Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Drac Watch: Renfield (2023)

Watched:  07/06/2023
Format:  Peacock
Viewing:  First
Director:  Chris McKay

I had actually intended to see Renfield (2023) in the theater, but it seemed like before I knew it was released, it was gone and being offered on VOD.  Here we are about 2.5 months out from the release date, and I saw it on Peacock.  So, we are in interesting times.

Longtime followers of the blog may know I'm a bit of a Universal Monsters fan, not least of which is 1931's Dracula.  I've seen a few other versions, read the novel, seen a stage play, etc...  I figure I've done my Drac homework.  And so it was that seeing a movie pitched as a goofy, dark comedy about the woes of being Dracula's familiar (Renfield from novel and the 1931 film, played by the great Dwight Frye) with no one less than Nic Cage as Dracula had a strong appeal.

The trailer featured Renfield (played by Nicholas Hoult, who I think people rightly say they dig), attending group therapy for folks in abusive relationships, which, in retrospect, is maybe not innately hilarious to the twitter generation.  So I expected the movie was going to be Renfield and Drac's odd-couple relationship with some gross-out gore humor.  And that's... partially correct.

Weirdly, Awkwafina, who had just come off of Shang-Chi, and twitter's flying attempt at a good canceling, was not featured in the ads at all.  And she's arguably as important to the movie as Hoult or Cage.  She plays a police officer in a cartoonishly corrupt New Orleans police department whose father has been murdered by the Lobo crime family - who are also not in the trailer but feature Ben Schwartz as a wormy heir-apparent and the always phenomenal Shohreh Aghdashloo.  

Here's the thing I did not know:  the movie is an action-comedy-horror film.  There's a whole plot about Renfield maybe wanting to be a better person and it leading to him performing heroic deeds/ teaming up with Awkwafina, and Dracula thinking he's been thinking too small.

If you're like me, and you find acts of horrific violence geared for comedic value to be, in fact, funny as @#$%, this may be a good reason to stream it on The Cock.  This movie realized a little CGI blood costs about the same as A LOT of CGI blood, and they went bonkers.  But, honestly, the best parts of this movie are:
  • the use of Dracula (1931) as a set-up and perfectly recreating scenes from the film
  • Nic Cage's unique (in the best way) version of Dracula - that kind of makes you wish someone thought to cast him as the center of the Dark Universe giant mess Universal pondered a few years back.  Like, you realize, this totally makes sense, even when he's having a goofy scene with Hoult.  
  • Shohreh Aghdashloo in general
  • Brandon Scott Jones is absolutely perfect as the therapist/ pastor.  Give that dude more work.
I wish I could say it all hangs together, but it feels weirdly rushed - like director Chris McKay decided all the scenes were too long, and so the movie never really breathes and nothing lasts long enough for a comedic beat even when funny stuff is happening.

The movie did get some advertising, but I can't figure out what the thinking was.  It's *possible* heavily referencing a 90-year-old movie was not the right choice for The Youths.  Or that the premise sold in the ads didn't appeal.   Or that Dracula is more of a concept these days than something people actively seek out (which is probably worth discussing).  I dunno.  But it does feel like 2023 audiences are incredibly finicky and aren't going to drop $17 or whatever on a ticket for a 90 minute movie unless it's going to be a slam dunk.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

JLC Watch: Prom Night (1980)

Watched:  03/30/2023
Format:  Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Director:  Paul Lynch

We decided to watch another Jamie Lee Curtis movie for a Friday party watch.  This one is a post-Halloween JLC, when I guess folks pegged her as a scream queen.  But this is JLC, so she never really screams, she just kind of kicks ass when she's drawn into the action.

I'd not previously seen Prom Night.  When Prom Night II was meme-ing a while back, I tried to watch it first, even though the two are utterly unrelated. At that time, the movie wasn't available for some reason, but now it is, and while a career retrospective of an actor like JLC who is constantly working is difficult, why not try to check off the boxes?  

The actual plot of the movie, if you break down what it is, is really good.  I liked it.  But, man, the execution was all over the place.  Some parts were really solid, and some just dragged on when the outcome of, say, a girl chased by a killer, is never in doubt.  At this point in the slasher cycle, I assume the audiences would know that?  I dunno.  I was 5.  

