Saturday, October 22, 2022

Halloween Watch Party Watch: The Fog (1980)

Watched:  10/21/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  third?
Director:  John Carpenter

We PodCasted this one a while back.  

Still, very much enjoyed this one with other folks.

Here you go. 

Friday, October 21, 2022

Friday Watch Party: The Fog (1980)

I keep telling people "The Fog is, like, a perfect movie for Halloween."  So I'm going to make you watch it before Halloween.  

Featuring a sort of perfect trinity of female leads in Adrienne Barbeau (in her first role!), Jamie Lee Curtis showing up for Carpenter because of course she did, and Janet Leigh(!) - that's a good reason to watch any movie.  But it also features the great Hal Holbrook and unlikely hero Tom Atkins.  

Produced by Debra Hill, directed by John Carpenter and co-written by both - this thing just fires on all cylinders.

"I'm Stevie Wayne, and you're listening to 'Sounds to Get Ghost Murdered By'"

And the movie is creepy AF.  A lovely ghost/ revenge story!

Day:  Friday 10/21/2022
Time:  8:30 Central
Service:  Amazon
Cost:  $4

link active 10 minutes before showtime

Remembering Carrie Fisher on Her Birthday

Today marks the birthday of Carrie Fisher.  She'll always be royalty to me.

PodCast 217: "Twilight" (2008) - a Halloween PodCast w/ JAL and Ryan

Watched:  09/13/2022
Format:  Amazon
Viewing: Second
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Catherine Hardwicke

Well, even sparkle vampires are still still technically draculas, and that means they fit in however loosely with Halloween. JAL and I take a bite out of the crazy hit sensation that spawned a whole industry and changed bookstores and movies. I genuinely think this one is gonna surprise you.



Decode - Paramore
Leave Out All the Rest - Linkin Park 

Halloween 2022

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Halloween Hammer Horror Watch: Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1972) - in a movie theater!

Watched:  10/19/2022
Format:  Austin Film Society 
Viewing:  First
Director:  Roy Ward Baker

The last movie I saw in a theater was March 5th, 2020.  Simon and I went to see Shane, because when they show Shane, you go see it.  But then COVID and the complete re-writing of movie distribution on the fly happened, and my sense of cinema FOMO ceased to exist.

So... what could draw me back to the cinema after 2.5 years away?  Well, the promise of gender-bending adaptation of a classic horror tale, murder, mayhem and some mild nudity, of course.  And- part of Hammer's 1970's output of throwing madness at the wall to see what sticks.

Take a look at the poster above and ponder - the actual actors from this movie are not seen here.  The seeming murder?  Not part of the movie.  At times, Hammer would create a poster first, and then a movie.  This is pure pulpy hucksterism at it's finest, and I think more stuff needs to be made this way.   "I dunno, we pre-sold something called 'Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde' and promised sex changes and blood.  It writes itself!  Go make it!"  AND THEY DID.

Y'all, maybe it's the thrill of leaving the house to see a film on the big screen.  Maybe I'm easily swayed by five seconds of boobs, but I found this movie an absolute delight.  

Look, you can apply your film criticism hat and do the thing where you face facts and say "this movie may not have intentionally been saying things, but society...!" and that's legit-ish.  You can also say "look, they very quickly made a movie that was about a kooky concept and the main reason it's not horrendously offensive is that no one read the book it's based on and made Hyde what he was in the book as a woman."  And I think both ways of viewing the movie have value.

We all know the story of Jekyll and Hyde - a scientist looking to quite literally use chemistry to separate the "good" side of one's character from the "evil" side.  Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1972) sees a well-intentioned Jekyll who is, instead, seeking to prolong life and believes that something in the female physiology will assist with this chemical reaction.  After an early success with a @#$%ing housefly, where he believes he mistook a female fly for a male fly, he leaps 1000 steps ahead and experiments on himself, transforming from the passably handsome Ralph Bates into Martine Beswick.  Might as well become a knock-out, I guess.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Jekyll's neighbors, the Spencers, because man is this where the film feels knowingly perverse.  A mother and her son and daughter move in upstairs (and invention of the film) and let us say that their downstairs neighbor is split in his interest between the brother and sister.  It may not be horror, but it is *interesting* and there's a killer scene that really tells us how Jekyll is unravelling, and it very much illustrates the dynamics of what's occurring with Jekyll/ Hyde.

The movie is a bit unusual in appearance for a Hammer Horror.  I assume it was filmed on rented sets to get the right claustrophobic feeling of London of the 1880's. and the seemingly perpetually darkened streets.  And it's packed with extras, bit parts and multi-room, multi-level sets.  

Also - amazing plot twist - the Dr. Jekyll here is also Jack the Ripper.  The famed precision of the murders is now part of Henry Jekyll's need to collect, like, thyroids or something.  It's actually an interesting bit of change - and really, that's what I liked about the movie is that it isn't just a game of telephone or a movie that tries to improve on something that works just fine.  They're just kind of going bananas to do as much as possible (the publication of the novel predates the murders by only 2 years, so it basically kinda works).

Oh, the film school papers that could be written about this film as misogynistic swill.  One can only imagine how the very notion of the film would be enough to pre-write a 1000 opening paragraphs in need of supporting evidence.

Is it "horror" to *become* a woman?  The movie doesn't exactly comment upon that notion or make it seem bad - just different.  Jekyll doesn't seem as upset that he's becoming a woman from time-to-time as he is that someone is taking over his brain and body.  He's a scientist, and the fact that he's a woman is a weird but not infuriating side-effect.  The character of Jekyll could potentially, in today's terms, be considered asexual, and the biggest difference is that Sister Hyde is... not.   

