t really measure up against longer films. Asylum is an exception to that.

Asylum comes with a pretty good pedigree. The stories were penned by Robert Bloch, who also wrote Psycho. The cast list includes Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Charlotte Rampling, Patrick McGee, and Britt Ekland. Admittedly, Cushing isn’t a shock since he made most of his career in this kind of film, but the others add some real heft for 1972.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Gulp!

Film: Swallow
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on the new portable.

I knew when I first heard about Swallow that I was going to watch it. I was, in fact, on the verge of requesting it through interlibrary loan, but having connections has its perks. A librarian, as I was checking out a few things, asked me if I wanted to see what they’d just added to the catalog. Swallow was one of those movies, and I took it home, which I guess makes me the first person to watch this copy of it.

On the surface, Swallow is about a woman with pica, which is a mental disorder in which the sufferer ingests “non-nutritive” items. In other words, people with pica eat things that aren’t food. But, the movie is about so much more. I thought it would be the pica that was interesting, but now that I’ve seen the film, I’m not entirely sure it’s really about the pica. No, Swallow is a great deal more than a mental disorder of the week.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Cruciatu Gratia Artis

Film: The Devil’s Rejects
Format: DVD from River Valley District Library through interlibrary loan on the new portable.

In every interview I’ve seen of Rob Zombie, he seems like a really smart guy. Not just that, though; he seems genuinely thoughtful, like he puts a lot of deep thought into what he’s talking about. His answers don’t seem pre-planned, but always seem like it’s a question he’s thought of before just on his own. How the hell this guy makes movies like The Devil’s Rejects I will not understand.

What I mean by this is simple: The Devil’s Rejects is torture porn and not much else. It’s perhaps a bit more clever than the filmography of Eli Roth, but not by much. This is an excuse to watch really awful people do terrible things to people who don’t deserve it, because no one deserves it. This is mutilation as sport and not much more. In fact, that’s part of the problem here. Zombie is such a smart guy, that everyone figures that there has to be more here than what we’re being given. A smart guy wouldn’t just make a torture porn film, right? A smart guy has to have some sort of meaningful subtext in the film…right?

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Three Sides, Four Dimensions

Film: Triangle
Format: DVD from personal collection on basement television.

I’m not always a huge fan of films that trade on time travel. The traditional time travel film has a person or people moving backward or forward in time, having a particular adventure or adventures, and then returning home. Modern films that deal with time loops and time travel tend to be a lot more convoluted. Triangle is a case in point. The loop that we’re going to deal with here is complicated, folds in on itself, and repeats in strange ways.

I give the writer/director Christopher Smith a great deal of credit in that respect. Triangle manages to go quite a bit beyond being merely clever. It’s devious, and eventually all of the strange chicanes of the plot make a certain amount of sense. I’m not sure that absolutely everything resolves as it should, but at the very least, most of it does. And while like many films of this nature there is ultimately no explanation for what happens, there is a twisting path that does allow for a narrative of sorts, if a very odd one.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Robin Hood and Juliet

Film: The Rogue Song
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Adolysti connected me to the remaining bits of The Rogue Song when I posted the review for Jojo Rabbit, thinking I was mainly done with the giant Oscars list. Alas, I was not, and wanting something like that little additional bit of closure, I figured I would watch what I could of the film. It’s an interesting thing—only about 30 minutes of actual footage remain, but there is a complete soundtrack for the film. So, what does remain has been pieced together with stills and interstitial titles to give us something like a sense of the entire film.

The Rogue Song is very much a musical, and that becomes clear almost at the moment the film starts. The story takes place in pre-revolutionary Russia (roughly 1910). A bandit leader named Yegor (Lawrence Tibbett) chances upon Princess Vera (Catherine Dale Owen) at an in. The two are attracted to each other, but find that there are a number of impediments to their relationship. Vera’s companion (Nance O’Neil) gives Yegor a string of pearls for being amusing, but then accuses him of stealing them when he refuses to romance her.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Cultists Gonna Cult

Film: Kill List
Format: DVD from Woodstock Public Library through interlibrary loan on basement television.

Watching movies more or less in the order they come across my desk creates some interesting ideas. What often happens is that I discover movies where a movie made first reminds me of a movie made later. I get the order mixed up in that respect. That’s clearly the case with Kill List for me. While I can see influence of a movie like The Wicker Man on this, I also want to say that it was influenced by movies like Hereditary and Midsommar. However, since this came out in 2011, that influence (if it exists) clearly runs in the other direction.

Kill List is a movie of two halves, or rather a first two acts that function one way and a third act that functions in an entirely different way. What this means is that we have a third act that, while clearly connected to the first two acts, it’s also very unexpected and strange. It’s also a movie that takes a few very dark turns, and since it’s about a couple of assassins taking a strange job, it starts out pretty dark.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

What I've Caught Up With, September 2020

I remarked on a recent post that I’m thinking about a potential new direction with the Oscar Got It Wrong posts coming up—I’ll be done with the completed categories before the end of this year (not including 2019) and I’ll be left with those categories where I can’t find all of the potential entrants.

I also asked for suggestions of films not on any of my lists, and you have all delivered. What follows will be the first monthly update of films for which I’m not going to write a full review, but which I have finally caught up with. Not reviewing these in full is not in any respect a knock on these films, many of which will be better than movies to which I have devoted a thousand or more words. No, it’s really just a volume thing. I can’t just review movies all day, as much as I would like that to happen. Also, it will only include movies from that giant list—not any weird horror movies or additional films (like, say The Adventures of Tintin, which I just watched) that aren’t listed.

So, expect to see these posts on the first Saturday of the month.