The set up is that a bunch of kids are playing in an empty building in 1972 and one of the little kids, while playing a tag-like game, falls from a window to her death.  Because kids are all sociopaths, they make a pact to never tell anyone they were there and the death is supposed to be tied to a child molester who escapes.

So, there's a lot going on in the first ten minutes.  

Flash forward to 8 years later as the kids are getting ready for prom, the death of the girl remembered on the anniversary - and maybe that molester guy has returned?  

Anyway - all of that is gold, and possibly culled from the story the movie is based on.  But, man, the movie itself is kind of weird and draggy from the set up to the last 30 minutes or so, which is really pretty good.  Consequently, there's 45 minutes of the world's boringest 20-somethings posing as teens, romantic rivalries that only kinda work, a Carrie-ish riff from a meangirl, and maybe too many characters who only ever raise up to the mark of mildly interesting.  

What you can see is that JLC kind of shines in the middle of all this without doing a lot.  She's just got star power, and is projecting waves of energy, which culminates in a dance sequence at the prom (JLC can dance, apparently!) and then when she takes on the killer.  

Leslie Nielsen is in this playing a straight role as JLC's dad and the principal of the school.  I have literally no idea why he is in this.  He only seems to have been there for a few days of shooting and gets top billing.  

If the movie could have been as consistently good as the beginning and end, I'd recommend it.  I can see why they went daffy with the sequel.  This movie is, in many ways, a tragedy dressed up as a horror film, and it makes everything kind of a bummer as the thing wraps.  But it's also not a police procedural, so I can see why it works as it does with high school kids at the center and cops at the periphery.


Saturday, March 18, 2023

Chiroptera Watch: Bats (1999)

Watched:  03/17/2023
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director:  Louis Morneau

So, I like a good movie about people being attacked by animals.  This is that.  It will not surprise you that Bats (1999) is about bats.  Attacking people.  And the people who are quite cross that they are being attacked by bats.  

Mutant bats, but bats.

So, anyway, it's about pretty much nothing else.  There's no real sub-text.  It's just a movie about trying to stop bats from eating you and the medley of challenges that arise in the pursuit of stopping bats.  No intentional analogies, but it IS about bats with a weaponized virus that is accidentally released, and threatens to doom humanity if not contained and.... ehhhhh.....  that reads pretty weird here in 2023.  

It borrows heavily from Alien and Aliens from sound FX to character choices.  The bats are shown in close-up, they are terrific puppets, and I have no notes.  Love the bats.  Well done.  The movie never lets itself think it needs sub-plots, so expect no romance.  But I do think they must have decided to do some green-screened insert shots in a few dialog bits, because it really seems like the lighting is weird and the characters are shot in a weird single mid-shot dead center of the frame dropping jokes or whatever.  Maybe the first go-round was too grim for what it was?

This isn't a criticism, but Lou Diamond Phillips was featured less prominently than I'd figured or hoped for - he's in it, but he's featured supporting. Our star is Dina Meyer, who was having a moment in Hollywood, but they chose to straighten her magnificent curls, and I am against that decision.  

she's lovely here, but just sort of bleeds into the wall-paper of 1990's young female white-girl actors

just look at those spectacular locks

Anyway - I actually liked the movie!  It did what I hoped it would do.  It didn't weigh itself down with misguided moralizing, and it set up an internal logic and stuck to it.  Animals got the upper hand for a while and the puppets were neat.

There's probably more to say about Dina Meyer as a star, but we'll save that for another day.  And certainly LDP, who is always good.  And there's a dissertation worth of discussion about the mononymous Leon playing "Jimmy" and the role of African-American males in horror and horror-adjacent films, especially in the late 90's as audiences expected tropes to be addressed.


Thursday, December 15, 2022

PodCast 225: "Gremlins" (1984)- a Holiday 2022 PodCast w/ Stuart and Ryan


Watched:  12/10/2022  
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing: Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Joe Dante

What's more festive than a pack of insane asexually reproducing hyper-intelligent chaos monsters on Christmas Eve? Nothing. We get stuck in the chimney of good cheer as we talk this 1980's favorite which has become an unlikely holiday staple. So, dunk yourself in water, grab a bite after 12, and turn off the lights. It's time to talk The Best Movie Audience Ever.



