Sunday, October 31, 2021

Ten Days of Terror!: The Pact

Films: The Pact
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

There is a difference between something in a movie happening for character-based reasons and something happening for plot-based reasons. Character reasons are always superior because they make sense in the larger narrative. Too often, writers write themselves into a corner and, to get to their desired end, are forced to have their characters make stupid decisions to get us to a scene or an ending they want. The Pact has this problem. While the movie offers some genuinely good scares and jump moments in the first two acts, the third act is rife with plot-based decisions that drop the film down a few notches.

I’m likely to get into spoiler territory with The Pact, so I’ll make sure I keep those moments after the jump, and I’ll probably provide a warning. The issue, though, is that there are a lot of problems with The Pact that come up once you stop for a moment and think about the film in its entirety. In most cases, those problems come from a desire to tell a particular story and don’t make sense in terms of the characters we have.

Ten Days of Terror!: Final Destination 2

Films: Final Destination 2
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Credit where credit is due, the Final Destination movies did something different in the genre. In a genre as overloaded as horror really is, finding something that actually different in a significant way instead of just on the surface is actually noteworthy. The innovation, of course, is that there’s no bad guy. The thing that exists to kill off our series of (generally) young protagonists is, more or less, Death itself. The formula is that our characters are saved from a horrible accident by someone having a premonition. Since they were saved unnaturally, Death acts to right the score, killing them all in horrible ways that involve freak accidents. Final Destination laid down this particular set of workings, and Final Destination 2 picked up that torch and ran it a little further.

Our inciting incident in this case is a car accident. It’s one of the more famous scenes from any movie in the Final Destination franchise. A group of students are on their way to Spring Break somewhere, get onto the highway, and all hell breaks loose when a logging truck loses its load, sowing chaos and destruction everywhere. It’s actually pretty staggering—logs smashing through windshields pulping the drivers, people getting slammed into other vehicles, cars rolling and flipping, and more. Driver of the vehicle Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) has a premonition of what is about to happen and, rather than drive onto the highway, turns her vehicle on the onramp so that no one can get onto the road. When a cop named Burke (Michael Landes) steps up to get her to move, the truck that causes the chaos drives by, and soon thereafter a huge accident happens. So, same basic set up—our protagonists are the people who should have died in the accident and didn’t thanks to Kimberly’s actions. Oh, and we’re also told this is the one-year anniversary of the airplane crash from the original film.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Invitation

Films: The Invitation
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

Typically, when I watch a movie that I’m going to review for this site, I write it up right afterwards or later in the day. Sometimes, I might wait 23 hours before I think my thoughts have finally congealed enough to be coherent. In the case of The Invitation, I’ve waited several days to start writing about it, and I’m still not sure I’m ready. I’ve even watched two or three movies since finishing this one and have written a full review of a film since seeing this as well. I simply haven’t really figured out the best way to approach The Invitation, because a lot of the discussion feels like it would dip into spoiler territory.

The Invitation is a slow-burn movie, one that takes until the third act to really step into high gear. For people who need their horror movies to be immediately bloody and gory, this is going to be a problem. The Invitation instead sets up a mood of things being just a little bit off. Or maybe it’s all in someone’s mind. Or is it a little of both? We don’t really know until the third act when all hell breaks loose.

Ten Days of Terror!: Vampires (John Carpenter's Vampires)

Films: Vampires (John Carpenter’s Vampires)
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

When we dip into the worlds of horror where monsters exist, we have to assume that a great deal of license is going to be taken by the filmmakers. For instance, with Vampires (also known as John Carpenter’s Vampires), we have to make the mental jump that not only do vampires exist, but that the Catholic Church is aware of them and has teams of vampire hunters that are financed by the church to hunt them down. One assumes that the Vatican in this world has to decide which parts of the money they receive gets used to kill vampires and which percentage is earmarked for protecting pedophiles from prosecution, but that’s beyond the scope of this movie.

Anyway, our team in question is headed by Jack Crow (James Woods), who was orphaned when his father was bitten by a vampire, turned, and then killed his mother. Jack managed to kill his father and was then made a ward of the church and raised to be a vampire killer. That he’s still alive and has managed to live to be as old as James Woods was when this film was made is a testament to the fact that he’s good at his job. While he and his team clean out nests of bloodsuckers (or “goons” as they call them), they are always on the lookout for vampire masters who control such groups.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Ten Days of Terror!: Bulbbul

Films: Bulbbul
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!

I really do pay attention to suggestions that people make when it comes to movies, even if I don’t act on them right away. Bulbbul was recommended to me by a friend months ago, and it had been sitting in the back of my mind for some time until I finally got around to it. It’s another entry in the current subgenre of “good for her!” films. Any film where instead of simply becoming a victim the woman at the center of the film fights back against those who are otherwise destroying her life or psyche falls into this category. Many (Ready or Not, You’re Next, Happy Death Day) are horror movies, but a few (Swallow, Promising Young Woman) are dramas or are horror-adjacent. For what it’s worth, Bulbbul is firmly in the horror camp.

Our story takes place in the 19th century in India. Bulbbul (played initially by Ruchi Mahajan and then for the rest of the film by Tripti Dimri) is a child bride—a seriously child bride, since she is five—being married off. She is proxy married to Satya (Varun Buddhadev, then Avinash Tiwary as an adult), the younger brother of her actual husband Indranil (Rahul Bose). Indranil has a twin brother named Mahendra (also played by Bose) who is clearly mentally disabled and also clearly obsessed with Bulbbul despite being married to Binodini (Paoli Bam).

Ten Days of Terror!: A Quiet Place Part II

Films: A Quiet Place Part II
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television

When A Quiet Place came out, I think a lot of people were surprised by it. I certainly was. I didn’t expect something like that to come out of the guy who became the central character of The Office. It’s a solid movie, though, one that, giving us a standard horror movie premise of giant monsters attacking the world, manages to present us with a story that is new in a lot of ways. A substantial amount of the tension comes not from the creatures themselves, but the threat of the creatures. They have shown to us as having hypersensitive hearing, and so the entire world of the film is one of silence and dread. This is very much continued in A Quiet Place Part II.

