Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Final Halloween Post: Horror Wrap-Up

Even as the stores break out their Christmas decorations, I can't let go of Halloween. I assure you this will be the last post related to said subject. Next year, I hope to have a little more structure and information to this concept, which I thought of too late to have an actually tally of other, more interesting, information such as body count, murder weapons, nudity. Fun stuff like that. Still... here's what I've thrown together for you. Thanks for reading!

Total Number of Movies Watched: 36. This is counting Garfield and Great Pumpkin, but I'm still impressed with myself.

Notable Subgenres:
Haunted House -- 6
Zombie -- 2
Vampire -- 2
Werewolf -- 1
Killer Animal -- 5
Mad Scientist -- 4
Witchcraft -- 3
Cannibals -- 1
Aliens -- 1

Most Common Year: 1943 (all produced by Val Lewton) and 1980.
Most Common Decade: 1980s
Silent Films: 2
Number of Countries Represented: 7
Most Common Director: James Whale (3)
Most Common Producer: Val Lewton (3)
Most Common Actor: Boris Karloff (4), with special recognition to Melvyn Douglas who came on strong with three appearances in the last week and a half

Most Recommended: Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages
Best in Show: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (sorry, when you watch mostly heretofore unseen movies, it's hard to topple a classic)
Biggest Surprise: Elevator
Biggest Turd: Nightmare City

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The (Belated) Halloween Horror Homestretch

This is the final homestretch that took me through Halloween (and due to a double feature disc, the day after). It's tough to get a post up on Halloween when one is watching movies past midnight. No excuses for being three days late (oh wait, my son wouldn't let me write, there we go). So here's to the end of the horror!

Nightmare City (1980) -- Umberto Lenzi
Who like their zombies running around, using weapons and altogether fully dextrous? Because I don't. They're basically immortal terrorists Nightmare City, a movie whose title is far more literal that I'd hoped. There's very little to recommend about this movie and maybe nothing unless you count some nudity and blood as recommendable. It did teach me that Zombieland isn't the first zombie movie to head to an amusement park.

The Terror (1963) -- Roger Corman
The Terror is one of those thrown-together movies Corman is known for where he has actors and a set and wants to get as much use of them as possible. Allegedly, the dialogue is improvised and Corman shot footage of every actor coming down the castle stairs figuring he'd be able to use it at some point. I love Corman. The Terror was a lot better and more coherent than I was expecting (not to say it was entirely coherent). It's got Dick Miller, Boris Karloff, and Jack Nicholson and includes credits for Francis Ford Coppola and Monte Hellman. That's quite a lot of interesting names for a cheap little movie.

The Skin I Live In (2011) -- Pedro Almodovar
Even when we showed this at the theater, I couldn't help but think of it as "The Skin In Which I Live." Something about the correct English makes me laugh. I could actually write a whole post about this movie, but time isn't on my side. I'm not sure the flashback structure of the film is entirely necessary and  just as much drama could have come from a linear telling. I'm not a fan of flashbacks, especially in this case where all new characters are introduced an hour or so into the movie. It didn't take long to figure out what was happening, thus removing the intended suspense.

Still, it's a beautiful looking picture and I'm not sure I've ever seen Antonio Banderas better. He doesn't say much, but his presence is very strong. By the time the ending rolled around, I was totally invested in how it would play out that I was disappointed that the movie cuts before it happens even though it's already two hours long. Despite my reservations, it's a fantastic film and though I've enjoyed most of Almodovar's films, I don't know why I haven't pursued more of them. Consider that rectified (at least on my Netflix queue).

The Changeling (1980) -- Peter Medak
Andrea brought up an interesting point about The Changeling: it's a haunted house movie where the protagonist isn't afraid at all. The movie plays out more like a detective story than a tale of horror. George C. Scott's family is killed in a freak accident and that looms over him the rest of the film. Perhaps because of this, when weird things start happening at his rented home in/near Seattle, he's more open to figure out why it's happening. The Changeling is creepy but not too scary, but is definitely a quality movie that more people should see. Bonus points for featuring Melvin Douglas who has made a late charge for most October movie appearances even though I wasn't knowingly familiar with him at all until now.

The Leopard Man (1943) -- Jacques Tourneur
Tourneur definitely makes the best Val Lewton produced movies. The Leopard Man isn't at all what the title suggests, but a film about a man who happens to know a lot about leopards. A woman enters a club with a leopard (previously given to her to make an impression), the leopard is scared off and remains on the loose. The first kill of the film is terrifying and amazing and sets a great tone for the rest of the picture. This is pretty terrific.

The Ghost Ship (1943) -- Mark Robson
Not to be confused with Ghost Ship (whatever happened to Dark Castle?), The Ghost Ship is about a new third officer who suspects his captain is going crazy, though the rest of the crew doesn't believe him. It's a surprisingly satisfying film though it generally feels (and looks) like a Twilight Zone episode stretched out to (barely) feature length. But I like The Twilight Zone, so why wouldn't I like this? The paranoia is fun and the captain is an interesting character because he seems so nice. The only problem is the mute character who has some absurd inner-monologue that is not representative of how people actually think at all. Were he featured more, or an actual narrator, it would drag the film down to the realm of absolute misery. Fortunately, it's a sideshow attraction. This is also produced by Val Lewton.

There will be one more post that's a kind of round-up of everything. Then we'll be done with this Halloween business until next year. Thanks for watching!