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Halloween Spooktacular: Day Thirty-First [All Hallows’ Eve]

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Trick ‘r Treat, 2007
dir. Michael Dougherty

Of course, I could have ended my marathon any other way. This I think can be considered a modern classic in terms of Halloween movies, right? I was really looking forward to it, because Michael Dougherty’s latest film, Krampus, was probably one of my favourite films of last year, so I knew he could do horror pretty well — and, boy, did it deliver!

This is really great, definitely what a modern Halloween movie should be. It’s all these short stories linked together by a neighbourhood, and you really only spend a few minutes with each. There’s some fun twists with some of the characters, and awesome deaths as well, and at times it gets genuinely creepy! I definitely agree with Jay Bauman that, if anyone has to remake The Gremlins, it needs to be Michael Dougherty, ’cause anyone else will fuck it up.

Well, this is it! It’s been a scaretastic month, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Some really great films have been discovered, and my DVD collection has now expanded beyond the boundaries of my shelves, which is great ha-ha.

Now to Christmas!

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Halloween Spooktacular: Day Thirty

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Dagon, 2001
dir. Stuart Gordon

I would describe this film as a mix of Call of Cthulu, Temple of Doom, and The Fog, only less entertaining. And to be fair, if Jeffrey Combs had been in the lead role, I probably would have enjoyed it a million times more. But as it is, it’s an okay film.

I was really looking forward to it because Re-Animator is one of my favourite films of all time, so I admit this film had a lot to live up to, and I’ll forgive it for not delivering because how can you beat Re-Animator? Really? Impossible.

It’s a fun little plot, with Cthulu creatures and whatnot, and I really liked the bleak sort of ending, because happy endings in horror films are a total bummer. It’s an open ending that really gives you that hint that everything’s going to shit in approximately two minutes after the credits start rolling, so I approve.

Overall, it is terribly schlocky and over-the-top, and nonsensical, but with a few friends and some drinks, it’d be a pretty fun watch.

Halloween Spooktacular: Day Twenty-Eight

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In the Mouth of Madness, 1994
dir. John Carpenter

I’m super John Carpenter trash, I literally enjoy everything he makes, what can I do? But, yeah, this film is really great, I thought, even though it probably feels the least like a John Carpenter film than I’ve ever seen. Probably because the font is all wrong in the “John Carpenter’s” bit in the title (it’s called “Albertus” if you’ve ever wondered what font he uses — side note: Woody Allen’s is called “Windsor.”)

The plot of this is totally bananas, but it’s very psychological and really plays with the viewer’s perception of what is and isn’t real. Are we in Sam Neill’s mind? Is he crazy or is all of this actually happening? Which I think makes for quite a gripping story because there are many layers of creepy to peel off. But, yeah, it still feels more like a Stephen King adaptation than a Carpenter film.

Overall, though, it’s as usual a really competent film, and a great end of the Apocalypse Trilogy, because just like The Thing and Prince of Darkness, there’s a bleakness to it that is rare nowadays. It’s one thing to have your Scary Monster kill everybody and whatnot, but to leave your characters hopeless at the end, gone mad, in the midst of utter destruction — it’s cruel and brilliant, because it adds all the more to the horror aspect of the film. It’s more than jump scares, and it should be. Jump scares are the laziest way to make people frightened in a horror film. Of course The Horror Master is above that!

Halloween Spooktacular: Day Twenty-Seven

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Vampires, 1998
dir. John Carpenter

Even vampires are awesome when John Carpenter does them!

Seriously, though, this film is awesome! James Woods is really cool in it, very much like the Plissken-type characters in Carpenter’s films, kind of a rogue, a renegade, dark past, etc. But the twist is he works for the Catholic church! That’s an interesting concept, that the church has teams around the world hunting and killing vampires. Makes me want to read the book this film was based on.

Anyway.

It’s in the desert in New Mexico, but there’s enough change of scenery that it’s a very rich-looking film. The machismo of it does annoy me a little, these rough dudes talking rough threatening to beat people up, but I think the story is interesting enough that I could get over that relatively easily.

However, the true shining star in this film is the music. Very cool, very different from Carpenter’s usual synth scores, but still has that bounce to it that gets your head bobbing, you know? It sounds more like the music from his recent albums (Lost Themes I and II) than from his other films like Escape from New York or The Fog, and it’s just really good. This is just another underrated John Carpenter film that everyone should go see.

Halloween Spooktacular: Day Twenty-Six

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Prince of Darkness, 1987
dir. John Carpenter

This is the first part of my John Carpenter triple-bill (it was supposed to be In the Mouth of Madness but due to technical issues I left that for later in the day) and it’s the second instalment of John Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy,” which I was particularly excited about because The Thing (first part of the trilogy) is only my favourite ever horror film.

I really enjoyed this. Maybe the enjoyment was exacerbated by the memories of seeing John Carpenter play the theme from this film live, but regardless, it’s a class JC film, crazy creative and really fun to watch. There are some awesome practical effects and make-up, and the little Alice Cooper cameo really is a joy. There’s also some regular players in Carpenter’s films, like Donald Pleasance who played Dr. Loomis in Halloween, and Dennis Dun who was Wang in Big Trouble in Little China. The visual elements of a good John Carpenter film are all there, as well as a really cool synth score. It isn’t a good as his most well-known classics, but there’s some genuinely creepy stuff in it, and I think a triple-bill of the Apocalypse Trilogy would be a great watch.