We start with a flashback, not a flashback to the original film, but a flashback to the history of this world. We see the arrival of the creatures, which means that we’re going to get a cameo from John Krasinski as Lee, the father of the family in the original film and this sequel. The action begins at a baseball game. Lee’s son Marcus (Noah Jupe) is at the plate and takes a strike because of what he sees. And then all hell breaks loose. The creatures land and begin attacking. We see Lee and his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), protecting their kids and getting to safety.

Ten Days of Terror!: #Alive

Films: #Alive
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!

In the book version of World War Z (not the vastly inferior film that has virtually nothing to do with the book), there is a section about a young survivor in Japan. The story he tells is one of living virtually his entire life online and getting through the first few days of the zombie apocalypse looking for information and dealing with it more or less theoretically, not realizing that what was happening in the online space was actually happening in the real world. Eventually, he comes to the realization of what is going on and is forced to find his way out of his apartment building. In a lot of ways, #Alive (or #Saraitda), is a long version of that story, albeit Korean instead of Japanese.

#Alive is survival/zombie horror stripped down to its most basic. A young man named Oh Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in) is alone in the family apartment; his parents and younger sister are out of town. Joon-woo’s mother has left him some money to go grocery shopping, but before he gets much of a chance to do so (since he spends time playing online games instead), the zombie apocalypse happens. We don’t get an explanation for this. One of the people he games with says that something is going on, and shortly thereafter, Joon-woo sees zombie attacks happening outside of his building. A neighbor (Lee Hyun-wook) fights his way into the apartment, but has been bitten and has turned, and a short battle ensues to get him out of the apartment.

Ten Days of Terror!: Bad Hair

Films: Bad Hair
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on various players

It feels strange for me, as one of the whitest people I know, to offer a lot of commentary on a film like Bad Hair. On the surface, this is a B-movie that in another universe would have been called Killer Weave rather than being the natural second film on a double bill with Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair. It very much is a movie about a killer hair weave, and so it does have that sort of B-movie credibility (or lack thereof). But at the same time, Bad Hair has some social commentary that, for the whitest of white people and someone who rolled a lot of 7s when it came to privilege, is both surprising and obvious. In fact, some of it is so obvious that I can’t believe I didn’t twig to it already.

We start in the 1970s, where we are introduced to young Anna Bludso (Zaira Kelley in this opening scene and then Elle Lorraine for the rest of the film), whose cousin Linda (Corinne Massiah, then Chante Adams) is relaxing Anna’s hair. But something goes wrong and Anna gtes burned by the lye relaxer and is left with a permanent scar on the back of her head.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Ten Days of Terror!: Mirrors

Films: Mirrors
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television

I remember hearing about Mirrors when it first came out…for about a week and then it vanished entirely from my consciousness. It wasn’t until it appeared on the latest version of the They Shoot Zombies list that it returned to my consciousness, so I hunted it down to watch. This movie is directed by Alexandre Aja, whose career is a bit of a mixed bag. High points are Haute Tension and the ridiculous creature feature Crawl, but he’s had some low points as well. Mirrors is a bit of a low point, so I guess I’m spilling the beans on this one right away.

We’re going to start with the movie giving the game away in the opening sequence. A security guard (Josh Cole) runs in terror through a deserted subway station. He winds up in a locker room, and suddenly realizes that the room contains mirrors—more than he originally thought as all of the lockers open and reveal mirrors inside of them. The man begs for his life, but when one of the mirrors breaks, the largest reflection picks up a shard and cuts his own throat. The wounds appear on the security guard, killing him.

Ten Days of Terror!: Blood Creek/Town Creek

Films: Blood Creek (Town Creek; Creek)
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen

One of the reasons that horror movies are a lot of fun is that a lot of people who end up being famous get their start in horror movies. Dig back far enough into some stars’ filmographies and you’ll find some B-level ridiculousness. When I came across Blood Creek, there was no way I couldn’t watch it. First, it’s directed by Joel Schumacher. Second, at the time, the clear star of the movie was Dominic Purcell, but today, the fact that Purcell’s brother is played by Henry Cavill and the big bad is played by Michael Fassbender is the selling point.

We start in 1940 with a professor named Wirth (Fassbender), sent from Germany to the farm of an emigrant German family who discovered an ancient Viking rune on their property. Surprise, surprise, Wirth is a Nazi who wants to study the magical properties of the rune, which include the ability to temporarily raise the dead. The family discovers Wirth’s goals and essentially traps him with a ritual that requires a steady stream of human sacrifices and blood. This keeps Wirth alive but weakened, and meanwhile, the family essentially stops aging.

Ten Days of Terror!: Feast

Films: Feast
Format: DVD from Stockton Township Public Library through interlibrary loan on basement television

I don’t know where to start with Feast, although I should probably start with its genesis. Feast is arguably the most successful of the movies created on Project Greenlight, the old four-season show that documented someone getting a movie project, well, greenlit under the tutelage of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The first two seasons gave us dramas, and season three when straight genre with Feast, a sloppy horror/comedy that goes for Peter Jackson horror movie levels of gore.

Feast is a movie that trades virtually entirely on attitude. When each character is introduced, for instance, we are given (in most cases) a snarky nickname (“Bozo,” “Hot Wheels” for the guy in a wheelchair, “Harley Mom,” “Beer Guy,” and more), an equally snarky bio, and a prediction of how long they might survive in the carnage to come. After a few minutes of set up in a bar in the middle of nowhere when a new character, identified as Hero (Eric Dane) bursts in with the head of some giant, terrifying creature. He tells the patrons that hell is coming and they need to prepare the bar for an invasion of huge, hungry monsters. And, because Feast wants to play with our expectations, just as he tells everyone he’s the guy who is going to save them, the monsters show up, break through a window, and bite his head off, literally.