Gremlins Rag - Jerry Goldsmith

Holiday Selections 2022

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Halloween Double Feature: "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein" (1931), (1935)

Watched:  10/30 and 31/ 2022
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  James Whale

This is now my movie Halloween tradition.  If I haven't already watched them elsewhere, watch Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein to wrap up the spooky season and before my thoughts turn to sweet potatoes and turkey.  

I don't necessarily always watch with zero distractions - these are movies I've seen over a dozen times each.  I can put them on and do other things and look up for key scenes.  

Anyway, here's a podcast Simon and I did on the films.  

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Halloween Watch: The Blob (1958)

Watched:  10/30/2022
Format:  Criterion Channel
Viewing:  second?  third?
Director:  Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. / Russell S. Doughten Jr.

I am 95% certain Simon and I are podcasting the 1950's and 1980's version of this film next Halloween.  But here's some early thoughts.

  • Pictures for teens may actually provide a more realistic portrayal of cops than 95% of movies (ie: they walk in with a thousand assumptions, ignore all evidence in front of them, and there's a non-zero chance they're going to arrest the very people who were asking for help)
  • There are numerous lengthy and pointless scenes in this movie
  • Apparently just anyone can get to an air-raid siren
  • The instinct to shoot at a gelatinous monster is prevalent and wild
  • This movie is terrifying
  • The FX are absolutely insane.  I need to read up on how they did all of this.
  • That poor nurse.
  • In some ways, this is a movie about a little dog no one can keep track of.
  • In other ways, this is a movie about the world's shittiest first date.
  • The job of a teen girl in this movie is to silently stand there and be forgotten but absolutely be in scenes standing  there hoping Steve McQueen can do something.
  • Everyone in this town shows up for midnight movies.  Young, old, rich, poor.
  • Weird flex to predict global warming, movie
Anyway, love The Blob.  So good.

Hammer Horror Halloween Watch: Lust for a Vampire (1971)

Watched:  10/30/2022
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Jimmy Sangster

So, way back when I was first getting familiar with Hammer, I watched Lust For a Vampire (1971), and wound up with one of those absolutely wild experiences you get once in a while on the internet.  Admittedly, I'd not *really* been watching the movie - I was online and just watching the movie with one eye and I dashed off a jokey, jerky write-up.  But I was so much not paying attention that I mistook a completely different actor for Christopher Lee, which should tell you how much I was *not* watching.  

Within 24 hours, actor Judy Jarvis (nee Matheson) - who plays Amanda McBride in the film - spotted the review and *rightfully* called me out.  My review was stupid.  I'm lazy.  It happens.  But it was also a reminder that I should actually pay attention to a movie and give it a fair shake if I'm going to criticize the film as a viewer.  And real people do work on these films.

I promised Judy Jarvis I would rewatch the film, but, honestly, that's a *lot* of pressure.  Now I didn't want to embarrass myself if Judy Jarvis was still patrolling the internet, and I absolutely wanted to give the movie a fair shake this time.

Suffice to say, I am now more familiar with Hammer, what was going on in 1970's British film, and know how to watch these movies from a better perspective.  I've read Carmilla and become more aware of what Hammer was doing with the Karnsteins (a family of vampires they employed as Dracula wound down and based on the novel Carmilla).

I am not just saying this:  I loved the movie this time.  

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Pumpkin Carving Watch: The Haunting (1963)

Watched:  10/29/2022
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Robert Wise

Every year, we carve a couple of Jack-o-Lanterns and this year is no exception.  And when we carve pumpkins, we put on a movie we know well so we only have to partially watch.  The Haunting (1963) was Jamie's suggestion for this year's carving.

It's been a little bit since I watched this Halloween favorite, and, dammit, is this movie good.  Having now read the novel upon which it is based, it's even better.  But what is in the movie has always been there, so take off your "spooky movies didn't get sophisticated until the 1970's" glasses and soak it in.

I like vampire movies, werewolf movies, etc...  I get the actual willies from haunted house movies and Michael Meyers.  Probably because The Shape is basically a stabby, unknowable ghost.  

Anyway - borrowing heavily from Shirley Jackson's text, leaning on stellar performances across the cast and Wise's smart direction and some off-kilter/ really creative camera and lighting work, it's just a delight to watch.  When I'm not gritting my teeth.  

Here's the jack-o-lanterns, by the way.  Jamie used a cookie cutter and hammer to get her pumpkin's eyes done.  I think it looks cool!