Halloween Spooktacular: Day Twenty-Four

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978
dir. Philip Kaufman

Yet another classic horror film it took me far too long to finally watch, but I did it! At last! [thunderous applause]

You can clearly see why this is a classic — it’s a fantastic film, from the really cool practical effects, right down to the schlocky plot (which I love.) Also, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy are in it, what’s not to love. (RIP Leonard Nimoy.)

The copy I watched was the Arrow Video blu-ray, which is a really wonderful transfer from the 35mm print, and the film looks flawless, really sharp and bright, which honestly I think is something that is lacking in contemporary horror. Not everything needs to be dark all the time, and actually if you can bring terror to a world that looks normal as opposed to all dark and gritty, then it’s all the more effective. (See also: John Carpenter’s Halloween.)

And speaking of John Carpenter, I think this film would be a great double feature with They Live, as they are both about the loss of self to the working machine. People becoming cogs of the Capitalist clockwork. Well, that’s my interpretation of it as well.

They are also similar in terms of bleak ending. We think our heroes will save the world, will restore the balance to the natural order, but in fact their efforts are fruitless and we are left without hope, with the knowledge that you can’t stop the workings of evil, from the inside or out. Evil is inevitable. (I guess that’s what Joss Whedon was trying to get at with The Cabin in the Woods, but it would have been more effective if the film took itself more seriously and there were fewer quips and wink-wink-nudge-nudge moments.)

Anyway, really loved this, and I would highly recommend getting the same copy I did if you can because it’s really worth it.

Halloween Spooktacular: Days 21-22-23

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[Hello! Sorry I haven’t updated the past couple of days, but I’ve been suuuper busy and only got around to watching the films today. I have seen them, however, and I’ll review them all in one post right here. One of the reasons why I was busy was that I went to see JOHN CARPENTER live with his band playing music from his films and his albums — it was AMAZING! This week I’ll watch some JC films, so stay tuned. And you can check out the photos and videos I took from the gig on my twitter @thefilmology]

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Audition, 1999
dir. Takashi Miike

I was recommended this film by a friend, and then I learned that it was a Takashi Miike film, which made me really happy because I’ve seen The Happiness of the Katakuris and it was such a fantastically weird film that I really didn’t know what to expect with this. Anyway. I watched it, and really quite enjoyed it.

The film had some weird elements, like some of the “dream” sequences set ups were odd and there was a certain surrealism to them that I really liked, but overall it was pretty straight, and by the end there it got genuinely creepy. Not particularly scary, though — I think the torture scene would’ve needed to either be longer or more explicit for me in particular to feel scared or tense during it. But it looked amazing, the effects were fantastic and super realistic-looking.

Another great addition to my growing collection of East Asian cinema!

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The Haunting, 1963
dir. Robert Wise

This is like The Innocents with lesbians, no?

Joking aside, fantastic film! I can see why this is Martin Scorsese’s favourite horror film, in a cinematic standpoint, this is absolutely marvellous. (Plot-wise, it’s pretty silly.)

The monochrome is quite eerie, and it gives the film a similar feeling to The Innocents and Psycho. And the camera work is really interesting, how it pans and shakes, the fluid movements of the camera, which are not really common in films from that time, so that was particularly interesting to see.

Even though the plot itself (guy gets some random people to join him in a haunted house to check if the house is really haunted) is a bit on the iffy side, reading through the Trivia of the film I learned that the writer wanted to go on a somewhat different direction, having all the events of the film being part of the lead character’s imagination in a psychiatric institution. Now, with that in mind, the film becomes far more interesting. The doctor who seems aloof but caring; the teasing nurse who likes to rile her up; the custodian who is scary-looking; the maid who keeps to strict schedules — all of those characters would fit really well in a hospital, and if the events of the film were not real but rather a figment of her imagination, all of the surreal sequences involving Eleanor would make much more sense, and generally the film would have a lot more depth to it. So I personally choose to believe that this is what it is, even though the ending negates that somewhat. Oh, well.

Really wonderful film, nonetheless, and I’m glad there’s another pre-1970s horror classic on this list.

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The Exorcist III, 1990
dir. William Peter Blatty

To be honest, all I knew about this was that Fabio was in it playing an angel, so I thought it would be hilarious. It turns out, Fabio’s cameo was like six seconds long, and it’s actually quite a scary movie!

The Exorcist is probably one of the few horror films I’ve seen more than once which still scare me. This film borrows a lot from it in terms of tone, but it’s also a detective story, kind of like The Exorcist meets Zodiac, if I’m honest. But that works in its favour, because even though it’s following the events of the first film, and there’s similar elements, because the actual set-up is much different, and there are so many more locations, it doesn’t feel like a rip off, but rather like a fluid continuation of the Georgetown story.

I really didn’t see the twist with Gemini/Patient X coming, and the exorcism scene at the end of the film was genuinely scary! As well as the catatonic old lady, Mrs Clelia, and her as a nurse going to the cop’s house.

In a surprising twist of fate, The Exorcist III happens to do exactly what a sequel is supposed to do, and succeed quite well at it. The only thing I’d change is I’d get Martin Sheen to play the detective guy. George C. Scott is good, but I kept imagining how Martin Sheen would have delivered the lines, and it would’ve been so good!! Oh, well. Too late now. About twenty-six years too late, ha-ha.