Ten Days of Terror!: Black Sheep (2006)

Films: Black Sheep (2006)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

In the world of creature features, there must be an unofficial contest to see who can make a movie with the weirdest or least frightening creature. Squim (worms), Night of the Lepus (rabbits), The Killer Shrews, Frogs, Ticks, Attack of the Giant Leeches and more vie for the title, and into that world comes Black Sheep from 2006, not to be confused with the Chris Farley movie of the same name. In the “goofy animal horror” subgenre, Black Sheep has two things going for it. First, unlike the movies on this list that play things straight, this is clearly a comedy. Second, at the very least, sheep have teeth that could do some damage.

We start in the past, when young Henry Oldfield (Nick Fenton initially, then Nathan Meister for the rest of the film) is dealt a terrible double shock. First, his horrible brother Angus (Eli Kent, then Peter Feeney) has killed his pet sheep. As he recovers from that shock, he learns that their father has fallen to his death over a cliff. This creates a terrible fear of sheep in Henry that he is now having to face as he returns to the family farm. He has decided to sell his share of the farm to his brother and never deal with it again.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Ten Days of Terror!: The Company of Wolves

Films: The Company of Wolves
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

I’ve watched the bulk of the first quarter of the They Shoot Zombies list. By that I mean that I’ve seen more than 90% of the first 250 movies, and of the ones I haven’t seen a sizable portion are silent, less than 30 minutes long, or both. So, when I find one that is in that top group of films, I’m excited to see it. For the most part, I can expect that it’s going to be good. They aren’t always, and The Company of Wolves is sadly in the group that isn’t very good. I desperately wanted to like this and there’s a lot here to like. There is a serious problem with it that puts a pall over everything that it does, though. We’ll get there. It’s very depressing.

We start in the present day in the real world. A young girl named Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) is sleeping and dreams herself into a forest straight out of Hansel and Gretel. Her parents (David Warner and Tusse Silberg) and her sister Alice (Georgia Slowe) are there as well. Soon into the dream, Alice is run down and killed by wolves. With the family in mourning, Rosaleen goes to stay with her grandmother (Angela Lansbury). Grandma was planning on knitting a red shawl for Alice but decides instead to make it for Rosaleen. As she does, she tells her granddaughter a couple of stories.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Vault of Horror

Films: The Vault of Horror
Format: Internet video on Fire!

Did you know there was a sequel to the early ‘70s film Tales from the Crypt? I didn’t. I thought The Vault of Horror was just another anthology film, but it was also released under the titles Further Tales from the Crypt and Tales from the Crypt II. Even without that knowledge, though, you shouldn’t be surprised at where this is going. We’re going to get a quintet of short stories with a framing story that will be what we think it’s going to be. The stories themselves are going to come directly from the pages of EC Comics.

In fact, that’s one of the oddities here. “Vault of Horror” was the name of an EC Comics horror anthology comic, but most of the stories here come from “Tales from the Crypt.” Ultimately, that doesn’t really matter, but makes more sense that this was originally pitched as a sequel to the original movie not just in content but in name.

Ten Days of Terror!: Three...Extremes

Films: Three…Extremes (Sam Gang 2)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

Ah, the horror anthology, my old nemesis. So often, these turn out to be disappointing because we’re just not given enough reason to care about the people involved. They can offer a good scare or two, but they don’t tend to have the emotional heft of a full-length film. Three…Extremes (or just Three Extremes if you prefer, or Sam Gang 2), as the name implies, contains three films by three different directors. As it happens, it’s also in three different languages because our three directors are from different countries.

The first film, Dumplings (which was also turned into a full-length feature), was directed by Fruit Chan; the second, Cut, was directed by Park Chan-wook; and the third, Box, by Takashi Miike. I found this very interesting—this was a sort of collaboration between a Chinese, Korean, and Japanese director. Additionally interesting is that in the West, this is considered the first of the Three Extremes movies, but is Sam Gang 2 in Asia. What the West calls Three Extremes 2 is Sam Gang in Asia, and was released two years prior to this one.

Ten Days of Terror!: Tales from the Darkside: The Movie

Film: Tales from the Darkside: The Movie
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on the new portable.

At least this time I knew it was going to be an anthology, so I’m not going to go through my normal rant about how horror movies seem to be in a symbiotic relationship with anthologies. Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is the big-screen spinoff of the 1980s television series started by George Romero. The show was a darker, more violence-tinged version of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Rather than being bent toward psychological thriller, Darkside was generally straight horror, with monsters and supernatural beasties abounding. And so, the movie is going to lean in that same direction.

The good news is that there are just three stories here, plus the short framing story. Our framing story involves a woman (Debbie Harry), who is preparing for a dinner party. It’s soon evident that her main course is Timmy (Matthew Lawrence), a young boy she has captured. Timmy, hoping to delay her, tells her scary stories Arabian Nights-like from a book she has put in his cage. After each, we jump back to the framing story for a moment as Timmy’s fate gets closer and he starts to narrate his next tale.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Ten Days of Terror!: Eyes of Laura Mars

Films: Eyes of Laura Mars
Format: DVD from Sherrard Public Library on the new portable

Sometimes when it comes to talking about a movie, you just don’t know where to start. Eyes of Laura Mars is a movie like that. I’d love to talk about the pedigree of this odd little film. We’ve got Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, Raul Julia, and Rene Auberjonois acting in a screenplay written by John Carpenter. That’s remarkable. I’d also love to talk about what makes a horror movie a horror movie. Eyes of Laura Mars has some horror elements, but they’re tangential to the plot. Is this a horror movie or is it just a thriller with some psychic or paranormal elements?

Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) is a fashion photographer who, in the world of the film, is more or less the famous fashion photographer on the planet. Lately, she’s been making her mark with photography that is clearly inspired by scenes of violence. At a massive gallery opening—one that is essentially a media event (and this, honestly, might be a bigger stretch on reality than the psychic powers), Laura has a vision. Essentially, she sees in real-time as it is happening, the murder of a colleague through the eyes of the killer.

