Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Halloween Watch: War of the Worlds (1953)



It's kind of funny that in this post and the last, I'm referring to movies referenced in my own title banner, but there you have it.

I checked, and it has been a while since I last watched George Pal's 1953 movie of War of the Worlds.  A number of years now, in fact.

My interest was piqued by the idea of a Martian invasion in 6th or 7th grade when I learned about Orson Welles' and the Mercury Theater's 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast - which supposedly caused a panic (sort of, but not really).  Click on the link and listen.  It's a hell of a show.

Shortly after all this, around the age of 12, The Admiral found out I wanted to watch the original movie, and so he and I rented it and I think it was just the two of us who watched it.

Honestly, despite the fact it was not a gore fest or built on the tension-making trip wires of, say Ridley Scott's Alien, that movie scared the hell out of me.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Halloween Watch 2017: The Mummy



I didn't mean to watch all of The Mummy (1932), but as so often happens, I did.

This Universal monster movie was one that, the first time I watched it, I loved the first ten minutes and then felt waning interest in everything but Zita Johann.  But, the past two or three times I've given those first few minutes a shot (because I love the opening), I've really changed my tune.  And, in fact, have to retract initial statements made about dull camera-work in comparison to the grand, gothic guignol of Dracula or the surrealist landscapes of the first three Frankenstein films.

The lighting, sets, and FX employed are far more deft than I'd originally wanted to give credit, and leave you in a murky place where you know Bey is employing mystical shenanigans, but it's hard to put a finger on what and how.  Add in Karloff's performance, as well as that of Johann, and you've got something that's been aped more in vampire movies than anywhere else the past 85 years.

Karloff is actually terrific as Imhotep/ Ardath Bey, and the overall effect of the picture is not so much horrifying as it is eerie and uncanny.  Unraveling the machinations of what he's up to (ripped off for the past thirty or forty years of Dracula movies), and it's good stuff.

Weirdly, TCM rated the movie TV-14, and for the life of me, I have no idea why.  This is one I'd watch with a kid aged 10 or up.  There's no blood, minimal on-screen violence, a lack of nudity or sexual innuendo...  But Mummies are scary, I guess.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Halloween Watch 2017: Theatre of Blood, Altered States, House of Dracula


Well, it's that time of the year, and we're watching movies about monsters and murders and transdimensional-psychotic states brought on by a rich cocktail of hallucinogens.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Halloween Costumes for The Ladies - 2017 edition

The past decade or so, the Halloween costume industry had really doubled-down on the idea of "sexy" iterations of popular culture characters and icons, often gendered flipped for women.  I was a bit unclear who was buying, say, Sexy Thomas The Tank Engine, but they had so many of these costumes up for grabs, I assumed there were phenomenal Halloween parties happening all over the place with Sexy Pac-Mans and Sexy Lassie, and I was simply not on the guest list.

Here's the last time I looked into this, way, way back in 2011 (my, how the sands of time move more quickly).  Offerings included Sexy Clockwork Orange, Sexy RoboCop and - most baffling - Sexy Michael Meyers. 

I am not kidding.

Well, flashforward to 2017, and that trend seems to have slowed.  A quick perusal of Halloween costumes will tell you that there are still plenty of "flirty" or "Sexy" costumes, but not no much with licensed characters that were never intended to draw the gaze in quite that way.  Well, at least they no longer require mini-skirts and prodigious decolletage.

But let's start with my favorite costume I've seen this year.

Barb.  From Stranger Things


The great thing about going as Barb is that it looks pretty comfortable, but everyone will still love you and know exactly who you're supposed to be.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween from The Signal Watch! (The Finale!!!)



As has become our tradition, we're closing out this spookiest of evenings with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (aka: The Queen of Halloween).

I hope your Halloween has been spooktacular.

Happy Halloween, every buddy!

She's Alive! ALIVE!!!

