Halloween – October 31

A movie doesn’t have to be good to have a good trailer.

A movie with a great concept doesn’t have to be good- in fact there are many, many films that have great concepts or a lot of heart but don’t quite work.

I have always found potential in movies that probably didn’t deserve my affection – and sometimes that potential has been enough for me to pronounce a movie awesome. In fact some years ago an anonymous comment claiming to be from someone I had known in high school derided me for championing Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, as the person had apparently just seen it and it “sux”.

I did champion that movie a lot in my youth (saw it 3 times in the theater!) and I’m looking forward to the Director’s Cut (out on Blu from Scream Factory- if anyone is worried about what to get me for Christmas). Now I don’t really think of Nightbreed as a horror film, it is more a dark fantasy movie.

There is something fantastical about a lot of the trappings of Halloween. Ghost stories, spooky decorations, haunted houses…

I don’t mean the purported haunted house down the street with the overgrown yard and the curtained windows, or the infamous murder houses that become part of urban legends.

I mean Haunts, the professional (and pro-am) businesses that open every October, do business, and then disappear for a year.

When I was a kid, Haunts were something kids did- some guy in a Dracula cape with plastic fangs looming out of the shadows to “blah!” at you, or a rotting hand loudly hissing with hydraulics reaching through a plastic grate. The modern Haunts are much bigger deals. There is the Hollywood polish of Universal Studio’s PG-13 mazes and “scare-actors” leaping about in pig masks with chainsaws, or the more hard-R rated grand guignol splatterfests held in various downtown locations, or the living theater-type immersive hauntings… and even back-yard haunts that harken back to my youthful memories of plastic fangs and store-bought decorations writ large.

People seek out this fear, this electrical sort of excitement, and do so every year. They pay for it.

And in The Houses October Built, I’m guessing they pay for it.

I have read no good reviews of The Houses October Built. In fact, most are pretty dismissive of the movie as a whole.

I might never see the movie- but the trailer, that spooky masked girl, the ring of figures outside the Winnebago- that will stay with me.

I love the idea of this movie. There is something sinister, something scary, and something unnatural about seeking the “fun” fear of harmless haunts. And if you search too hard for the “ultimate” scare, something truly frightening will find you.

I will watch it if it shows up on Netflix, even if it is a Found Footage (bleh) movie.

Happy Halloween- I hope you find what you are looking for…

Halloween Countdown – October 30

From the first snap of the flashbulb and its mosquito-whine noise…

There are so many great shots in this movie- from the tracking shot behind the swing, to the savage sunset, to the weird corpse sculpture… I don’t even mind that the last shot of the movie is in the trailer.

No horror film has stuck with me the way The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has.

And this is a terrific trailer, using sound so deftly with each visual cut that it ratchets the tension and never really releases it… until we’re with Sally in the back of the pickup truck, hysterically laughing/keening- and then the images come flooding back.

A great trailer for a great movie, it doesn’t hold back and it doesn’t make the viewer feel safe.

Halloween Countdown – October 29

Emily DiPrimio was 14 years old when she raised $31,900 and made an 80’s style slasher film.

The existence of the movie makes me very happy.

Carver has a pretty standard premise, a good mask for the killer, and a great behind-the-scenes story. I’m more likely to enjoy this than I am a lot of the other trailers I’ve featured this month.

Who else?

It is almost Halloween!

Residents of Quaint Eventide (2)

There is a general unease in Eventide Village.

Neither Mori brother has spoken to the other in several days.
The skulk of foxes has spoken to Jirou twice.

Alice Jay has spent the last two nights sleeping in the back row of the Village Cinema.
Lillian Thuang is unaware as the theater is closed, waiting for the Halloween special double-feature.
Alice snuck in while Lillian was airing out the lobby after deep-scrubbing the carpet.

Constable Rhonda Weary has released Bud Miller from the cell in the constabulary on Maine Street and instructed him to stay the hell away from Roy Pepper’s hog farm.
Judge Lyndon has instructed Bud Miller to seek out a 12-step group in the town up north.

Bud Miller did go to town- or start to.
He pulled his truck over again into that same copse of trees, and has sat there thinking all through the night.
Why would hearing hoof-falls scare him so deeply, and what was he doing driving to the Pepper spread?
He doesn’t even know Roy except to nod at him.

Ezra Quint has gone to the Judge and told him that things are getting worser.
The striker in the clocktower seems to quiver every night around 1am, like it wants to strike more than just once.
Ezra Quint knows this isn’t rational thinking.
Judge Lyndon believes that the clock is due to overstrike, as it does thirteen times a year.
Only this time he is afraid.

The Groom-to-be moved out of the Bottin bed & breakfast, and into the Golden Anchor motel.
He convinced the bride it was to make their special day more special, but in truth the risk of seeing anything in any semi-reflective surface in the b&b has triggered daily panic attacks.

Nadine Forster, once a biologist, spends her nights at the Golden Anchor as well.
At dawn she limps carefully towards Stinkwood.
She never enters the forest.
She cannot work up the courage.

The Bride-to-be keeps taking long walks down Turkey Neck Road, which is the dividing line from the village proper and the south-tide.
She is fascinated by the scarecrows out on the marsh.
She visited the pier and asked Walt Beckers to rent her a small boat.
He wisely told her they were all in need of repair going into the off-season.

For the last week the Alderpersons have assembled at the gazebo in the village green at dusk.
Boyd Spencer smokes a pipe.
Glenn Roth smokes cigars.
Miri Chaudhri smokes cigarettes.
They smoke and stand, silent, watching first the courthouse, then That place on the hill.
Tuesday night Mister Spencer said: “Something is going to have to be done.”