Ten Days of Terror!: Night of the Eagle/Burn, Witch, Burn!

Films: Night of the Eagle (Burn, Witch, Burn)
Format: Streaming video from Pluto TV on Fire!

There is a particular joy in watching movies from a list sometimes. Sure, you have to dig through some garbage at times, but then you find something that makes that struggle worthwhile. Such a film is Night of the Eagle (also released under the more evocative name Burn, Witch, Burn). I honestly had no idea what to expect going into this, but this is a film that I can absolutely see going into regular rotation. It’s smart, the third act is completely unexpected, and it is 100% better than its tiny budget. How come no one has ever told me that this film existed?

Norman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde) is a psychology professor who has a particular interest in debunking the paranormal, psychics, and witchcraft. His career has seen a meteoric rise despite his relative youth, much to the apparent distress of the other people in his college department. He is extremely popular with his students and his lectures are well-attended. What he doesn’t realize is that magic is real, and that much of his success is coming from the witchcraft practices of his wife, Tansy (Janet Blair). What he also doesn’t realize is that witchcraft is how the department works; Tansy has a frantic night finding a poppet left by Flora Carr (Margaret Johnston), the jealous wife of a potential rival of Norman’s.

Ten Days of Terror!: Macabre (1958)

Film: Macabre (1958)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

When William Castle is at the helm of a movie, you’re pretty much guaranteed to go to some strange and interesting places. You might get a special viewer to see ghosts, or the chance to have a shocker placed under your theater seat. Or, in the case of the version of 1958’s Macabre that I found, a film with an American cast that has been for some reason dubbed into Italian. I don’t know why this was in Italian. Regardless of that, though, this was actually the first of Castle’s “gimmick” films. Theater goers were given a $1000 insurance policy against “death by fright,” a policy that actually existed with Lloyd’s of London.

Like most (possibly all) of William Castle’s films, the hype is far better than the actual film that we’re presented with. The idea here is a really fun one. It’s just not nearly as scary as Castle wants us to believe, even for 1958 standards.

Ten Days of Terror!: Patrick

Films: Patrick
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime Fire!

Typically, when I watch something that I know is going to show up on this blog eventually, I have a general sense of what I want to write. Sometimes, it takes me a little bit longer for me to put my thoughts together. And then, we have a case like Patrick where I’m in danger of being forced to watch it again because I have almost no thoughts on this movie aside from the fact that as a horror movie it isn’t scary and as a science fiction movie it is painfully stupid. This is seriously one of the dumber movies I’ve recently come across.

It’s worth noting that I’m not alone in this. In the late ‘70s, Siskel and Ebert had a short-lived featured called “Dog of the Week” where they would each pick their least-favorite movie of a given week. Patrick was one of Siskel’s picks one week. Truthfully, I tended to agree much more with Ebert than I did with Siskel, but I can’t fault his review of this one.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Ten Days of Terror!: The Fall of the House of Usher (France, 1928)

Films: The Fall of the House of Usher(La Chute de la Maison Usher)
Format: Internet video on Fire!

I can find getting into silent movies difficult sometimes. I stand by the opinion that most silent dramas haven’t really translated to the modern day very well. It’s hard to take them too seriously, and even the truly great ones come across as strained and melodramatic. Comedy still works; a man falling on his ass is funny whether you can hear it or not, and a lot of that stunt work really holds up. Horror movies are a mixed bag. It really depends on what the film is going for. In the case of the 1928 French version of The Fall of the House of Usher (or, more properly, La Chute de la Maison Usher), the goal is purely atmosphere, and so it generally works.

If you don’t know the story, I’ll give you a quick run-through. An unnamed narrator (played in the film by Charles Lamy) is asked to visit his friend Roderick Usher (Jean Debucourt) in the crumbling Usher family mansion. The narrator discovers that Roderick is very much physically decrepit and is obsessed with the failing health of his sister Madeline (Marguerite Gance, who in this version of the story is Roderick’s wife rather than his sister). As they represent the end of the Usher line and there will be no heirs to whatever is left of the family and since the literal house is literally falling apart, by the time the story ends we’re going to experience both the literal and figurative fall of the literal and figurative House of Usher.

Ten Days of Terror!: House of Dracula

Film: House of Dracula
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’ve been slowly making my way through the Universal monster movies. Once you get beyond the classic original films for each of the monsters, the quality drops off a bit, at least in general. While there are some good follow-up films, most are an effort to cash in on the monster and the name. That’s absolutely the case with House of Dracula, the last of these from the Dracula collection that I have access to. The world of horror movie fans had become jaded enough that a bloodsucker wasn’t enough to bring the audience in. No, in addition to Dracula (played in this case by John Carradine), we’re going to have a wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr, naturally), Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange), plus a mad scientist and even—to use the term the movie does—a hunchback.

And really, that’s the issue with House of Dracula. This film runs a lean 67 minutes, but packs in as many monsters as possible, meaning that most really don’t get their due. While Lon Chaney Jr. is a major part of the film, he’s only the Wolfman for a few moments. Strange’s Frankenstein Monster appears several times, but really only does much once, and Dracula is long gone by the time we get anywhere interesting. No, it’s the otherwise unknown mad scientist who spends most of the time chewing the scenery.

Ten Days of Terror!: Dracula's Daughter

Films: Dracula’s Daughter
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on Basement Television.

Depending on how you count things, Dracula’s Daughter is either the second or third film in Universal’s Dracula series. It’s third if you count the Spanish-language version of the original, and honestly, you really should because it’s great. For the English-speaking public, though, this is the second film, one that follows Dracula directly, even though this was released a good half-decade later. It’s an interesting idea more than it is an interesting film. It genuinely could have been a great film, one that matched the original, but didn’t quite have the vision, budget, or length to pull this off.