Halloween Watch: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)



In some ways, there's no way in hell this movie could have been made any other time than a certain window post 1985 or before 1991.  In other ways, this world is just now catching up to what Cassandra Peterson and company were saying, and an idea that I suspect people of my generation (and older) have a harder time grappling with than the kids today.

I'm not here to argue that Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988) is a bleeding edge comedy, because it has more in common with a sort of groan-inducing shenanigans with a sort of Looney Tunes style of thinking, topped with a winky, we're-not-taking-this-seriously vibe that lands pretty squarely in my wheelhouse.

War of the Worlds - Halloween Broadcast from 1938



A great way to get spooky on your Halloween!

*thanks to Stuart for the inspiration

100 Floors of Frights



couldn't not

Halloween Real Life Terror! Creepiest Thing I Can Think Of: Numbers Stations!



Cold War spy transmissions? Secret messages from underground organizations? Alien broadcasts? Something from beyond?

I don't know! I don't want to know! They're creepy as hell, and will send you down a terrific rabbit hole of Halloween paranoia!  Because somebody is saying something to us and who knows what the hell it is?  It's just terrifying Chtulu language presaging the endtimes and great calamity!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween Watch: The Uninvited (1944)



It's been years since I've seen it, but once upon a time, I loved the 1940 movie Rebecca.  And, yes, should my ship come in, I am absolutely naming my expansive estate "Manderley".  I expect to be very unhappy there and hire extremely creepy staff.

The Uninvited (1944) is not Rebecca, but it feels very much of the same mindset and era, like someone took the basic work and pitched it up in some places, toned it down in others and added some layers of complexity while removing some of the scale.  Also - ghosts.

That doesn't mean I didn't like The Uninvited, but it's hard not to see some parallels between stories of lovely seaside houses and the mysteries they hold about their former mistresses.  A good PG-sort of fright fest, The Uninvited has genuinely creepy moments and does a pretty good deal on a World War II era budget and with the limited casting options.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Halloween Watch: Drag Me to Hell (2009)


Despite endorsements from multiple trusted sources, somehow I'd never gotten around to watching Sam Raimi's post-Evil Dead horror film, Drag Me to Hell (2009).  Which is too bad.  I wish I'd gotten to it sooner.

If you're a fan of Raimi's other horror work, this is more or less in line (and possibly in continuity) with the world of Ash and the deadites.  I was surprised how much it shared both aesthetically and in spirit with the Evil Dead franchise - mixing the horrific with the grotesque with slapstick.

I don't want to oversell the movie - it's not a life-changing experience, but it was perfect for a bit of Halloween spookiness and mayhem and everything it was trying to do worked for me.  And, coincidentally or otherwise, the movie feels a bit like an old school Universal horror film in some ways, which is all right as the movie was at least released through the studio.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Hammer Watch: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)


A few apologies to my brother and Jamie who watched this movie with me.  While technically a horror movie, this one moves along more like a 19th century novel reflecting upon injustices until the last third.  I'm not sure that last third is actually scary - it's more interesting from a science-fiction/ fantasy point of view.

I selected the movie in part because I've been trying to get my head around what Hammer was doing with it's Dracula and Frankenstein films back in the day, and in part because it's the closest to a Bride of Frankenstein film I've noted the studio producing.  It is, of course, absolutely nothing like Bride of Frankenstein, so that was a wash.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Halloween Watch: The Old Dark House (1932)



For years I'd heard of the James Whale movie The Old Dark House (1932), and seen a few seconds here and there in documentaries and whatnot, but I'd never come across a copy of the film itself.  So, anyway, as captain of my own destiny, this October, I finally bought my own DVD of the film.

If you're a fan of what James Whale brought to the screen in Frankenstein and, in particular, Bride of Frankenstein, this is a pretty darn good supplement to those movies.  Not exactly a haunted house movie so much as a "maybe we shouldn't have stopped here" movie, like Frankenstein in particular, it feels almost more like a filmed stage play than a modern film from the blocking to the set design.  It's got some great talent in the movie from Karloff to Ernest Thesiger to a very young Charles Laughton.

