We’re half-way through the dark backwards to Halloween, and I’ve been watching a lot of horror.
Not just the trailers we share, but also some movies. So far:
1. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)- two-thirds of a very good update. The original (1976, a true drive-in exploitation pic) serves as a jumping off place- in a world where the true murders truly happened, and the 1976 film cashed in on their notoriety, and now the murders begin again. Great cast (including Veronica Cartwright, Anthony Anderson, Gary Cole, Denis O’Hare, Ed Lauter) and smart direction couldn’t stick the ending where everything fizzled.
2. The Babadook (2014) Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut (she also scripted) is a masterpiece in ratcheting tension. The “horror stigma” seems to have kept Kent, and star Essie Davis, from vastly deserved award nominations. Essie Davis gives a performance that has to be seen to be believed- especially if you are used to her flipping her bangs and being sensual and charming as Phryne Fisher- where her character is put through an emotional ringer and Davis fearlessly shows us the ugly side of parenthood. I do mean to use fearless in this case- it isn’t like “oh, she played a disabled woman!” which would be bullshit. But Davis plays a complex, real woman who sometimes hates being a mother, hates her circumstances, and can be a pretty dreadful person while still holding my sympathy. Also the creature itself is a brilliant design. Just excellent.
3. Byzantium (2012) Neil Jordan returns to the well of lush gothic vampirism, with much better results than he did with Interview With A Vampire– matching some of the dreamlike visuals of The Company of Wolves with a flowing tale of two women. Great performances from Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton. Beautiful, romantic movie.
4. V/H/S (2012) found footage horror anthology with a dreadful wraparound story. Disappointing entries from Adam Wingard (his features You’re Next and The Guest are both fantastic) and Ti West (whose feature House of the Devil is great) and a whole bunch of other dude-bros. This movie was pretty much crap for me, though David Bruckner’s segment, “Amateur Night” seemed to be highlighting (and giving a nasty comeuppance to) typical “bro-dude” fratty behavior.
5. V/H/S 2 (2013) a big step up from the first, this is also a found footage horror anthology with an equally Meh framing story. The overall episodes are a bit more creative, less repetitive. But the shining moment is Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw (The Raid: Redemption Evans entry “Safe Haven”. This segment is SO GOOD that I forgot about the rest of them entirely and even now don’t give a shit because I half-want to rewatch Safe Haven and half want to forget I ever saw it. IT WAS REALLY GOOD AND SCARY YOU GUYS. Also creative, gory and smart. And a little funny.
6. Psycho (1960) Annika and I watched this together- neither of us had seen it since we were teenagers. Goddamn, it really is a good movie. Anthony Perkins just oozes charisma of a dangerous kind. Bernard Herrmann’s score is SO great.
7. Dracula’s Daughter (1936) fun direct sequel from Universal to the 1931 Tod Browning/Bela Lugosi joint. Gloria Holden is terrific in the title role. The movie doesn’t answer my question as to what happens to Dracula’s Brides- the 3 weird sisters he left in Transylvania in the first film. Sidequel!?
8. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) should really be called Doctor Pretorius: Gods and Monsters. A classic for a reason.
9. The Wolfman (2010) a troubled film, with original director Mark Romanek dropping out and being replaced by Joe Johnston. Terrific score from Danny Elfman, terrific production design. It doesn’t quite work- but it isn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, unless you are horrified by big Victorian houses and facial hair.
10. Nymph (2014, also released as Killer Mermaid) a well-lensed, awkwardly acted Serbian horror film with a good setting and Franco Nero. Not really my thing.
11. Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) while the “Monster Rally” pics had become mainstay for Universal after 1944, this was the first outright comedy. The kids were UP for this one. A lot of fun.
12. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is currently uploaded on Youtube by Paramount. I watched it at lunch, and it is still so, so funny and smart and WEIRD. Just a wonderfully off-kilter movie- great gonzo performances. I first saw this when I was thirteen and fell in love with Caroline Williams so much. I might have developed my predilection for ladies with bangs based on her. Tobe Hooper’s 2nd installation is much funnier than the original- intentionally so, as well as more splattery- but with Dennis Hopper and Bill Moseley chewing up the scenery (and WHAT scenery!) the dark comedy jumps far out and stays there from the beginning to the end.
13. The American Scream (2012) a charming documentary from Best Worst Movie director Michael Stephenson about three families preparing for their annual backyard halloween haunts. Funny, sweet, a little sad- I love this movie, I watch it every year. It puts me in the spirit. The kids were impressed with the love and care that went into the builds. So am I.
14. Starry Eyes partially funded through a Kickstarter campaign, written and directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, this movie is kind of amazing. Shot in 18 days, it successfully blends psychological Repulsion style mounting dread, Cronenburg body horror, Cult horror, and all-out splatter. Lead actress Alex Essoe is AMAZING in it. Having supporting turns from Pat Healy and Noah Segan doesn’t hurt either.
I also watched the 1st four seasons of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story. I’ll get into that later, because it is a rant in and of itself…
What about you? What madcap horror escapades have you made this month?