Halloween Countdown – October 31

A few tips for Trick or Treat safety during the spookiest time of the year…

Trick ‘r Treat is a terrific movie- and I’ve covered it before a few October’s ago- but I really don’t care. This trailer is…

Well, it is Halloween.

The old educational video, the discordant scrape of the bow across violin strings (LOVE, that musical cue), the dried leaves skittering on the breeze, costumes and decorations, you can almost smell the wood-smoke in the air… to the mounting dread that is accelerated when the pirate kid kicks the lit jack ‘o lantern into the water… that fantastic shot of Dylan Baker not really laughing, his shirt soaked with blood… and the cutting back to his All Hallow’s Eve speech on the porch while carving the pumpkin- this is a truly great Halloween trailer.

The movie itself kicks ass too.

I hope you all have a truly great Halloween!

Trick or treat! Giggle & Fright! It’s fun to be scared on Halloween Night!

Or, as Grace, our self-described little monster (“I haff a woofman costume? Awooo! Awooo!”) would sing: “Tick o tweet, jiggle and fight, ayayaya Halloween Night!”

Halloween Countdown – October 30

Guest Post by my wife, Annika!

Will has been almost single-handedly responsible for my horror movie education.

I bet a lot of wives could say the same about their husbands, but I wonder how many of those other wives actually wrote about horror movies professionally for two years? Yeah, I’m bragging. Will loves horror movies so much that I got a job writing about them. (Creature Corner, the site I wrote for, has since been incorporated into its parent site, CHUD.com, and my reviews are lost or at least buried. Let us never speak of it again, as it makes me sad.)

It’s not like I’d never seen a horror movie before I met Will. When I was 12 I watched Silence of the Lambs, and it wasn’t until I met him 7 years later that I was able to articulate why I felt so indifferent toward it: it was a thriller pretending to be a horror movie. When I was 14 I turned off Night of the Living Dead about 20 minutes in because I was scared to pieces. I have still never seen the rest of the movie, but I’ve since seen Dawn of the Dead (both versions) and Land of the Dead. Also Shaun of the Dead.

I was 19 when I met Will, and 21 when he showed me the horror movie that changed everything: The Evil Dead. It scared the bejeezus out of me and I couldn’t wait to watch Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn.

Since then I have watched a LOT of horror movies. I wrote a few years ago about catching up on classics I’d never seen—and that was just over one October. This year, Sam (who was an infant when I wrote that post) watched with us, and we caught up on Universal’s monster movies.

But somehow, I have never seen The Exorcist.

The trailer is very dark (literally dark, as in absence of light), and dark=scary is a cliché for a reason. (The reason: dark is SCARY.) It also has a lot of screaming, which threatened to make me take it…less than seriously.

But you know what? It’s pretty fucking scary, or at least makes me think the movie might be. It wisely shows very little of the possessed girl, and focuses on her terrified mother. I seriously know next to nothing about the movie, and the trailer was enough to make me nervous about the outcome of the exorcism. Is it trailer brilliance? No, but it’s above average in my book.

Thanks, Annika! You can check out more of her musings at her blog– and come back tomorrow for the final trailer of the month…

Halloween Countdown – October 29

Screams, moans, bats & bones!
Teenage monsters in haunted homes…
The ghost on the stair!
The Vampire’s bite!
Better beware- there’s a full moon tonight!

And there is a full moon tonight, so what better trailer than one for a movie where the state of the moon hold’s no importance?

Merrye Syndrome- a genetic affliction unique to the Merrye family (funny, that) which kicks in around puberty and causes them to mentally, and eventually physically regress backwards down the evolutionary ladder.

Jack Hill’sSpider Baby can easily sit along side other self-aware horror-comedy of the era; the drive-in B-movies of Del Tenney, or Roger Corman’s Poe/Lovecraft mashups for AIP. In fact, it rises above a lot of its brethren.

The trailer certainly sells the zany, oversexed murderous feel of the movie’s last 15 minutes, but it sadly skips over the soulfully eerie build-up, where the Merrye sisters (Beverly Washburn and Jill Banner) swing between murderous and giddy childlike innocence (there is a shot in the trailer of them mugging straight at the camera that captures this though), and banter with Bruno, the gentle family caretaker and chauffeur played wonderfully by Lon Chaney Jr.

That is young Sid Haig leering and gibbering in the dumbwaiter, and Carol Ohmart (Vincent Price’s devious wife in House on Haunted Hill in the black negligee running about, menaced by the psychotic Merrye’s.

