Peeping Tom, 1960
dir. Michael Powell
Yet another classic I hadn’t seen before. Which I think is a good thing, because it feels like one has to be in the right frame of mind or the right intellectual capability to appreciate this film fully (by which I mean, had I watched this last year or before that, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much, or deemed it boring.)
This is an amazing film, it truly is. It’s so beautiful, every frame is gorgeous. The lighting of it is like nothing I’ve seen before, you can definitely see that Nicolas Winding Refn was heavily inspired by this film just from the colour palette. The reds, yellows, purples — visually stunning, but also cover the film with an atmosphere of fantasy.
In the copy I have (the 50th anniversary re-release on bluray) there’s an introduction by Martin Scorcese before the film, and he comments on Powell’s genius and on the uncanny and terrifying way the film portrays obsession and what eventually becomes madness. I think it’s interesting because the figure of the “peeping tom” is seen as this creepy man but in the case of Mark Lewis there’s an element of self-hatred that adds another layer to this character. (Tinto Brass has a film about a peeping tom as well that is much less nuanced — it’s not supposed to have nuance though, so we’ll give it a pass.) The self-hatred he demonstrates and the self-flagellation at the end really cement his arc as someone who has been haunted by this unwanted obsession, and the fact he had his demise planned all along illustrates this further.
Great, great film.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch, 1982
dir. Tommy Lee Wallace
First of all, why isn’t “happy happy Halloween” the theme song for the holiday? As a global collective, we are missing out. Just saying.
This was super fun! I enjoyed it a lot, and not just because I am a John Carpenter nut and this was produced by him. (Okay, maybe a little because of that.) But it had lots of the elements that made the original Halloween great without ripping off or rehashing the Michael Meyers myth. The idea of an early Halloween film based around the holiday itself is so great, and it’s a shame that people didn’t take to it and that studios backed out on it — it would’ve been amazing! I really did like this a lot, though, from the look of it (kudos to the ever-amazing DoP Dean Cundey) to the fun plot. The music was amazing, as per usual, with John Carpenter’s synth resonating eerily throughout the film.
I think what made this really proper good, though, was the simplicity of it. There was no convoluted plot, just an evil evil man. The computer witchcraft wasn’t overly explained, because it’s fine, we believe in it. The more you explain the fantastical elements of a story, the less suspended your audience’s disbelief will be. Just let it be what it is, and this film does it pretty well. And finally, the miserable end is very Halloween-y, this illusion that the bad guy has been defeated, but actually nope it all went to shit anyway.
Why this isn’t more popular amongst horror fans, I don’t know, but it’s definitely a crucial Halloween watch, probably even more so than all the other Halloween sequels because it doesn’t try to beat a dead horse to death but it creates its own myth while really capturing the spirit of the holiday.
Happy happy Halloween Halloween. Happy happy Halloween, Silver Shamrock!
dir. Bernard Rose
Yet another horror classic I hadn’t seen before. Stupidly so, too, because it’s freaking amazing! I love love love this film, it’s truly brutal and a very engaging watch.
I loved how they used the mythology and real-life stories to build the plot, and how it wasn’t the usual slasher tropes of Bad Guy Chases Girl with Knife, but rather a more intricate relationship. The Candyman actively destroying her life bit by bit so that she would join him, and Helen’s own story of redemption and succumbing to the evil that she would become. (Though admittedly, “say Helen five times” is much less scary than “say Candyman five times.”)
It was interesting as well how they tried to build a racial commentary into the film, the relationship between black communities in the ghetto and the police, and their own relationship within these communities. I don’t really know if it was particularly successful, but they did try to do something there.
Great film for Halloween — a scary myth, lots of gore, and a brutally shocking ending. With the ditzy blond screaming while holding a knife, ha-ha.
The Silenced, 2015
dir. Hae-young Lee
Like Angel Heart, it turns out this isn’t really a horror film. I liked it a lot though! It’s very suspenseful and tense.
I’ve been reading a lot about Japanese warfare during WWII, and this film falls right into that category. It’s set in a Japanese military base near Seoul, where they experiment to create super-soldiers. The brutality of it, and the remorselessness seems very accurate to me from what I’ve read of the ruthlessness of the Japanese military at the time, which I think added the layer of true horror. The horrific things war does to people.