We pick up immediately follow the death of both Dracula and Renfield, with the bodies being found be members of Scotland Yard. We’re not so much worried about connecting this to the original film in anything more than having Dracula be dead. The body is discovered with a stake through the heart, and is carted off to the closest police station. Dracula’s killer, Professor Von Helsing [sic], admits to the crime but also says that he’s innocent of murder since his victim has been dead for 500 years. In his defense, he calls for a former student of his, Dr. Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger).

Ten Days of Terror!: The Invisible Man Returns

Films: The Invisible Man Returns
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on downstairs television.

Of the great Universal monsters, it’s probably the Invisible Man who gets the least play, or is at least remembered the least. And yet, believe it or not, there’s a good half dozen films featuring, if not the actual character, at least the same basic concept. In the original, Claude Rains injects a concoction in himself that turns him invisible, but it drives him mad and fills him with a strange belief in his own supreme power. We’re going to tread on some similar territory in the sequel, oddly named The Invisible Man Returns.

Why odd? Because our original invisible man isn’t going to appear in this. What we are going to get is the brother of the original, Dr. Frank Griffin (John Sutton), who isn’t even going to be the main character here. Frank works as the doctor at a coal mine, evidently treating the miners. The mine is owned by a man named Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price), who happens to be on death row for the murder of his brother. The day of his execution, he is visited by Dr. Griffin, who somehow manages to get a syringe of the formula into the prison, which effects Geoffrey’s escape.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Ten Days of Terror!: Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell

Film: Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on the new portable.

For some reason, Hammer horror films resonate with me. I like that they tried to maintain that idea of Gothic sensibilities for as long as they did while slowly ramping up the weirdness and violence of the films. Early Hammer certainly had some violence and some blood, but by the time the studio started to fade, they were getting more desperate, and thus were going to further extremes. Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell is a film that gives the 1970s gorehound everything they would want. There’s blood, there’s brains, there’s eyeballs, and even surgery. It may be ultimately tame by today’s standards (at least in terms of gore), but for the time, it was pretty out there.

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell is very late in the Hammer pantheon, one of the last half dozen or so films the studio made until it was revived a dozen or so years ago. This means we’re going to go to some extremes here for the gore that will be on display. It’s almost quaint in the sense that in the year The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was released, Hammer was thinking that the height of horror was watching Peter Cushing and Shane Briant extract a brain from a corpse.

Ten Days of Terror!: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

Films: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed
Format: DVD from Putnam County Library through interlibrary loan on various players.

In some respect, a Frankenstein story has to follow some very basic plot moments. We don’t specifically need someone named Victor Frankenstein, but we do need someone who is going to attempt to bring the dead back through reanimation in some way or another. Typically, what we really want for the traditional story is for someone to manufacture a new body cobbled together out of the parts of other dead bodies. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is going to deviate from that in significant ways, which leads to an important question: If the main character in a Frankenstein story doesn’t actually create a body to reanimate, is it really a Frankenstein story?

Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is forced out of his native Bohemia and winds up at a boarding house in Austria-Hungary. The boarding house is run by Anna Spengler (Veronica Carlson), whose fiancé Dr. Karl Holst (Simon Ward) works at the nearby insane asylum. It just so happens that one of the inmates at the asylum is Dr. Frederick Brandt (George Pravda), Frankenstein’s former assistant who had a breakdown and went mad because of the experiments he was forced to be a part of.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Evil of Frankenstein

Films: The Evil of Frankenstein
Format: DVD from Nippersink District Library through interlibrary loan on The New Portable.

As a teacher, I don’t let my students use Wikipedia as a reference. That said, I use it all the time myself for this blog. It’s handy for checking plot points when I go through these posts, making sure I know who was who and who did what. That habit causes me some interesting realizations now and then. When I looked up The Evil of Frankenstein on Wikipedia, I discovered that this scant little 84-minute movie was packed with a surprising amount of stuff. The plot summary is ten paragraphs long. What this means is that I’ll be condensing quite a bit, because no movie with this short of a running time needs to have that much stuff going on in it.

We open on a body snatching, where the body snatcher takes the corpse to none other than Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) himself. Working with Frankenstein is his henchman/assistant Hans (Sandor Ellis). Frankenstein removes the heart from the corpse, hooks it up to machinery, and soon enough he’s got that heart a-pumpin’ on its own. Sadly for him, a local many of the clergy shows up in his lab and starts trashing the place. Dr. F. just can’t catch a break, so he and Hans run off. It’s here that we get a long flashback about Frankenstein’s attempt to create the monster (played both in the flashback and the current time by Kiwi Kingston). It was kind of successful, kind of not, and his monster goes on a loopy ol’ monster rampage and eventually the Baron is run off.

Ten Days of Terror!: The Kiss of the Vampire

Films: The Kiss of the Vampire
Format: DVD from Nippersink District Library through interlibrary loan on basement television.

The 1960s Hammer horror movies feel like the last gasp at making the sort of old-school Gothic horror of the classic Universal films. There’s an attempt here to be scary in the way those films were. They aren’t truly scary, not truly horrific or the kind of film that induces nightmares, but they are absolutely horror movies and nothing else. There’s a sort of malevolence in many of these movies, especially the ones that deal with vampires. There’s often some sympathy for Frankenstein’s monster or werewolves, but Hammer vampires are evil. That’s clearly the case in The Kiss of the Vampire.

We open with a burial scene that ends with father of the buried girl slamming a shovel through the coffin to more or less stake her. And, since there’s blood from the coffin and a scream, it’s a good bet that she was a vampire after all. Following this opening, we’re introduced to Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne Harcourt (Jennifer Daniel). They are a newlywed couple traveling in a new horseless carriage (this being roughly fin de siècle and vaguely Europe-ish). The car runs out of gas, stranding them in southern Germany.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Ten Days of Terror!: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Films: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I would guess that if you are a fan of the Friday the 13th series, that you look on the aspects of it that are consistent from film to film as aspects of the franchise, not evidence of laziness. With Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, the only real difference we’re going to have is the venue. Otherwise, this is an extremely straightforward slasher where Jason kills a bunch of teens and a collection of adults in a variety of ways.