PodCast 220: "Halloween Trilogy" (2018, 2021, 2022) - a Halloween PodCast w/ MRSHL and Ryan

Watched:  10/20 and 10/22/2022
Format:  HBOmax and Peacock
Viewing:   Second/ First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  David Gordon Green

To wrap up Halloween 2022, Marshall and Ryan take on the more recent trilogy of sequels based upon John Carpenter's 1970's ground-breaking classic, that spanned 2018-2022. We drive relentlessly through three movies, slashing our way through narrative complexity, taking down the multitude of ideas presented, slaying any questions about what the movie is trying to do, and staring into the abyss as we try to figure out what, exactly, is staring back.



Halloween Theme - John Carpenter 
Halloween Ends - John Carpenter 

Halloween 2022 Playlist

All Halloween and Horror PodCasts

Halloween Watch Party Watch: House of Dracula (1945)

Watched:  10/28/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Erle C. Kenton

I'd seen this before and couldn't really remember it.  But when I saw "Hunchback" on the poster, I was like "oh, yeah.  This one."  

Dracula (John Carradine) goes to a Dr. Edelman trying to figure out if he can be "cured".  Edelman being a movie scientist/ doctor is like "why not?"  The same day, frikkin' Larry Talbot shows up *also* looking to be cured of being the Wolfman.  And in the cave below the house?  Frankenstein's monster.  Because why not?  

Whether Drac was serious or not about his cure and whether he was overwhelmed by his own innate evil or not is never explained as he throws the plan out the window to get un-vamped in exchange for trying to turn one of the two nurses into a new bride.  Along the way, Dracula turns the doctor into a sort of quasi-vampire.  Shenanigans ensue.

We have to talk about Nina.

Look, this whole movie is not about Nina, but she's in, like, 1/3rd to 1/2 of the shots the movie.  And I do not know why.  She's set up as a major character, but is not.  She's just... there.

Nina (Jane Adams), the dutiful nurse to Dr. Edelmann, is the poster-specified a hunchback, which is mentioned like once, but otherwise goes unremarked upon.  So she's, visually, always there in bright white nurse-gear and trying to be helpful and has an obvious difference.  

Actress Jane Adams was not a hunchback, and whatever prosthetic they put on her seemed to really bend her over and make her arms hang a certain way.  The character has not a negative bone in her body.  She's sweet and helpful and literally everything points to things working out well for Nina.  Like, they introduce a potential cure for Nina's bone difference - which she gives up to help the frikkin' Wolfman instead.  That's Nina!  Always helpful.  

But at the movie's climax, Nina is just thrown in a pit to her death as a bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Which...  weird flex to suddenly go dark in a movie that feels very much aimed at kids.  

I have no ideas or no theories as to what happened here.  Was there supposed to be another fate for Nina?  Was Nina always doomed?  Was she accidentally in more of the movie than they intended thus drawing focus?  Why take a super cute actress and suggest she needs work and then bump her off with her storyline unresolved?  

It's a mystery wrapped in an enigma and smothered in secret sauce.  But what reading I did do tells me that this movie was on a conveyor belt through pre-production to post-production and while Adams had a swell time working on it, the veteran actors were less than impressed with the industrial approach to movie making that they compared to how TV would be made in a few short years.

Anyway - Nina going down into the pit will now haunt me forever.  

Adams' career in film and TV was not terribly long.  She showed up in 1942 and sort of petered out in the 1950's, finishing with an appearance on The Adventures of Superman in 1953.  It looks like she did a lot of B's, monster and cowboy movies.  She was kind of short for Hollywood, I guess, at 5'3" (which doesn't seem that short), but she attributed that to how she wound up in less than glam-girl roles.

We think she's peachy.

So here's Jane Adams without her prosthetic.  Lovely girl.  Not exactly in the Dwight Fry in weird make-up mode.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Hammer Watch: Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971)

Watched:  10/26/2022
Format:  AFS Cinema
Viewing: First
Director:  Seth Holt/ Michael Carreras

Well.  This was 40 minutes of movie stretched out over 96 minutes.  

I'll defend the last 30 or so minutes of Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971), but the first hour of the film is weirdly plodding for a Hammer, with long stretches of the movie that feel like filler to hit an unnecessarily long run time.  This whole thing could have been 70 minutes and lost nothing.  

