Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Sunday, July 22, 2018
Monday, June 11, 2018
Format: Amazon Streaming
Lately I've been having an ongoing conversation with Stuart about the tendency of critics to use the phrases "it's not really a horror film" or "but it's good" in discussing the horror genre when they want to get folks to at least consider viewing something made as a horror movie. This thinking and talk offends the horror purists, but as someone who tends to think of the endless line of cheapo slasher flicks that lined the walls of video stores during his formative years - I kinda get it. I understand the coded message: this is horror, but it's not going to just make you queasy and wonder why this is supposed to be a good way to spend 90 - 120 minutes of your life.
I'm of the firm belief that horror is a pretty good indicator that nobody goes to the movies for the same reasons (I usually get very little from horror, but I will have to be carried into a Katherine Heigl RomCom on one of those Silence of the Lambs dolleys). Still, this does make me think a bit about how I talk about horror films - what I like and don't.
During the course of the chat, Stuart was stunned to learn somehow I'd never seen The Fog (1980), and I had no real reason I hadn't seen it and one convincing Adrienne Barbeau to suggest I absolutely *should* see The Fog. It's not like I don't dig John Carpenter's other films I've watched - so I broke it up over a couple of nights as I was winding down in Bozeman.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
For about two decades I'd intended to see this movie, and somehow just never got around to it. I'd guess this is partly because I had no idea why I was supposed to see this movie. People would just say "you've never seen The Wicker Man?" and I'd say I hadn't, and they'd laugh knowingly and tell me to add it to my queue.
I should pause here and point out - apparently I never ask what a movie is about when being given a recommendation. You'd think I'd care more.
Friday evening, I swung by Vulcan Video on my way home and, after some deliberation, selected this movie out of the sea of titles. Saturday night Jamie and I stayed in, and while I'd planned to watch The Wicker Man (1973) after she went to bed, we wound up dropping it in the player and watching it together.
Suffice it to say, I now know what The Wicker Man is about, and I get why it has a reputation as a bit of must-see cult cinema in The States, and - I guess - a bit more of a reputation in the UK. It also was not what I'd call Jamie's cup of tea, and I suppose she'll be picking the next three or four movies we watch together.
The timing is a bit odd. I'm currently wrapping up a multi-hour/ multi-part series from the You Must Remember This Podcast, something called "Charles Manson's Hollywood". I'll talk more about that series and the podcast in a future post, but I've spent the past week or so thinking a lot about the hippie and counter-culture scene of the 60's that bled into the 1970's of late, and the bending of free-love into very traditional gender roles, exploration of the psyche via psychedelics and non-Judeo-Christian religion, communal utopianism - and how most of that collapsed in on itself, sometimes ending in violence... Well, you can see how I might have drawn some parallels here.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Editor's Note (12/5/2016): Sometimes we sort of half-watch a movie while we're on our computer, and sometimes we aren't paying correct attention. This has, from time to time, meant that we've totally misunderstood plot-points, found movies unengaging, etc...
I was a bit embarrassed to learn from someone via twitter that, despite the fact I thought Christopher Lee was in this movie, he is not. Which is weird. I like Christopher Lee. I know who he is. And I thought it extremely odd he was so lightly used in this film (see below). Which puts me in a bit of a position. What did I watch?
The actor in question is Mike Raven, who bears a passing resemblance to Mr. Lee, especially in facial hair. I'm now genuinely feeling like I did not give the movie a fair chance and may need to give it a whirl again to reconsider. When I am wrong, I am wrong, and I try to be open to that idea, especially when I'm so rudely dismissive to a film, book, what-have-you.
Thanks to Judy Jarvis for the correction.
So, I hated this movie.
I was grabbing a few movies at Vulcan and was looking for Vampire Circus (which they literally only had on VHS, so...) or another Ingrid Pitt movie in their Hammer section and saw they had this sequel, and figured "ah, what the hell. Why not?" And, why not?, indeed.
I'd argue Lust for a Vampire (1971) is boring, overly long, devoid of even psychological drama, has dull leads, and is a poor successor to it's predecessor, The Vampire Lovers. That movie was based on a novel with a few centuries under its belt, and, yeah, this was a fresh story about the same vampire coming back to life and being put in a girls' school. But they replaced Ingrid Pitt as the lead character, which I was willing to accept, and forgot to not just write scene after boring scene where nothing happens.
So, Lust for a Vampire (1971), has some goofy love story where an author falls for Carmilla and so maneuvers his way into teaching at her girls' school where... I dunno. It doesn't matter. Even the sex scenes are awkward and boring, and the vampire scenes don't really exist. Just turning over bodies to see puncture wounds. AND, unbelievably, it features Christopher Lee and he's basically in a supporting role anyone could have filled in. Maybe he was just hanging around?
Saturday, November 26, 2016
I forgot to write this one up when we watched it a while back. It happens.