It’s worth noting right off the bat that this film is misnamed. Jason does not, in fact, take Manhattan. He eventually gets to Manhattan, but the entire first half or more of the movie (at least the killing parts) take place on a ship. We don’t get to New York until there’s well under halfway done.

Ten Days of Terror!: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

Films: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen

I’m sitting here, starting at the laptop wondering what there is to say about Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. Ultimately, this film series is a collection of murders committed by undead serial killer Jason Voorhees. It’s what we’ve come for and it’s what we’re going to get. We’ll have a collection of teens or early 20-somethings who will get picked off one by one until we get a confrontation with Jason and our final girl. Sandwich the dozen or so kills will be a way to bring Jason back from the dead and, naturally, a way to temporarily put him away.

This time, Jason is going to get something like actual competition since our final girl is a psychic. The film was pitched as Jason vs. Carrie, and while that sounds appealing, or at least interesting, the actual film is quite a bit less so. It’s going to suffer from many of the same problems as a few other films in the series—the kills essentially happen off-screen in the sense that we don’t actually see the moment of impact in many cases. This was evidently done to avoid the inevitable X-rating.

Ten Days of Terror!: Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI

Films: Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen

A series of films, particularly one that went on for as long as the Friday the 13th series, has ups and downs. The fifth entry in the series is one of the clear low points, existing as it does essentially out of the continuity of the rest of the series and having the larger indignity of not having Jason Voorhees as the killer. Well, things get back on track with the sixth installment, Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (sometimes reversing the order of the title elements as Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives). As the title suggests, we’re going to get Jason back. Additionally, a lot of what makes Jason who he is—the un-re-killable undead murder machine with unlimited strength—is going to come from this movie.

We start with Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) once again. As with the non-continuity film previously, Tommy is in his late teens. Needing closure concerning Jason, he shows up at the gravesite with his friend Allen (Ron Palillo) with the intent of opening the grave, dousing Jason’s body with gasoline, and lighting him on fire to deal with the body once and for all. Once the grave is open, Tommy is going to have a little meltdown, and he attacks the body with piece of metal fencing. And, naturally, it’s starting to storm. Tommy leaves the fence piece in Jason’s body, it gets struck by lightning, and, Frankenstein’s monster-like, Jason is reborn. He kills Allen right away, but Tommy escapes. The rest of the movie is exactly what you think it’s going to be: Jason hunts for Tommy while killing everything else that gets in his way.

Ten Days of Terror!: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Films: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of the slasher subgenre. No movies better exemplify the genre than the Friday th 13th series. Like any series that goes on long enough, we’re going to have high points and low points. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (also called Friday the 13th: A New Beginning) is widely considered one of the lowest points in the franchise. Lucky me.

There are a lot of problems with a movie like this for someone like me, who genuinely prefers to write about narrative and aspects thereof. This movie has a narrative, technically, but there’s not much more to it than “people discover big, scary dude and are then killed by him.” There are bigger problems here for the entire franchise, though. Friday the 13th: The New Beginning exists in many ways outside of the continuity of the rest of the franchise.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Ten Days of Terror!: Shocker

Films: Shocker
Format: DVD from Ida Public Library through interlibrary loan on various players.

I remember a particular event from grade school. We were supposed to write a story, and I wrote something that was really derivative of a story we had read in class, like plagiarism-level derivative. I got in some trouble for it and it was over, but I remember it because it was lazy and stupid and I ended up feeling lazy and stupid. I’m reminded of this with Wes Craven’s film Shocker, since it very much feels like Craven attempting to recreate the success of the Elm Street franchise without a lot of success.

What I mean by that is our psychotic killer ends up with some science fiction-y powers that allow him to cheat death, and he uses these powers to go on indiscriminate killing sprees. There are elements of other movies tucked into Shocker. While the overall feel is very much A Nightmare on Elm Street, there’s a smattering of Child’s Play tucked in here and a substantial amount of The Hidden, one of my favorite bonkers sci-fi/horror films from the ‘80s (and I like that Richard Brooks is the connective tissue between the two films).

Ten Days of Terror!: Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

Films: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

You’ve gotta start somewhere. For director Rachel Talalay, who has been a part of a bunch of really successful television shows, that start in the director’s chair was for Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (Also known as A Nightmare on Elm Street 6). It is a very inauspicious beginning, but, as I said, you have to start somewhere. The idea here was to wrap up the Nightmare franchise in a way that wouldn’t require a sequel. The series was petering out and it needed to end. Interesting that this actually made more money than the previous film. But, in truth, this was bad enough that no one wanted to make another one.

I’m not going to hold back on that, and I’m not really going to blame Talalay that much for the problems. She didn’t have much of a script to work with going in. This is a case of pretty much everyone being completely out of ideas and needing to create a movie anyway. Most of this only barely makes sense and there’s almost no connective tissue to the previous films. The buy-in here from the audience is so substantial that it beggars the imagination.

Ten Days of Terror!: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Films: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Horror sequels are something of a known quantity in a lot of respects. The rules of the horror movie universe have been set up, and the real goal from the filmmaker is to give the audience more spectacle than in the previous movie(s). Honestly, it’s one of the reasons that sequels aren’t very good as a rule. Plot and keeping with the original narrative are often jettisoned in lieu of the bread and circuses of elaborate death scenes and more brutal killings.

And this is where A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master comes in. This movie follows the very successful third film in the series, the one that righted the ship after the dismal first sequel. That puts some pressure on this film to measure up. The truth is that it does, at least in part. It’s not the equal of the previous film, but it doesn’t go too far off the rails. It continues the story as well as it can and tries to maintain some continuity with previous characters (despite one actor not returning for this film) and pass the torch, more or less, to a new set of actors.