Example:  We see 85% of the moments leading up to an Egyptologist's demise and can infer he dies off-frame.  It's not great, but a workman-like scene.  We then then watch Our Hero look for the guy for what has to be a full 2 minutes of screen time, retracing the path we just saw just seconds before.  Look -  all we needed was Our Hero walking up on the dead body and showing his horror and revulsion.  That's like 10-15 seconds, easy-peasy.  

So, yeah, it's a weird movie and falls in a lot of traps I usually associate with indie-schlocky levels of movie-making where there's pressure to reach a minimum runtime and no one working on the movie understands pacing or narrative economy.  This is a movie made by actual professionals from a real studio.  It's weird.  When you see the slow-moving dad, partially paralyzed from mummy-attack, realize his daughter on the 3rd floor is in danger and he rushes to help her from the basement, I let out an audible groan.  We're going to see a lot of awkward stair climbing.  

What the film does have going for it is Valerie Leon, but YMMV here.  She's not an amazing actor, but she ably fills the role of Hammer lead.  

Valerie Leon takes a hard look at herself

Stylistically, the film has one foot in modern 1971 and another in pre-WWII movies of mummies and even archaeology.  But throws in odd bits like Our Hero's car is an MG TA from the 1930's, I believe, while keeping the wardrobe for the young leads hip and modern.  

The plot, based upon a Bram Stoker horror novel with which I am unfamiliar, does inform how we wound up with so much reincarnation jazz in mummy films starting with Karloff.  On the very moment of discovery of a sarcophagus containing a perfectly preserved Egyptian queen/ priestess, an archaeologist's daughter is born and his wife dies in childbirth in London.  As she approaches her birthday (they never say which one...) it seems the daughter, who exactly resembles the "mummy", is becoming possessed by her. 

The movie becomes a plodding "gotta catch 'em all" of the artifacts of the queen, scattered across London in the homes of the archaeologist's team - who don't stay in touch.  Why no one destroyed the artifacts is never stated.  Or why they didn't, like, put the in a vault or mail them to relatives or basically do anything to actually stop this... never comes up.  

There's also a Dr. Pretorious-type imported from Bride of Frankenstein in James Villiers' Corbeck.  It's such an obvious swipe, it's kind of adorable.  And aside from Leon's wardrobe, the best part of the film.

I suspect Hammer probably knew this movie wasn't great, but they had also hired a down-on-his-luck Seth Holt to direct, and the guy died ON SET the last week of filming.  They soldiered on and made a movie, but - man.  This is not good.  It's not even "fine".  It's just mind-numbingly dull for vast stretches and it absolutely didn't have to be.  There's plenty to talk about vis-a-vis how it relates to modern mummy films, old mummy films, the Hammer canon, etc...  but I can't do it.  

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Vincent Watch: The Fly (1958)

Watched:  10/25/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  FIRST
Director:  Kurt Neuman

A while back I figured out I had never seen The Fly (1958).  Whatever I saw - which was in pieces on TV - was Return of the Fly from the following year.  Both star Vincent Price. Look, I'm not always great at knowing what I did and did not do.

I was inclined to check the movie out anyway, but October 25th marked the 29th anniversary of the passing of Vincent Price, add in Halloween shenanigans and it seemed like the time to watch it.

Look, I loved this movie.  Great cast, great story, and understood horror on a much deeper level than "oooo!  a scary monster!".  Like, there's body horror, psychological horror, existential horror...  you can see why Cronenberg was like "I have an idea of how to re-do this".

If you've lived in the world, you know "Heeeeeelllp meeeeeee!"  And I'd seen the clip on YouTube.

All this to say, this movie is as dark as anything I've seen from this era, and I've seen piles of post-1955 noir.  You don't get much more f'd up than a man-fly or fly-man.  Or a woman having to flatten her own husband to paste.

The film stars Price in a POV role as the brother to the scientist who becomes The Fly, who is played by Felix Leiter himself, David Hedison.  Patricia Owens didn't have a huge career, but she's amazing as the wife who had to learn to work an industrial press in a pinch.  Herbert Marshall as the Inspector, and a surprise appearance by Kathleen Freeman as a domestic who has no idea what is going on.

