Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween Horror Wrap-Up 2013

Last year I promised more structure to the wrap-up. Going into this October, I didn't expect to watch so many movies, especially with the Red Sox in the playoffs (CHAMPS!), so I did not keep that promise. Counting the animated collection as one feature, I watched 43 (!) movies this month. I'm as surprised as you. Now that the month is over, I don't really know what to do with myself. Maybe get to know my son a little...

Most Common Year -- 1988
Most Common Decade -- 1980's
Most Common Presence -- Roger Corman (6)
Most Common Director -- Stuart Gordon (2, Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante also have two credits, but Gordon directed two features as opposed to a feature and a short or two shorts, respectively)
Most Common Actor(s) -- Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Vincent Price (2)
Countries Heard From -- 5
Featured Nudity -- 11
No Deaths -- 7 (I counted High Spirits because a dead character and living character switch places so it balances out)
Colons in the Title -- 6
Most Unique Weapon -- Dildos
Notable Subgenres:
Were-Creature -- 2
Giant Monsters -- 4
Regular Monsters -- 3
Psychopaths -- 6
Omnibus -- 3
Vampires -- 2
When Animals Attack -- 3
Demons/Witchcraft -- 6
Zombies -- 3
Ghosts -- 5
Aliens -- 4
Best in Show -- Phantom of the Opera
Biggest Surprise -- Daybreakers
Worst -- Venus in Furs or Rats: Night of Terror

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Horror Watch #38: The Strangers and Bleeders

The Strangers -- Bryan Bertino

The trailer for The Strangers is one of the most effective I've seen. The creepy atmosphere, those damned masks, the skipping record, all the crap going on in the background, "Because you were home." It all works. The first time I saw The Strangers I was underwhelmed. It would've been hard not to be given my expectations (the only thing tempering those were Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman). The ending put me off, though I can't imagine why now. It's still not a great movie. There's not a whole lot of depth to the characters or the story. Fortunately, the mood is practically overbearing in the best possible way. Things don't let up. And the sound design is masterful. If you've got a good surround sound system at your disposal, you're in for a treat.

I'm not really sure how to fit this in, so I'll just end with it. There's a character who I call Dick Hallorann much to my amusement. It will be obvious why.

Bleeders -- Peter Svatek

I know what attracted me to Bleeders. It stars Rutger Hauer, was co-written by Dan O'Bannon, and is based on "The Lurking Fear" by H.P. Lovecraft. I should've realized it fell deep into Hauer's career nadir and O'Bannon hadn't done anything worthwhile since Total Recall seven years prior.

There's really not a lot to say about Bleeders. Maybe with a better cast/director it could've been something interesting, but it's mostly a mess that telegraphs where it's going from nearly the start. Props to it having a creepy VHS cover and at least it doesn't shy away from killing kids. There's always a silver lining.

Halloween Horror Watch #37: Animated Miscellany

I watched a bunch of half hour scare-related animation. I won't talk about each, but I'll link to many of them so you can watch along.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

I watched this last year and commented on it (as well as another TV special later in this list). You can find my comments here.

Pluto's Judgement Day

Lonesome Ghosts (my favorite Disney short ever. This poster hangs on my wall)

The Mad Doctor (also has an awesome Tom Whalen-designed poster)

Trick or Treat

Donald Duck and the Gorilla

Night on Bald Mountain

The Haunted House

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The embedding was disabled, but this is classic. As a kid, I only saw the edited for compilation version. Ichabod is kind of a dick in this and I kind of felt bad for Brom Bones. Amazing songs.

Garfield's Halloween Adventure (no link to full show)

Or, if you don't have time for everything, you should watch this because it rules and covers some of the same ground and a little more (all edited for time, though)

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Horror Watch #36: The Man from Planet X

The Man from Planet X -- Edgar G. Ulmer

The Man from Planet X is pretty unremarkable in nearly every way. Maybe I'm burning out on '50s sci-fi, but there is a considerable lack of charm in this movie. The titular man from Planet X is a terrible design and the way our heroes fight him is to grapple until they can turn off his air supply. Sure, it makes sense, but it's not very interesting to watch. Yes, there's one woman amongst scientists and yes, she gets captured by the alien. I don't feel the need to talk about that again, but there's another trope that is growing tiresome. The megalomaniacal scientist. He became a scientist for fame, fortune, and power and for some reason, the good scientists keep him around. Usually, they already know he has ulterior motives or a questionable reputation. Inevitably, he is responsible for the ensuing turmoil and most of the body count in these movies. He's a pretty lame stock character and The Man from Planet X is a pretty lame movie.

