Monday, September 30, 2013

Halloween Horror Watch #1: Curse of the Werewolf and Valley of the Gwangi

It's everyone's (my) favorite time of year! I'm going to try to maintain my horror write-ups as in years past, but we'll see how many I get to this year. I optimistically stacked the first 31 slots of my Netflix queue with appropriate movies, so the intent is there. I promise.

The Curse of the Werewolf -- Terence Fisher

Thanks to my good friend Howard, who transferred his PAL version to NTSC (who's the real pal, huh?), I was finally able to check out Hammer's The Curse of the Werewolf. Hammer movies hold great appeal to me even though they don't tell particularly compelling stories. There's great style and sets. The actors are all awesome and people you've seen elsewhere dozens of times. The blood is more vibrant than any I've ever seen on screen. The advertising is amazing and they don't shy away from cleavage. What more could you want?

Curse is probably one of the best I've seen. There's unnecessary narration and the prologue is only faintly necessary, but it has a unique and interesting take on werewolves. The best part is the delay in showing the monster. We live in an era where every horror movie needs to have that pre-credit scare where you catch a glimpse of the monster, but Curse takes its time. Very refreshing. Young Oliver Reed is as terrific as older Oliver Reed (though I suspect less drunk) and the wolf makeup is pretty badass. Many people would suggest you dive into Hammer with the Dracula tales starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. I can't say they're wrong (unless it's Dracula A.D. 1972), but I submit Curse of the Werewolf (the only werewolf film Hammer made) as an equally entertaining and representative entrance point (if you can find it).

The Valley of the Gwangi -- Jim O'Connolly

The story if familiar, probably overly so, but one cannot deny the greatness of Ray Harryhausen. The attention to detail is astounding. His creatures are never static to the degree that one wonders how he (and his crew) can keep track of all of the moving parts.

A group that runs a cowboy and indian show finds a tiny horse-like animal thought to be extinct and want to use it in their show but it's stolen by some gypsies who fear a curse if it's taken from the Forbidden Valley. Obviously, the entertainers follow it into the mysterious land only to find dinosaurs roaming the earth. Double obviously, someone gets the bright idea to capture a live one and King Kong it up. Like I said, familiar. But the acting is pretty good. Even the little boy isn't obnoxious which strikes me as a massive victory before we even see the dinosaurs. But the dinosaurs are the show and if they disappoint, then I question your existence as a human. Even with the degrading of the image due to the special effects processing, I can't imagine why anyone would rather see a CG crapfest than this amazing work.

A final note: I love that the curse the gypsies fear is directly caused by their decision to interfere.


Horror Recommendations

Modern Division: 1408, Bubba Ho-Tep, Behind the Mask, Bug, The Mist (watch in black and white if you can), The Host

Funny(ish) Division: Arachnophobia, The Burbs, The Monster Squad, Return of the Living Dead, Slumber Party Massacre I and II, Night of the Creeps, House, Creepshow

Bizarre and Insane Division: Basket Case, Dead Alive, Sleepaway Camp, From Beyond, Hausu, Phantasm, The Brood

Ghost Division: The Changeling, The Haunting, The Innocents

French Division: Diabolique, Eyes Without a Face

John Carpenter Division: The Fog, In the Mouth of Madness, The Thing, Prince of Darkness

People Are Insane Division: The Hitcher, The Vanishing, The Wicker Man, Dead and Buried

The Go In Blind Division: Lake Mungo (seriously, I'm not linking to a trailer. It's a slow-burn, but totally worth it. Has creeped people out days after)

The "Duh" Division: An American Werewolf in London, Alien, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man

Demons and Antichrists Division: The Omen, Possession

Italian Division: The House by the Cemetery, The Beyond, Gates of Hell, Phenomena, Bay of Blood

Cat Division: Cat People, Cat People ('82)

Vincent Price Division: The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, The Fly, The Tingler, The House on Haunted Hill