Saturday, October 7, 2023

Hallo-Watch: Beetlejuice (1998)

Watched:  10/06/20230
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Burton

Jamie had her covid shot Thursday, which knocked her on her ass through about 7:00 on Friday.  In our house the rule is the sick person selects what we watch until they're so sick they don't care.  

Look, there's nothing new to be said about this movie in 2023.  I like it!  It's now it's own iconic thing.  I like the whole cast, especially Catherine O'Hara.  It's a hoot.  And it does show that Tim Burton's stunt casting is actually quite brilliant, as is Michael Keaton, full stop.

Anyway, you know it, and I assume love it.  I'm glad to get a viewing in before the sequel shows up next year (I am skeptical but willing to be surprised.).  

The only thing to really discuss today is that I actually like the deconstructed exterior version of the house as much or more than the original, but would keep the interiors the way they were before the Deetzes moved in.  

Hallo-Watch: Disney's Haunted Mansion (2023)

Watched:  10/05/2023
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Justin Simien

So, like many-a-product of the second half of the 20th century, I have a fondness for the Disney Parks and, especially, The Haunted Mansion ride.  I can easily recall my first time on the thing, sometime around 4th grade, and riding in a "doombuggy" with The Admiral and having a grand old time (core memory, as the kids say).  Since, I've been to Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom, and have no preference for which is which.  Both have excellent Haunted Mansion rides.  So, yeah, I'm predisposed on this IP.

Following the crazy success of making a story and movie around the ride and putting it in theaters with Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney tried to do this again a few ways.  Though, I have no idea how there is not a Space Mountain movie  I mean, come on.  But they did previously try a different Haunted Mansion movie starring no less than Eddie Murphy, and that movie did - fine at the box office.  It is exactly what you think a 2003 attempt at such a thing might be.  I think.  At least the first fifteen minutes is utterly predictable, unfunny and I didn't make it further than those first fifteen minutes before giving up.  But this post isn't about that movie.

There's also a 2021 Disney+ direct Muppets Haunted Mansion thing, which is cute and understands the ride and Halloween, plus Muppet humor.  And it has Taraji P. Henson, so it has my vote.  

Hope for box office springs eternal, and while Disney only made, like, $180 million on the first movie, meaning it wasn't the massive, unbelievable success of Johnny Depp playing Keith Richards in a hat, they decided to go again for 2023.  And, friends, Disney's Haunted Mansion (2023) absolutely tanked.  It made only $114 million on a budget much higher that that.  And that difference you're noticing between the 2003 and 2023 box office does not account for inflation.  So, yeah.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Halloween Watch Party - Coming this Friday

Coming this Friday:  a WATCH PARTY

But I am not telling you what we're watching.  You just have to trust.  Which, I mean, don't.

Day:  10/06/2023
Time:  8:30 Central/ 6:30 Pacific
Service:  Amazon Streaming/ Watch Party
Cost:  No more than $4

(link live 10 minutes prior to show)

PodCast 254: "Day Of The Dead" (1985) - Halloween 2023 w/ SimonUK and Ryan

Watched:  08/16/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing: First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  George Romero

SimonUK and Ryan are back from the grave and have holed up to bring you their take on the third of the Romero zombie trilogy. We ponder cave-dwelling, budget alterations, and who you want to throw in with when things go south.



Day of the Dead Main Titles - John Harrison

Signal Watch Halloween and Horror Playlist

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Hallow-Watch: Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)

Watched:  10/02/2023
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Ernest Dickerson

I didn't have HBO during most of the years when Tales From the Crypt was on television, so I was aware of the show, but didn't catch it very often.  In general, I wasn't really wired for it at the time (I wasn't into horror), but in 1995, I was sort of going to see everything that came out.  

My memory of the movie is that it's... fine.  It seems like maybe it could have been better, and a 90 minute run-time, even with Crypt Keeper book-ends, was still maybe a bit much and at some point, you feel like you get it, and this could have been 75 or 80 minutes.  The show was usually 30+ minutes, so you're essentially doing tight stories built on ironic twists, the hand of fate, etc...  the kind of stuff you may be familiar with from any number of anthology shows that preceded it.

Here, they needed to tell a longer story, and so we get a bit of an actioner on top of the horror, and a larger cast.  And what a cast!  How weird.

I only really remembered Billy Zane, but we also have a very young Jada Pinkett (pre-Smith), Thomas Haden Church, CCH Pounder, William Sadler, Dick Miller, Charles Fleischer, Brenda Bakke and Traci Bingham is in there somewhere as a "Party Babe".  It seems like the studio was like "hey, we're doing a Tales from the Crypt movie, and-" and everyone said "yes!".