For a long time I thought the first MST3K episode I'd ever seen was Bride of the Monster, the Bela Lugosi-starring picture by Ed Wood with Lugosi playing a mad scientist living in a spooky old house with a slow-witted assistant and pursued by an eager girl reporter out to prove her mettle. But I actually remembered one of the jokes from the first time I saw MST3K, and as I've subsequently watched Bride of the Monster more than once, I've realized: nope, that joke wasn't used with that film.
So, I have very particular memories of the day I first saw MST3K which helped me track down the correct episode.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Ah. Okay. So.
I had a free rental for some reason at Vulcan Video, so I wanted to continue down the path of watching some additional Hammer Horror. I was vaguely aware of the movie The Vampire Lovers (1970), maybe from a suggestion from one of you fine people. I don't know. What I did know was that the Hammer aficionados have a warm spot in their hearts for Ingrid Pitt, and this one was heavily featuring Ms. Pitt, so who was I to not watch this movie?
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.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Watching a Frankenstein/ Bride of Frankenstein (1935) double-bill has become my personal Halloween tradition. I'd already watched Frankenstein this year, and so needed to work in Bride of, which has been tough with the Cubs actually making it into the World Series. I mean, usually by early October, I'm kinda done with baseball and my football watching is contained to Saturdays.
But, what would Halloween even be (for me) without The Bride of Frankenstein? I don't even want to know.
The movie remains horrific, beautiful, eerie, hilarious. Everything I'd want in a single movie, and everything I like about the holiday.
Here's to Mr. Whale and company, and everything that makes this one of my favorite films.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
After reading The Haunting of Hill House, one or two of you (I know Max was one) suggested I check out more of Shirley Jackson's work. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) was the lead recommendation, and as I'd really liked the other novel, when October rolled in, I selected it as my Halloween read.
That may or may not have been the best selection specifically for Halloween as it's not necessarily the stuff of the monsters and pumpkins and ghosts I usually associate with the holiday, but everyone does it differently. Rather, the closest comparison I could draw would be along the lines of Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte or Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. But even those are a far cry from this book.
Still, depending on how one were to read it - this book is horror. Not the creeping uncanny spirits of a ghost tale, or even the realization that the normal is face-to-face with the supernatural. It's the reader wrestling with an untrustworthy narrator and a creeping descent into something not necessarily sinister but tragic and mad.
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 evening, SimonUK and I went to an Alamo Rolling Roadshow presentation of An American Werewolf in London (1981) - one of Si's top movies (like, he would watch this every day if you let him), and certainly one of my favorite films. It's just fun, chaotic, werewolf-laden mayhem with a nice bit of really dark humor winding through it. And, of course, Jenny Agutter.
I'm pretty sure I've written this movie up before, so no real point in doing so again.
The Rolling Roadshow is a series The Alamo Drafthouse offers wherein they bring an inflatable screen to an outdoors location and show a film. They do lots of types of screenings from themed-location screenings (Jaws on the water) to showing kids' movies in the park for the whole family. Tonight's theme was Halloween Horror/ tonight was the Super Hunter's Moon - a very bright full moon. So: werewolves.
Si and I arrived a bit early, and Simon got a nice fellow to take our picture.
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.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
My Halloween viewing is a little slowed by the arrival of Luke Cage on Netflix, but Sunday night TCM presented a Frankenstein Triple Feature. They'll be showing Frank movies all October on Sundays (and Christopher Lee, star of the month on TCM, will be Mondays, so check for Hammer Horror).
This year marks the 85th Anniversary of the release of James Whale's screen classic, Frankenstein (1931). So, I appreciate the Franken-centric approach to Halloween that TCM is going for all month long.
Turner Classic kicked it off right with the three Frankenstein pictures that defined the monster and mad scientists for the 20th and early 21st Centuries. They showed the Universal movies that started with the 1931 Universal feature, Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff as "The Monster". Then, of course, TCM went right into Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein.*
I've seen Frankenstein numerous times since first watching the film back in college, and I've written on the topic often enough that I've given Frankenstein it's own tag on the site. I'm a fan, and I watch the movie at some point every October.
Saturday, October 1, 2016
|so, not even the poster copy writer watched this movie past the two minute mark|
Sometimes you stumble onto greatness. Or, you know, stumble onto... something.
TCM Underground is the late-shift at Turner Classic Movies, given a two-movie window starting at 2:00 AM Eastern on Saturday nights. I don't watch it all that often, but have been known to check it out from time to time.
Last week, after wrapping up Vampyros Lesbos, I was flipping channels and was curious about the title and then the description of Night Train to Terror (1985). Something about "God and Satan play chess with the lives of mortals while on a train." I mean - that's going to be worth investigating no matter what.
Add in some surprise casting including Cameron Mitchell, Richard Moll and John Phillip Law, and you're in for a treat!