I knew Stuart was all in on this movie, so I'm glad he hyped it for me to finally get around to it.  It's a couple levels better than what I was expecting, which was William Castle adjacent.  But thought and ideas went into this, and not just schlocky fun.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

PodCast 218: "Near Dark" (1987) - a Halloween PodCast w/ SimonUK and Ryan

Watched:  09/26/2022
Format:  DVD
Viewing: Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Kathryn Bigelow

SimonUK and Ryan head west to dig up a cult classic! It's a 1980's take on vampires that doesn't suck! This film helped pivot vampires into something other than romantic, well-dressed folk and gave us hard-travelling vagabonds who might just treat you like a Capri Sun pouch.



Rain in the Third House - Tangerine Dream, Near Dark OST 
Mae's Transformation - Tangerine Dream, Near Dark OST 

Halloween 2022

Halloween and Horror - All

Vampire d'Halloween Watch: Fascination (1979)

Watched:  10/22/2022
Format:  Criterion Channel
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jean Rollin

I don't know the work of Jean Rollin, but I understand more cultured folks will.  Something to look into.  His imdb looks like horror and thrillers, so, sure.

This film is mostly mood in the best way.  I think some of y'all like JAL might dig it if you haven't seen it.  It's essentially a well telegraphed vampire movie with the languid pace of Daughters of Darkness that has some astounding moments that alone are worth checking the movie out for.  

I enjoyed it, but it's mostly paper thin when you want to discuss the plot, which is a young criminal takes the gold he and his compatriots stole and hides out in a mansion which is inhabited by two young, attractive women but no servants or anything.  He tries to sort out what is happening, has sex with one of them and dodges the gang of crooks.  Also, there's a reunion of more attractive young women.

I dunno.  Give it a shot. It has some stunning visuals and never overextends its reach as a lovely, moody bit of horror with a curious spin on the vampire idea.

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. 

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.  

Saturday, October 15, 2022

PodCast 216: "Cat People" (1942) and (1982) - a Halloween PodCast w/ SimonUK and Ryan

Watched:  09/06/2022
Format:  Amazon 
Viewing:  Third/ First
Decade:  1940's/ 1980's
Director:  Jacques Tourneur / Paul Scharader

SimonUK and Ryan cover both the 1942 and 1982 versions of a story sure to instill cat scratch fever. Our curiosity doesn't kill us as we check out two films, each a classic in its own way, as relevant meow as they were then! Join us as we compare and contrast, and ponder workplace safety around werebeasts!



Main Title From Cat PeopleConstantin Bakaleinikoff conducted Roy Webb's score
Cat People (Putting Out Fire) - David Bowie & Georgio Moroder

Halloween 2022 Playlist

All Halloween and Horror

Watch Party Watch: The Black Cat (1934)

Watched:  10/14/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  third?
Director:  Edgar G. Ulmer

The Black Cat (1934) imho is a Universal Horror A-Lister that rides the Halloween movie bench because of the lack of "monsters" within the film.  But it speaks much more to where some great horror would come from over the years than, say, Frankenstein, which is it's own genre.  You can feel the echoes of this film in many a future Corman and Hammer movies about deranged dudes with a beef and essentially borrowing from the general world view of Edgar Allen Poe.  

Starring both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, with amazing set design, cinematography, and performances from our leads - both vying for who is the more watchable weirdo - it's a really fun, thrilling watch.  It's also a glimpse into what was possible in a Pre-Code horror/ thriller world with content I'm not sure would have been in a movie by 1941.  But then you look at RKO horror, and, man, who knows?  But it's a movie with mostly uncomfortable thoughts more than anything on screen.  

Karloff's character is clearly way past sociopathic, having sold out his own people during WWI and returned to Austria - having woo'd and won Lugosi's wife (who believed Bela dead).  Bela has finally left prison after being captured during the war and wants revenge - and his daughter if she's there.  A dopey American couple gets mixed up in it all, and unfortunately for them, the woman is the quite fetching Jacqueline Wells (better known as Julie Bishop).  And because everyone here is a psycho, she becomes the MacGuffin.  

Look, this movie has Bauhaus architecture, Satanic cults, hypnosis drugs that go nowhere, and an unfounded and unexplained fear of kitties.  And cat murder that goes uncommented upon.  It's absolutely wild.  And not just for Karloff's extremely comfortable-looking wardrobe of dressing gowns and silky robes.  

The runtime is like 70 minutes, so it moves along at a rocket clip, so it never gets boring and I highly recommend seeing it if you've never checked it out.  If nothing else, it's a lot of weird, spooky fun.