Ohmart is actually very good in the movie- most of the cast is, if you can balance the period affectations and the low-budget setting. There is a primal sexuality- and a sadness- layered over the poverty-row Addams or Munster feel to the proceedings. Good as Ohmart and Chaney are, Jill Banner is the real stand-out performance in this, as the unhinged Virginia.

Spider Baby is one of my favorite hidden gems- at times it comes across like Hill wanted to make a less sedate, more sensational version of Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle but knew it needed more characters, sex and death to work as a b-picture.

Chaney wrote and performed the theme song (lyric sample for the entry’s intro above) which is pretty fun- much in line with his Christmas/Halloween jingle “Monster’s Holliday”.

Halloween Countdown- October 27

We’re getting into the final stretch- but that is no reason to cut short our tour of the Great Weird North.

Stephen McHattie has one of the great character actor faces- and voices- I have occasionally referred to him as “The Canadian Lance Henrikson” but that is unfair to McHattie- 7 years younger than Lance, he started working younger. And they both have voices like gravel soaked in whiskey.

Pontypool has been highly, heavily recommended to me by multiple trustworthy sources. The trailer certainly sells it well.

Halloween Countdown – October 26

We’ve spent a good amount of time in Italy this year, a lot in the UK and the US, but what about Canada? There is a strong Canadian horror film tradition, and not just in “Body-Horror”.

This is a particularly nifty little trailer- I think it sells the tone and humor of the movie pretty much perfectly.

The 90s were a banner time for straight-to-video vampire movies, and this one is a definite gem. It plays with the genre expectations and archetypal tropes of vampire cinema in deft ways.

It is a perfect sort of underdog story- the loser cab driver, the rundown donut shop. the troubled waitress- throwing a cranky vampire into the midst, plus a cowboy boot wearing David Cronenberg as the local crime lord- and you get, well, Blood and Donuts

Halloween Countdown – October 25

Apparently you can go back to the woods again.

On the one hand- “why do we need a remake of The Evil Dead, why would they remake it?” blahblahblah.

We don’t. But they did.

And, actually, it isn’t like it is Evil Dead 2.

Here is the thing; it isn’t like ED is some sort of untouchable top-shelf horror flick. It was a ultra-low budget, extremely gory, tension ratcheter of a splatter-film. It has since been overshadowed by it’s immediate sequel, which balances dark humor with even more gore, and sort of turns into a super-hero origin story to boot.

I like this trailer, for this new Evil Dead – it isn’t supposed to be brilliant, it is the remake of a particularly memorable video nasty. I’m honestly impressed with how gory and nasty the trailer is.

I recently read an interview with the director, who confessed that when he was writing the first draft, he kept out the infamous molesting-tree sequence. He sent an email with the draft to producer (and original ED director Sam Raimi) who responded the next morning with: “Where the fuck is my goddamn rape tree?”

Video nasty indeed.

Halloween Countdown – October 24

Some things- like October and Halloween itself- have to run their course.

Pumpkinhead! Lance Henrikson at his craggiest. The late-great Stan Winston directing his only horror film- and it is by no means a bad one.

Terrific production design- the trailer shows that. The wonderfully eerie witch, “Haggis” (Florence Schauffler, unforgettable in a good juicy part), an iconic monster…

Revenge is a dangerous thing to wish for.

Halloween Countdown – October 23

Oh Italy, I just can’t quit your crazy horror.

Director Michele Soavi cut his teeth working for Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava- he certainly had the credentials. The traditions of Italian horror (dream like/nightmarish disconnect, striking visual images, free-floating plots, elaborately stylized murders with copious amounts of intentionally unrealistic blood) pretty much died out in the 80s, but Soavi kept them going through the 90’s with features such as La Chiesa (aka The Church) and Dellamorte, Dellamorete (aka Cemetary Man).

Honestly, the theater as stage-bound (heh) setting for a giallo or even a monster movie is a really good idea. Shockingly, I am hard-pressed to come up with any theater-set ghost movies. Without an audience, a theater is such an eerie, haunted place.

Someone should get on that.

Halloween Countdown – October 22

The Italian horror film is a distinct beast- often illogical, nightmarish (or dream-like), sometimes fragmented and disjointed- sometimes a little slow-paced, but never dull.

I was confused watching the trailer! Horses and 19th century props, but telephones and silk stockings? I had to look up that Mario Bava’s 1963 Black Sabbath is an anthology film.

I love all the superlative descriptives in the credits listing- the incomparable Karloff! The bevy of beautiful maidens!