The film yesterday (16/10) was supposed to be The Vanishing (1988). I tried watching it when I got home from work at around 11:30pm because I had no time during the day to do it, but I was too tired, and decided to give up and go to sleep at around 00:44. From the hour I kind of watched, it didn’t look like a particularly scary film, but honestly I didn’t follow the plot very well as I was very very tired. Oh, well. Fifteen more days to go.
P.S. I did get to watch three other films yesterday, The Queen of Katwe, Moolaadé, and Theo and Hugo, all of which I heartily recommend even though none of them are horror films.
The Children, 2008
dir. Tom Shankland
Overall I would describe this film as The Happening but with children instead of pollen, but also a lot better.
It’s good! I liked it a lot. There’s some fun kills, and interesting development of the plot. I like the idea of murderous children because children are already the scariest things ever anyway. The shit kids say, it’s like they crawled all the way up from hell sometimes, it’s terrifying. So it was very fitting. But my favourite part was that there was never any attempt to explain anything. The characters were just thrown into the mess and their thoughts were just on how to survive — there was no news broadcast saying children were killing everybody, and it’s not until the end that we learn that this is ALL the children. Plus, the open ending was great, I love when horror films end open like that. The cinematography is beautiful at some points as well, there’s some great shots of blood in snow and frozen things, pretty fantastic.
Of course there were some problems with it, I thought the characterisations were bit flat for the most part, and the ADR was terrible up until the middle of the film, but once it gets going, you really forget about all that, because it’s goes from 8 to 80 and it’s murders galore.
Really fun film! And perfect for a Scary Children movie marathon.
The Howling, 1981
dir. Joe Dante
I got this film from Edgar Wright’s 1000 favourite films list, which is full of amazing stuff, and I’m really happy I did because this is excellent! Kind of schlock-ish, but still great.
The plot itself is fairly simple, and the whole telecasting stuff reminded me a lot of Dawn of the Dead, while the townspeople going mental reminded me of another film I saw this week: Dead and Buried; it also reminded me of The Fog. But I suppose these were common in films at the time because, well, telecasting is an easy way to get exposition out and flesh out your main mythology, while evil townsfolk are always terrifying (even in Hot Fuzz those old folks are a bit spooky.)
But what really takes the prize in this film is the make up and visual effects. Some fantastic work done in the werewolf transformations, really seamless and detailed practical effects — a wonder to watch! I think when it comes to transformations like these, it’s so much more powerful to have practical effects, real make up, and all that, rather than CG, because it looks far more realistic and it’s a lot more brutal. Like An American Werewolf in London, which I believe came out the same year as The Howling, and is also an amazing film.
Definitely deserves a place in a body horror marathon, alongside From Beyond and The Beast Within.
dir. Pascal Laugier
I only got around to watching this at 11:30pm (GMT) today because I was super busy all day, which turned out to be a Very Bad Thing, because there are some truly haunting images in this that will for sure haunt my dreams tonight. So, there’s that. Oh, well.
This film is brilliant. Absolutely brutal and horrific, but really brilliant. (Side note: the poster and IMDb blurb are very misleading, it’s way more psychological than you’d first imagine from those.) I read on the trivia page that the director was somewhat inspired by Hostel to make this (I love Hostel so brownie points for that, Mr Laugier) and that his focus would be on pain and suffering. This film is indeed all about pain and suffering, it’s relentless, and it pulls you in with strikingly grotesque images. The psychological intensity of this film is terrifying, and what happens to these women is nothing short of barbaric. I think it offers an interesting take on misunderstandings of signs, on a cultural level. They go on about martyrs, what are martyrs and what they do, and their purpose, but they don’t really know what they want from those people, they don’t know that they can’t force someone to be a martyr, that it has to be voluntary and completely selfless at the very end. Anna only got there because of her powerful connection to Lucie, her immense love for her was the ultimate driving force for her perseverance.
Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just reading too much into this because it’s 1am. It’s still a fantastic film, but that review up there is correct: not for the faint of heart. It’s brutal and it will tear you apart.
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.
Dead and Buried, 1981
dir. Gary A. Sherman
Is it silly to call this delightful? Because it is! It’s just a delightful watch. As a horror fan, I had a wonderful time watching this because it’s such a good film.
There’s not much to it in terms of plot, no crazy schemes or mastermind plans, it’s very simple and straightforward, and we are presented to it very slowly. About 80% of the film is build up, and you wonder what’s happening, who’s doing this, what’s going on. Which characters are in on it, what’s the purpose of the plan? Are they just evil? Are they on a mission to keep their small town spotless so they can win the Village of the Year award? (wait– wrong movie.)
But, yeah, structurally, it’s a tight film. The lead has things to do, and he’s not stupid about doing them. He’s the sheriff and he asks the right questions and goes searching for answers. The other characters are all on the cusp of suspicion at all times which is really interesting because you never really know who to trust. And the twist itself is really fun, especially because even at the very end, they refuse to actually explain anything. It’s excellent! I don’t want to credit it all to Dan O’Bannon because he co-wrote this with Ronald Shusett, but I don’t care — you go Dan O’Bannon! He has blessed my horror marathon once again from his little perch in the clouds. RIP, my friend.
In addition to the story itself, the horror set pieces are really cool as well. Some great kills, and wonderful make-up work by the one and only Stan Winston. Really wonderful.
If you haven’t seen this yet, do it immediately! It should be on every horror fan’s library.
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!