Monday, October 31, 2016
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!
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Saturday, October 31, 2015
This year on the 80th anniversary of the release of The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), I wrote a post celebrating the film. You're welcome to check out what I said there about the movie.
Each Halloween I now make it a habit to watch a string of horror films from across the past hundred years, and while the rest of what I'll watch I might change up, I always include the first two Frankenstein films from Universal Studios, Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein. Of course I just watched Frankenstein (and I really do recommend catching these movies in the theater, when possible), but I found no listings for the movie here in Austin, so I busted out my BluRay copy.
Friday, October 30, 2015
I'm a firm believer that the 1988 film Elvira: Mistress of the Dark is both underrated and was ahead of its time. Fortunately, in the ensuing 20-something years, the movie found its audience on VHS, cable and DVD.
While certainly there were female-centric comedies in the 1980's (see: the career of Goldie Hawn), Elvira's persona was considered something more to gawk at during her first wave of popularity when seen through the filter of media like The Tonight Show than it was seen for its own merits or as something folks were bothering to pay attention to. Sure, she had genuine fans out there, and the oddly specific nature of Elvira translated surprisingly well to beer ads, etc...