horror movie

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!

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-Five

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[sssh I know I’m a few days late]

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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.

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.