The basic set-up is that William Sadler plays a guy on the run from an hilarious Billy Zane, who is a sort of Demon-guy.  Sadler is protecting "the key" which will turn Earth back to a pre-"let there be light" state and release demons and darkness onto the world.  He's trapped in a hotel (they keep calling a motel) built out of an old church along with the employees and residents of the motel, as well as some cops.

You've seen similar before as the cast bickers and fights and has their own little arcs and desires, which are exploited by Zane who uses their inner-most desires to get inside their heads and physically into the motel.  And he's funny and charming as he does so.

The movie takes place in just a few locations over a single night, which helps wrangle the story, characters and budget.  And makes for good horror-stuff.

There's a sort of post-80's/ we've-seen-Evil Dead 2 approach to some of it, and it's a pleasure to see so much done with puppets, creature design and practical FX.  The demons running around are given animal-like legs I can't believe the actors could walk on, but they even climb stairs.  There's some gore, but it's not, like, endless.  It's more of a punchline and tone setting.

All-in-all, it's a fun movie.  I'm not sure the format of Tales from the Crypt begs for a movie-length treatment, but it did make me think - there's no reason Max couldn't revive this show.  Horror does great, in general, and it would be terrific to see stuff that relies on the sorts of plot twists and ghoulish morality tales that made TV horror and sci-fi work for decades.  I don't know how much more I can get from another zombie-based TV show taking place in a world where they've never seen a zombie TV show before.

And, of course, it's kinda nice to have the Crypt Keeper making fun of the proceedings and the horrible fates of the characters instead of insisting this should all be taken very seriously, indeed.  I'm a firm believer in the horror-host, from Elvira to Crypt Keeper to Count Floyd.  We need a horror host we can all rally around, and who better?  Well, Elvira, but I think she hung up her dagger belt.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Pre-Code Watch: Thirteen Women (1932)

Watched:  10/01/2023
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  George Archainbaud

So, I became aware of this movie via the You Must Remember This podcast during an episode discussing the ill-fated Peg Entwistle, the actress who famously threw herself from the H in the "Hollywood" sign when her career stalled.  I was also aware this was one of several pre-Thin Man films in which Myrna Loy (praise be her name) appears as an Asian character/ person of mixed heritage.*

It's a tight hour-long movie, and more thriller than horror, although there's quasi/ possibly supernatural elements.  

The movie was only semi-available for a while, then in the Internet Archive and other places in pieces, but now it's at Criterion and looks and sounds terrific.

Here's your story:  a group of former sorority pals are still in touch, writing chain letters (this is 1932 and facebook is not a thing).  At some point, one of them decided to start reaching out to a famed Yogi/ Swami to get her horoscope, and suggested all of the girls do the same.  But as the horoscopes trickle in, they predict death and chaos.  We see one of the girls, a sister-act circus acrobat, learn someone will die in her act, and she immediately drops her sister to her death, and goes mad.  Entwistle's characters kills her husband with a knife, I believe, and she's out of her only performance well before the half-way mark.

As more members of the friend circle are picked off, we learn there's a mysterious and exotic beauty (Myrna Loy) paired with the Swami, but she's pulling the strings using some form of hypnosis.

It's a fascinating, exploitative film relying on an absurd premise and set-up.  featuring a largely female cast - thrusting Irene Dunne into the lead as a widower who is neither overly skeptical nor biting on the power of the stars hook, line and sinker.  It's also kind of sexy in that pre-Code manner of suggesting lots of sex off-screen as Loy's character bewitches dudes who are useful to her.  

The only real mystery is the "why" of the murders and chaos.  And, as it turns out, we never really, fully find out.  But it seems the sorority had been responsible for making Loy's life hell at the school, and forced her to leave after working and scraping to get in and afford it.  A "half-caste", she's half "Hindu" and half-Anglo, and fits in with neither.  Although the movie's most eye-poppingly racist moment isn't the reveal that the women we've been so worried about were maybe terrible people in college.  It's when the cop helping them out describes Loy's character's ethnicity.  

The movie's brief run-time means we don't get to all 13 women, but that would probably feel repetitive as a film, anyway.  It also gets to the point and wraps up within seconds.  

Anyway - it's a product of it's time, but could be remade now with no problem.  

I looked into the book it's based on, and it sounds like an absolutely crazy ride.  I may check it out.

*this is Pre-Code, but nonetheless, implying or indicating romantic or sexual relations between people of different ethnicities was frowned upon (I know) unless the actors were both white and one was playing a different race (I KNOW).  It's part of how you wind up decades later with John Wayne as Ghengis Khan