Halloween Horror Watch #35: Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things -- Bob Clark*

This was an interesting viewing experience. I was never really sure where Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things was taking me until it took me there. That's a good thing, but it made the journey sort of confusing. The main character, Alan (who would fit in quite nicely in today's society, 40 years after the movie was made), is overly obnoxious and the only thing that keeps the viewer from checking out instantly is that we all know or know of someone much like him. The fact that everyone else hates him helps, too. Alan is leading a group of actors to an island for some Satanic ritual. Apparently, he pays them to do this. It's not clear what the acting part of the job is unless they all thought they were going out to a remote area to rehearse. The whole acting troupe/getting paid part is really confusing and exists only to give Alan some power over the rest of the crew.

Eventually, they collect a corpse from a graveyard and bring it back to the old resort building they're staying in. There's all sorts of strangeness that happens with this corpse including a fake wedding and Alan going to be with it (not in the biblical sense). Crazy stuff starts to happen with thirty minutes left in the run time, which if you watched the trailer, you already have a sense of. It's an unusual film but worth checking out. Bob Clark (Black Christmas, A Christmas Story, Porky's) directs and one wishes he'd had a more impressive career. His career peaked in 1983 and amongst his final movies before his death were two Baby Geniuses and The Karate Dog. He deserved better.

*I'm fascinated by the fact that his name is really "Benjamin" but he went by "Bob."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween Horror Watch #34: Creature from the Black Lagoon

Creature from the Black Lagoon -- Jack Arnold

I follow a blog on Tumblr that frequently shows amazing images from Creature from the Black Lagoon. These inspired me to re-watch the film having only seen it once. And... meh. The creature is a great monster and perfectly realized but, as with most of these sci-fi/horror movies from the '50s featuring scientists at work, there is a TON of awful exposition, most of which is unnecessary. I don't know why this genre thinks its audience is comprised of morons who can't think for themselves but between the exposition and voiceover, very little is left to the imagination.

Maybe that's the biggest issue with Creature from the Black Lagoon. There is nothing subtle about it. Every time Gill Man makes an appearance, he's accompanied by an epic music queue. It's kind of cute at first, but by the end one wonders if the filmmakers had ever heard of building suspense. The music throughout is overbearing, so I guess it's par for the course.

One aspect of this genre that has become glaring (especially after Attack of the Crab Monsters and  Invisible Invaders) is how little the women characters matter. Most of the time they could easily be written out. Women exist only to be objects for men to fight over/protect (count the number of times Julie Adams [bill as "Julia"] is told to "stay here" or "go there") or to be a victim of the monster. As a huge fan of the genre, this trope is really starting to get me down to where it's hard to enjoy the movies.

Great monster. Cool underwater photography (the little ballet between Gill Man and Julie Adams is justifiably iconic). Adequate execution.

This post taught me I cannot type lagoon without making a typo my first try.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween Horror Watch #33: Invisible Invaders

Invisible Invaders -- Edward L. Cahn

George Romero rightfully gets credit for being the father of the modern zombie movie (as opposed to Voodoo zombies). I can't help but think that Invisible Invaders held some inspiration for him. Romero was 19 at the time of its release, a perfect age to notice a good concept in an imperfect movie and log it away for later use.

Invisible Invaders is about an invisible alien force who plan on taking over the world. Initially, one of these aliens inhabits a recently deceased corpse (played by the always awesome John Carradine) to communicate to one prominent scientist that he must spread the word of the impending invasion or face annihilation. This makes some sense as the alien as some visual aids and, being invisible, it would be hard to get the scientist's attention. But for whatever reason, the invading force keeps taking up residence in dead individuals and wandering the earth looking for humans (even more perplexing is why they stumble around mindlessly when the John Carradine alien was not only eloquent, but well-coordinated). If an invading force is going to attack, why give up your greatest asset? It allows our heroes to capture one and eventually figure out how to kill them and shows them where they are.

Invisible Invaders is a pretty poor entry in the nuclear horror genre, but it holds several elements for what would become Night of the Living Dead (a quick google search of "George Romero" and "Invisible Invaders" shows I'm not the only one who thinks this), so I won't knock it too hard.