But but but...  I mean, Hyde's "evil" side is (duhn duhn duuuuuhn) a woman!  Curiously, the movie either on purpose or by accident doesn't really make that distinction.  Jekyll already runs around paying off morticians for access to the dead bodies of young women (a common practice til the early 20th Century), and he has no problem looking the other way when he asks some thugs to provide him with dead girls.  Arguably, all "Sister Hyde" does is look great and try to continue existing - before the murder, I guess.  But that's just to cover for the fact that s/he can't go out looking for women anymore as Dr. Jekyll.  The pure evil of Hyde in the novel is not present here despite the promise bestowed by the copy on the posters.  

Even the permission Jekyll seeks from an unknowing young woman regarding his trolley car problem of needing to murder young ladies FOR SCIENCE is phrased in the kindest possible framing.  She doesn't know what she's telling Jekyll to go do.  

The title is probably a fairly good indicator of how seriously the creators seemed to take their own film.  It's fun, bloody, weird and a bit sexy.  I might have put it off had it not been a Halloween showing at Austin Film Society, and I'm glad I did get to see it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Halloween Watch: A Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Watched:  10/17/2022
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jacques Tourneur

After The Omen, Jamie requested something lighter for Halloween viewing.  When I read her the description and cast of A Comedy of Terrors (1963), we had our winner - and this was before I knew it was a Richard Matheson script and directed by the great Jacques Tourneur.

This movie feels distinctly like veteran Hollywood players dicking around in a comedic thriller/ horror film, and you're just sort of watching it happen.  The sense of comedy is *distinctly* of the 1960's variety (seemingly appealing to young adults who grew up on 1940's and 50's cartoons and earlier live-action screwball shorts like Three Stooges, I think), while also appealing to the faux literary pretentions of horror from its Poe-borrowing roots, and quoting of Shakespeare to get some credibility.  And, of course, well-endowed women around older men - the Hammer formula, but it's also just movies, I guess.*

The cast includes:  Vincent Price as a ne'er-do-well mortician, Peter Lorre as his blackmailed assistant, Boris Karloff as Price's senile father-in-law, Basil Rathbone as Price's landlord, lovely Joyce Jameson as Price's would-be-opera-star wife, and Joe E. Brown in a small role as a cemetery keeper.  Also credited:  Rhubarb the cat (who is in it throughout and plays absolutely no role) and Beverly Hills - who is some classic 1960's eye candy (think about how Bond uses women as props).

Was the movie funny?  Occasionally.  Shockingly, Rathbone kind of steals the show even as Price and Lorre had me at a low simmer of giggles all throughout.  Comedy is a weird beast in that it can age like old bread as readily as it ages like fine wine.  Some of it works great ten years later, some of it feels awkward and weird.  A lot of it you can see was fresh in the moment, but 60 years later, it's not quite as great.  Or funny.  

But I did enjoy the film, especially the second half.  

The plot is essentially that Price is an undertaker, a business that seems like it would do well no matter the economy, but he's clearly not the popular one in town, and rent is due, so he has to start making funerals happen - fast.  Comedy ensues.

This was, weirdly, roughly the plot of goof-around video JAL, a ragtag group of pals and I made Freshman year at UT.  So we were onto something, I guess (I played "the dude" and it's the worst part of the film, so you'll never see it.  Justin plays an FBI agent looking into the murders, and he's brilliant.).  

Anyway, if you're looking to see some classic horror stars have a grand time - maybe more than the one you're having watching the film - it's worth a view.  I thought it was all right and genuinely hilarious in several places.  It absolutely did the job for a Mid-October Halloween watch.  It's very AIP, but that's not a bug, it's a feature.

Frankly, I think Price's work a few years later in England fulfills the promise of what he's doing here even better.  But why not check this out?

*I'd argue 50's - 70's horror did this in a particular way so you weren't necessarily seeing the women as romantic interests for the leads, even if they were married it seemed companionate, but they were there nonetheless.  

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Halloween Watch: The Omen (1976)

Watched:  10/15/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Director:  Richard Donner

Mostly, I watched this at long last because I'm tired of SimonUK assuming I've seen this movie, and then being surprised I haven't seen it.  So here we are.  ARE YOU HAPPY, SIMON?

It's not that I thought the movie would be bad, but once I heard the premise, I basically figured I could guess what the movie would be, and I don't think I was too far off.  Of course I didn't know specifics, but lots of creepy stares from a kid and people dying badly around him as the parents try to figure it out...  check and check.  

But- here's the thing.  It's just really well done.  I mean, say what you will, but kudos to Richard Donner for crafting a movie that has you cheering for a five year old kid to get it.  That's storytelling, kids.

Living at the intersection of two horror genres, (a) the evil child genre and (b) Satanic Panic fodder, The Omen (1976) manages to package the two nicely, pulling in name actors who are past their heyday but can still deliver the goods.  I mean, it's a bit odd to cast a 60 year old Gregory Peck to play the husband to a 40-year-old Lee Remick as the parents of a 5 year old (in 1976.  Now... meh).  Fortunately, both are terrific, unravelling on separate timelines as they deal with the reality of what's happening to them.  And, man, Remick can do more with a look than most actors can with all their tools and tricks.  

The film also stars a young David Warner, and it was great to see him doing his thing in the wake of his passing.

I'm glad I saw it, even if the past 46 years have seen so much in the way of imitation, it may not feel terrifically fresh at this point on a first viewing.  But it also never veers away from the point that there's a 5-year-old bringing about the end of the world, and no magic doo-dad is going to miraculously fix the kid.  And the *scope* of the story was so much bigger and better realized than I was guessing.