Aside from that, the film is absolutely gorgeous. It’s lit beautifully, and the set pieces are very intricate and detailed. I loved how the embroidery paid off at the end. It was gruesome and beautiful all at once.
Overall, I really enjoyed watching this film. It was compelling throughout, but unfortunately it wasn’t particularly scary, nor did it have much true horror in it. It’s not a great Halloween watch, but if you’re ever looking for a good Korean-Japanese film to watch, this is the one.
Galaxy of Terror, 1981
dir. B.D. Clark
Pure, unadulterated schlock. Which, you know, of course it is — it was produced by Roger Corman. However, it is good schlock. Schlock you can spend your day with, have some good laughs, enjoy wistful memories about. I really enjoyed this film.
Aside from all the schlocky elements, there’s lots of interesting things going on here. Alien was a bit influence, from the set design to the plot itself, but it stands on its own two feet as a cool take on the psychological horror in space. (Mr W.S. Anderson probably borrowed a lot from it for his masterpiece Event Horizon.)
The set design was probably my favourite part — the ship looks really great, lived-in but not too shabby; the planet is really cool as well, though it the most sound-stage-y film to ever be made on a sound stage, ha-ha. But it never looks cheap, which is a real achievement considering how cheap the film was. Maybe Production Designer James Cameron had something to do with that. (Yes, that James Cameron. And guess what, Bill Paxton did some set decorating as well.)
Side note — this film is a star-studded affair in front of and behind the scenes. Mr Cameron and Bill Paxton working behind the camera, Sid Haig and Robert Englund as crewmen of the ship. That was really fun for me, actually.
Honestly, I don’t get why this film has been panned so much. It’s perfectly competent in doing what it sets out to do, it looks pretty good for what they could afford, the acting is better than most schlock horrors of the time, and the story mostly makes sense. This is definitely one to watch if you’re into cult horror films.
Jeepers Creepers, 2001
dir. Victor Salva
Poor Justin Long, he can’t catch a break in these horror films. Anyway.
This is really fun! The inner mythology of the film is really cool, with the Creeper creature coming back for twenty-three days every twenty-three years to feed. It would’ve been even more interesting if the Creeper had been a well-known myth in the area, with conspiracy theories about the missing persons reports and all that, almost like the Blair Witch in a way. But the way it was handled was good in itself, with the mystery within the film adding to the tension. No one really knew what was happening, they had no clue whatsoever.
But what I liked most was how clever the characters were. Trisha and Darry went to the police, they called people to help, she wouldn’t stop trying to run over the monster. They had a lot of agency as horror victims, and that made their journey all the more gripping, because they weren’t just running away or sitting back waiting for the Big Bad to come back — they were trying to do something about it. Trisha in particular, always level-headed, trying to think a way out of the situation. And the fact that they were siblings really helped create that bond that made the ending all the more sad.
It’s a really fun film indeed, and I’ll probably look out for the sequel once my marathon is finished.
The Green Inferno, 2013
dir. Eli Roth
There are two sides of me when I think of this film. The English degree side that can’t stop but hate the rampant colonialism displayed by this film, which echoes Cannibal Holocaust in the worst possible ways. But also the horror buff side that really digs all the gore and relentless display of human misery in Eli Roth’s films. Unfortunately I can’t pick one, so I both hate and love this film in equal measure.
In this film, Eli Roth succeeds in making a horrible 70s exploitation film, from the horrific portrayal of natives, to the uncensored gore, right down to the awful acting. Every single actor in this film is horrible, but in a fun, B-movie way, because if they were good, the film wouldn’t be half as entertaining.
However, The Green Inferno still perpetuates outdated ideals of indigenous tribes, and that makes me very uncomfortable because it isn’t Cannibal Holocaust, this isn’t the 70s, it’s 2016, and evil should not be taking shape of native populations. And the use of female genital mutilation as a plot point felt cheap and unnecessary because millions of women really do suffer from it every day, have their lives and bodies destroyed by it every day, and this film cheapens it by making it another hurdle our main character needs to get through.
Still, if you turn off the part of your brain that cares about such things, I suppose this is an entertaining film on a most basic level. I much prefer Eli Roth’s Hostel series in terms of gore and fun deaths, even general plot, but it’s an okay addition to this filmography, and definitely should be part of your collection if you’re interested in gory exploitation films.