This movie is batshit.  Batshit in the best way possible, but batshit.

In short, I'm a fan.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Frankenstein Watch: Son of Frankenstein (1939)



The third Frankenstein movie in the Universal Monsters line of films is not terribly well known among the normals but it's a staple for monster kids.  People who don't know the movie often ask "why is Frankenstein wearing that furry shirt?" when they see pictures from the movie, and - honestly, it's a legit question.*  Son of Frankenstein (1939) picks up a generation after the events of Bride of Frankenstein, when the literal child of Henry and Elizabeth Frankenstein returns to Frankenstein castle to reclaim the family homestead, and, as it turns out, help restore The Monster to fighting form after finding him in a catatonic state.

The movie is not directed by James Whale, and of the original cast, only Karloff returns.  It lacks some of vision of the prior installments, but picks up on and expands some elements, visual and otherwise.  It also softens the story a bit more, providing us with a more sympathetic Dr. Frankenstein in the son of the good doctor.

Overall, it's fairly watchable with some pretty great bits, and at least tries to maintain some level of A-list distinction before the Frankenstein movies would descend down the slope to matinee material.  It's not exactly the world's best movie, but it's still a Halloween-worthy treat.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Halloween Watch: Critters (1986)



Back in the 1980's, I remember seeing a lot of movies like Critters (1986) on the shelf at the local home video rental shoppe.  The boxes would show you a goblin sort of creature, and promised a certain level of horror that wasn't necessarily going to go in for splatter and gore of a Chainsaw variety or even a Freddy Kreuger level of scare.  Maybe some broad humor in there, plots as basic as a Dukes of Hazzard episode.  It was always maybe a little gorier than a modern PG-13 film, but, in retrospect, there's no question that these movies were basically aimed at kids with VCR's.

There's nothing wrong with it, but I wasn't a fan of the sub-sub-genre.

I don't think I was exactly aware the movie was aimed at me as a 12 year-old-or-so as I was when I saw this movie the first time at someone else's house.  My recollection is that the kid was very excited about the movie Critters, and his dad showed up with the movie in hand "hey, I rented CRITTERS!" and I was like "y'okay..." whereas my pal couldn't have been more jazzed had we just been given a stack of fireworks to shoot off all night.  He loved the movie, and I just settled in, because... what are you gonna do?  So, I've seen it once before.

Point of fact - Jamie and I have been together 21 years this month, and I can't tell you how many times she's mentioned liking Critters as a kid.  Or, I guess, watching Critters as a kid.

And so it came to pass that when I said "well, we need to watch something Halloween-ish", she tossed out Critters, and as she has never, ever previously stated a desire to watch any Halloween movie but Young Frankenstein, I just said "y'okay..."

So, we watched Critters.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Halloween Watch: Night of the Demon (1957)


Back when I was a little kid, Jason and I had a few books on movie monsters, and among them was the book Super-Monsters by Daniel Cohen.

On the cover of the book was a really pissed-off looking monster that I kind of assumed was an off-brand Godzilla-type thing (I didn't know the word "Kaiju" until college), and didn't think much about it except that I wasn't sure what movie this monster was actually associated with.   Also, I don't know why my folks were like "hey, look, a snarling hell beast!  The kids'll love it!", but this was the 1970's and back then we were still raising our kids to be ready for anything.


The book had short entries about the plots of various monster movies, and I can trace my interest in those strange creatures to this book.  Even if this same book led me to believe Young Frankenstein was a very odd, badly made Frankenstein movie until I finally  saw it and clued into the Mel Brooks canon.

But I had no idea who the monster was on the cover of this book until about 5-10 years ago when I stumbled across some information about the British horror film, alternately titled Curse of the Demon and Night of the Demon (1957).    Last year I tried to watch this movie on or around Halloween, but realized I was exhausted and didn't pull it off.  And then my DVR went crazy and I lost the recording.

But this year, SimonUK brought it over, and with Steanso in tow, we all gave the movie a whirl.