Mrs. Waverly has been told that a virulent epidemic of strep throat has ravaged the Dolores Squane Home for the Seeing Impaired.
Now mute as well as blind, the inmates are giving the cooking and custodial staff, and Edgar Tran (Mrs. Waverly’s administrative assistant) the heebie-jeebies.
Needless to say, the afflicted aren’t having a good time of it either.

Every night, the clock tower almost strikes thirteen.
Every night, lights can be seen in That place by the elders holding vigil at the foot of the hill.
Every night gets closer.

Halloween Countdown – October 28

We’re in the final stretch…

Mario Bava and his muse/star Barbara Steele arguably did more to advance horror in the 1960s than Roger Corman- they set the stage, he aped the design. As he should- AIP distributed the film.

Universal had done their elegant, gentle-person vampire movies. Hammer had added some blood, but kept a certain drawing room gentility. From the shot of that crypt being blown apart by pure malignant will- Bava’s Black Sunday was opening a new chapter for undead horror. This 1960 film (banned in the UK for it’s violence) was to gothic horror what Night of the Living Dead was for siege movies.

Black Sunday. Mostly unknown by today’s horror fans- except as a source for Barbara Steele gifs. But what a trailer! From the atmospheric shots of the Inquisition-like torment, to the fantastic crypt sequence, kinetic action, terrible imagery- and looming over it all, the horrible concept of faces half-melted and pulled by fiendish iron masks, and Barbara Steele’s luminous anime eyes…

Halloween Countdown – October 27

I ran the teaser trailer for Ana Lily Amirpour’s upcoming A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night a week or so ago.

It was haunting, evocative, and intriguing as hell.

This is the full trailer, just dropped:

According to VICE media: “The first Iranian Vampire Western ever made, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut basks in the sheer pleasure of pulp. A joyful mash-up of genre, archetype, and iconography, its prolific influences span spaghetti westerns, graphic novels, horror films, and the Iranian New Wave. Amped by a mix of Iranian rock, techno, and Morricone-inspired riffs, the film’s airy, anamorphic, black-and-white aesthetic combines the simmering tension of Sergio Leone with the weird surrealism of David Lynch.”

Well shit. I’m sold.

Also, it turns out that not only is it illegal to make a horror film in Iran but impossible. Amirpour apparently found a deserted or semi-deserted SoCal oil town and dressed it to look like Iran, and cast ex-patriates and Persian-American actors.

Like I didn’t want to see it before…

Halloween Countdown – October 26

“I’ve never sensed anything like it…”

1974 gave us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
1975 gave us Jaws.

Two of the most influential and pivotal horror films to come out of the 70s- and pave the way for hundreds of imitators.
In 1982, Spielberg produced and Tobe Hooper directed Poltergeist.

Hooper went on to struggle through some heartfelt but imperfect movies (I’m being kind here, Lifeforce, The Mangler) with the occasional creative success (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, Toolbox Murders) but without the critical or financial success he seemed primed for following Poltergeist.

That Spielberg guy did okay for himself though. And there have certainly been horror elements in many of his films- though he has never returned full-throttle to the genre that launched his career.

(arguments abound that Jaws is more a “Monster Movie” than a horror film, and while I feel that is valid, I believe that Monster Movies belong under the larger Horror designation)

What a trailer though, eh? It is funny. Creepy. And perfectly timed. A time capsule studio 80s trailer.

Halloween Countdown – October 24

One more week till Halloween!

No corpse can be at peace in this village of the undead!

Hammer’s Plague of the Zombies hit theaters 2 years before Romero’s first Z-flick, so whenever horror-hipsters start screeching about all cinematic zombies being descended from Romero… trot this one out and watch them back-peddle.
(1964’s adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, The Last Man On Earth may or may not have been the first slow-walkin’ undead siege movies).

Yeah, apparently black magic (or witchcraft, or voodoo, or something) is responsible for the undead, but still.

What I love about this trailer is how NOT British it looks. In fact, until 55 seconds in I would be willing to guess that the movie was Italian or Spanish based on the lack of dialogue and the special effects on display.

And remember kids, when you are a clear-headed man of science, candle-stick trumps sacrificial dagger!

The Sexton of Eventide

There is a weeping from inside That place shortly after dawn.
The Reverend Young is leaning back against a fire-warped pew, chest heaving.
His eyes are red but dry.
He is a man at the end of his rope, beyond exhausted.
His efforts to prepare the church for All Saint’s Day have proved fruitless.
Every day he finds the work he has done was less than he believed.
Thinking that it was vandals, he started sleeping in the sacristy behind the main altar.
Now he doesn’t think it is vandals.
Now the Reverend Young doesn’t know what to think, except maybe that he has gone mad.
“I can’t do it,” he groans.
The moment his mouth closes, the heavy door to the church creaks open.
The disfigured caretaker of the cemetery stands in the doorway, the right side of his body in the dawn light.
“You are needing a Sexton, Father.”
The Reverend Young looks away from him.
“This isn’t something you can do yourself. Let me help you.”
The Reverend Young’s voice is hoarse.
“This place, it… I dream of the fire, Mr. McCabe.”
Sholto McCabe stands just outside the church, nodding.
“Do you really think fire holds any fear for me?” he says gently.
He displays the left side of his face to the Reverend, who flinches.
“I can help you.”
The Reverend Young nods, wipes his hands together.
“Then invite me in,” says Sholto.
The left side of his face is always grinning.