[sssh I know I’m a few days late]
Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, 1971
dir. Lucio Fulci
False advertising, there are no lizards in this film! I thought it was going to be a crazy Xtro-type thing with a woman possessed by a lizard committing murders. It’s just a crime story with lots of boobs and fake supernatural stuff.
It’s pure schlock though, terrible acting all around, outlandish plotline involving dreams and ghosts and crazy hippies, lots of naked women and close-ups of boobs. They really hold on those close-ups, too, it’s quite uncomfortable.
For a sleazy film like this, it’s not so bad. It’s not terribly offensive, and there isn’t really enough in it to consider it terribly-made. I have seen worse by Lucio Fulci, anyway. The ADR was pretty bad though, but it follows the trend of those Italian movies that tried really hard not to be Italian.
Score by Morricone, though, so at least there’s that.
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.
[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]
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!
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.
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.
dir. Chan-wook Park
Can we just settle right now that Chan-wook Park is pretty much one of the most interesting filmmakers of the past few decades? Are we good for that? Yeah? Okay.
As per usual, this is a really beautiful film, it looks phenomenal, sharp contrast, lit like a dream, really interesting mise-en-scene. It’s really funny as well, which was delightfully unexpected. It looked more like a proper horror film at first, but it ended up kind of a dramedy featuring lots of blood and gore.
I don’t really know what else to say about this. I personally would’ve enjoyed it a lot more it’d been a little shorter. A hundred and thirty minutes is too much for this kind of film, but I didn’t mind it as much I thought I would. Overall, an excellent film that I’m looking forward to including in horror watches in the future.
dir. Vincenzo Natali
[DISCLAIMER: I had to do this a day late because I had no time yesterday to watch the film. This will happen tomorrow as well, since I’ll be out from 8:30AM-11PM, but I’ll review stuff on Saturday; today I’ll watch two films]
This was excellent! It’s a shame that Vincenzo Natali’s career didn’t take off as well as it should have because this film is fantastic, and Splice is great as well. He has really good sense of tension and pacing, and the whole set up for this film is really interesting. The way this film was shot is very ingenious, and you can’t really tell that it’s all handheld camera, which to me is a super kudos because when you CAN tell the handheld camera is there is a huge big fat irritating bummer (looking at you, American Honey.)
The cube itself as a set is great, because by virtue of being so Nothing it becomes extremely oppressive, and it almost reflects the characters’ frustrations back at themselves, which in a way fuels their anger at the situation and at each other. And these characters were really great, because it flip-flopped the usual tropes of films like these, when the hero guy ended up being the super villain who is a gigantic asshole. All the characters have their little moments, even Kazan, which is neat.
This is definitely an underrated movie. There are moments of real tension there, when they are in the sound-activated cube, when they find the edge of the supercube-thing and Holloway drops, at the end when Quentin catches up to them. And the biggest moment of tension is this thrumming kind of feeling that carries through the whole film. You’re expecting these characters to all turn out to be child molesters or drug addicts or money launderers, because why else would they be in this punishing situation, but it turns out that they are just regular people who were probably (maybe? we never really find out) randomly picked out to be in this cube, for no apparent reason. And this lack of purpose for the cube or for their being in the cube is the most terrifying aspect of it all because it’s not really a punishment, it just exists. This nihilism is pretty fascinating to me.
Props to Mr Natali, he has wowed me again.
The Witch, 2016
dir. Robert Eggers
Absolutely stunning and haunting.
The fact that this is a new horror film makes me really happy, most of all, because it means not all it lost. (Though to be fair, outside the mainstream Paranormal Activity stuff, there have been some pretty solid horror films recently.) This film is very beautiful, very simple, and most of all, quite scary. The music is those shrill choirs that get right under your skin, and sets a pretty grim tone throughout the picture. The greyness of it is very effective as well, to convey a feeling of desolation and grief. It makes it perfectly plausible that a mistreated young girl would want to run away to join a coven.
What interested me most about this though was what seemed like a commentary on young women living at that time. Thomasin is not a witch, she takes care of the farm, helps her parents, and yet she is the first suspect, because young women were always the first suspects at that time. And today, even. “What was she wearing? What was she drinking?” I think it’s interesting to look at this and think of the helplessness of a young women dealing with an entire world (because at that time their family was their world) who are against them and who tell them they are lying. It’s no accident Thomasin is in the cusp of womanhood, her body is developing, and even her mother at the end calls her a slut, accuses her of seducing her brother and her father. It’s great when period films can successfully comment on the issues of the present.
Go watch this now! Seriously.
Julia’s Eyes, 2010
dir. Guillem Morales
Proper chilling! This film felt really new and refreshing, and the whole idea behind it is very clever. When it gets to the end, a real tension sets in, and there’s an element of danger that makes it very thrilling to watch. I loved it!
The best part about it was how it was shot. We are never shown faces of people Julia doesn’t know. If she doesn’t know what they look like, neither do we, and it’s almost like we’re blind together, which builds a great deal of tension and horror, and then shock when we finally get to see “Ivan” and he looks wholly unthreatening and sort of pathetic.
It’s a well put together film, and there are elements of Del Toro in it, even though he is only the producer (I don’t know how much involvement he had in the making of this) and the etherealness of it is similar to Pan’s Labyrinth. There’s a somber quality to it, the film itself is very blue and downcast, and it feels like a suspended reality.
Fantastic film, could not recommend it more.