Ten Days of Terror!: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Films: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on various players

Sometimes, a basic idea is good enough to survive a serious setback. That’s very much the case with the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, which went in a very bad direction with the second film. The third movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors, is very much a return to the basic idea of a psychotic killer who attacks people in their dreams. Oh, there’s a hiccup or two here, but it does feel like a return to form for the franchise. A big part of that is the return of Heather Langenkamp as Nancy, which is an important re-connection to the original film.

We’re first introduced to Kristen (Patricia Arquette), who is plagued by dreams of our old friend Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). In one dream, he attacks her, but in the real world makes it look like she has attempted suicide. This gets Kristen sent to an psychiatric ward where she is placed under the care of Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson). We meet a few other kids here—Phillip (Bradley Gregg), Taryn (Jennifer Rubin), Joey (Rodney Eastman), Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow), Kincaid (Ken Sagoes), and Will (Ira Heiden). All of them are plagued by nightmares, all of which seem to incorporate Freddy. We’re also introduced to their new therapist—Nancy Thompson (Langenkamp).

Friday, October 22, 2021

Ten Days of Terror!: The Blood on Satan's Claw

Films: The Blood on Satan’s Claw
Format: Streaming video from Hulu + on Fire!

Sometimes you come across a movie and you wonder who the hell the target audience could have been. The Blood on Satan’s Claw is very much that kind of a movie. This is a horror movie, but one that is very strange in a lot of ways. There is a sort of connection to the Gothic Hammer films of a few decades before this one. It also feels connected to a film like The Witchfinder General in a lot of its themes. Allegedly, this is set in the early 19th century, but it feels as if it’s set a couple of centuries earlier than that. The best way I can put this is that it feels like a natural double-feature companion to The VVitch, a sort of earlier British cousin.

As I said, this is a story that takes place in the early years of the 19th century. We’re in rural England, when a plowman named Ralph Gower (Barry Andrews) turns up something in the field he is plowing. It appears to be humanoid but deformed. Worried about what it might portent, Ralph runs to the local judge (Patrick Wymark), but when they return, the body has disappeared.

Ten Days of Terror!: Grindhouse

Film: Grindhouse
Format: Bluray from Somonauk Public Library through interlibrary loan on rockin’ flatscreen.

There are problems with reviewing Grindhouse on this blog. The primary problem is that on the They Shoot Zombies, Don’t They list, both of the two major parts of Grindhouse (Planet Terror and Death Proof) appear as separate listings. What’s a blogger to do in this case? If I write about the two movies here, I have nothing to write about when it comes to those reviews. Do I simply call this a triple feature? Do I review them here and review the missing scenes replaced in the full versions of the films? Instead, I figured I’d look at the part that links the two films: the fake (kinda) trailers.

There are four of them, and evidently there might be a fifth that was tapped in at some point, even if it wasn’t on the disc that I got. At the very least, it wasn’t on the version of the film(s) that came from the library, and it wasn’t in the version that I saw in the theater. That being the case, I’ll look at the four that are in the theatrical version. On the disc, they are in this order: Machete, directed by Robert Rodriguez; Werewolf Women of the SS, directed by Rob Zombie; Don’t, directed by Edgar Wright; and Thanksgiving, directed by Eli Roth. On the disc, Machete comes before Planet Terror and the other three come between the two movies.

Ten Days of Terror!: Death Proof

Film: Death Proof
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on laptop.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will know that I think Quentin Tarantino is a vastly overrated director. I’ll admit that some of his films have a certain style to them, and when he first showed up in the film industry, there was an unmistakable sense of brashness to his work. But then he seems to do the same thing over and over again. So much of Tarantino’s work, despite being touted as so wonderfully original, is completely derivative. Everything he does seems to be a reference to something else, and the more obscure the reference, the happier it makes him. Tarantino’s movies are less about the movie and less about the story than they are demonstrating that Quentin Tarantino is smarter than you and I are. He wants to make sure that you know he can reference more obscure movies than you and that he knows more about weird bands from the past than you do. And nowhere are these qualities more in evidence than in Death Proof, the back half of Grindhouse, his project with Robert Rodriguez.

I can’t pretend that I was looking forward to this rewatch even with the promise of the “scene missing” scenes from Grindhouse being “restored” in this version. I went into this knowing that I disliked it and I didn’t expect there to be anything here that would change this fact. And you know what? There wasn’t.

Ten Days of Terror!: Planet Terror

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

Why didn’t Grindhouse work? I mean, I would point at least in part to just how disappointing the Death Proof side of the film was, but that can’t be all of it. Grindhouse was a great idea for a movie. We got two short films that were specifically grimy and designed to look like they’d been through a ringer. They were short on plot and long on violence and ridiculousness. And they contained a collection of fake trailers that were generally very funny. Gun to head, Edgar Wright’s trailer for Don’t is probably my favorite moment in the collection. That said, Planet Terror is actually a fun stand-alone film.

Planet Terror is a zombie film in the same way that 28 Days Later is a zombie film. What this means is that there are creatures that act like zombies, but they aren’t actually reanimated dead. Our zombie agent is a gas that turns people affected by it into creatures with exploding pustules that clearly want human flesh, except when it’s plot-necessary that they don’t. And the infected are brainless flesh eaters except for those points in the film where it’s important that they have fully human intelligence. Look, no one watches Planet Terror for the plot.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Ten Days of Terror Kick Off

For a number of years, I’ve posted nothing but horror movies for the last 10 days of October (with an old Oscar Got It Wrong post thrown in as well). While I haven’t been putting up as many reviews lately, I still want to continue this tradition, and continue it in the way I’ve been doing it lately: four posts per day, or one every six hours.

This year, I’ve themed things, kind of. I couldn’t really complete 10 themes, since I decided on this after I was already a good distance along in having movies to post. So, with the idea in mind that these themes are general and some have only three movies in them, here’s what you can expect in the next 10 days.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Fear of a Black Cinema

Films: Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on rockin’ flatscreen

I like horror movies. I’ve liked horror movies for a long time, and I’m fascinated not just by the movies themselves but by the stories behind them. For a long time, my favorite horror documentary has been Nightmares in Red, White and Blue about the American horror movie industry; I recommend it without reservation. So when I heard that there was a documentary about the relationship between Black audiences and actors and horror films, I was very much intrigued. Well, thanks to my wife’s love of the show Dexter, we have the AMC add-on for Amazon, and this means I finally got a chance to watch Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror.

What makes this topic so interesting is that this relationship has for a long time been one-sided. Black audiences have often loved horror but have not been loved in return (a sentiment expressed almost immediately when the film begins). There are many tropes relating to the Black experience in horror movies. Black characters are the first to die, or will sacrifice themselves for white characters, for instance. Black characters are also often fonts of ancient wisdom and are similarly the source of danger. In many older movies, Black characters are comic relief, and in horror movies without Black characters, the monsters themselves are often coded to be at least non-white (just as many movie villains in general are queer-coded). In that respect, the relationship between Black audiences and their representations on screen has been almost abusive.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Stepping into the Twilight Zone

Films: The Vast of Night
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on rockin’ flatscreen

The newest edition of the 1001 Movies list is out. I can’t tell you what has been removed, but there are 10 new movies added. The collection is much more indie-focused this time, and with the exception of Tenet, none of the new additions is longer than two hours. I’ve reviewed three already: (Tenet, Soul, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and will be completing the rest of the list hopefully by the end of the year. The first of these is The Vast of Night, an odd little science fiction movie that at first blush doesn’t seem to belong.

The plot is one that borders on high concept. One late ‘50s night, in the sleepy little New Mexico town of Cayuga, a series of strange events happen. Teenage disc jockey Everett (Jake Horowitz) meets up with his friend Fay (Sierra McCormick). Fay, who clearly has a bit of a crush on Everett, has just gotten a new tape recorder, and the two of them test it out as they walk to their respective jobs. They also appear to be just about the only two people in town not at the high school’s basketball game. While Everett heads off to the radio station, Fay settles in for her shift as a phone operator.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Good Talk

Films: One Night in Miami
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on rockin’ flatscreen

The politics of Oscars is very strange indeed. It’s not often that you can legitimately fill a category of nominations from a single film, but One Night in Miami comes very close. While Leslie Odom Jr. was nominated in a supporting role in this film, I think a strong case can be made that all four of the lead actors could have been nominated. At the very least, we should be talking about a nomination for Kingsley Ben-Adir.

One Night in Miami is a filmed version of the play of the same name by Kemp Powers. It is a far more interesting version of the internet meme of Stalin, Freud, Hitler, Tito, and Trotsky all lived in Vienna in 1913 and could have conceivably met at the same bar. In this case, on the night Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) still pre-Muhammad Ali won the heavyweight title over Sonny Liston, he, Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) met up post-fight in a hotel room to talk about life, reality, and the state of Black lives in America in 1964.

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Rooster Coop

Films: The White Tiger
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!

Say what you will about NetFlix, but they have started going more and more out of their way to bring in shows and movies that aren’t from a Western perspective. The White Tiger, which was ultimately nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, is such a film. While the film is at least partially in English, this is very much a film that is thoroughly enmeshed in Indian culture. In fact, the use of language is a big part of that. The characters shift between Hindi and English naturally and constantly, and it becomes something akin to its own language, a sort of Delhi pidgin.

The White Tiger is the dark shadow of Slumdog Millionaire. Like the film that won Best Picture more than a decade ago, this one is about a young man who began in terrible poverty and ends as a success. Don’t worry—that’s not a spoiler. We start knowing that our main character is a man of means when the film begins.

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Last

Films: Raya and the Last Dragon
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on basement television.

I don’t tend to predict Oscar films, although I do every now and then look to get ahead. I think a Best Animated Feature nomination for Raya and the Last Dragon is very likely, although it will also probably lose to Luca. Regardless, I’d put some good money down on this being nominated. So, when I saw it at one of the libraries I use, I figured I’d give it a watch. Sure, I could have watched this on Disney Plus, but I like to support my libraries when I can, and this helps their numbers.

I went into this completely cold, expecting that there might be a bit of a feel of How to Train Your Dragon. I did not expect that this movie wanted nothing less than to be seen as Disney’s version of Avatar: The Last Airbender (the Nick show, not the terrible, terrible movie). It seriously might as well have started by telling us that everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Milk of Human Kindness

Films: First Cow
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television

Let’s talk for a second about one of the serious problems that Oscar has. Since this blog is still at least tangentially attached to Oscar films, I feel as if it’s in my wheelhouse. We’re going to take as our text the film First Cow, which managed to be completely ignored in 2019 despite having a lot of what Oscar appears to look for. Was it the woman director crafting a film with essentially no women characters (Alia Shawkat in the beginning notwithstanding)? Was it the fact that much of the cast is lesser known? That the plot of the movie isn’t controversial? A combination of these things? Something else?

First Cow really is a very simple movie. It’s also one of those rare movies that gives us a sense of the way things are going to end and then the rest of the movie is going to get there. That beginning is an unknown woman (Shawkat) discovering two human skeletons laying side-by-side in the present day. From here, we jump back in time to 1820 and meet Otis “Cookie” Figowitz (John Magaro), who is travelling through Oregon Country as the cook for a group of trappers. One evening, he encounters King-Lu (Orion Lee) who is on the run for killing a Russian man. Otis lets King sleep in his tent for the night and then sees him off in the morning.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

What I've Caught Up With, September 2021

I spent a lot of time in September preparing for the last ten days of October and my traditional run of 40 posts in the lead-up to Halloween. Despite this, I also managed to knock out six movies on this list. I did a little more than that, actually--I watched all three of the latest Star Trek movies, for instance. I also finally got around to watching Pumping Iron, which I strongly recommend. I'm not sure how many I'll get through in October, since I'm still trying to get ready for the 22nd and beyond, but I guess we'll see in a month.