Friday, October 30, 2009

halloween treat sack...

Here are the horror films I watched this month that either didn't merit a review, or that I didn't get a chance to write about, or forgot to write about, or something. I'm still sick.

1. End of the Line- Dreary, shot-on-video junk with weird religious content. Unremarkable and uninteresting.

2. Son of Frankenstein- Very worthy sequel to FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Expressionistic visuals and a wry sense of humor highlight a fun film with Basil Rathbone as the Doctor's son, plus Karloff and Lugosi as the monster and Ygor, respectively.

3. The Ghost of Frankenstein- A dull sequel to the above.

4. The Thaw- Gets all it's good ideas from John Carpenter's version of THE THING. Val Kilmer is in it, I should have known better.
5. Edges of Darkness- Another depressing shot-on-video cheapie. I'm all in favor of low budget movies, amateur films and movies that are shot on video, but I wish there was a better filtering process for what makes it out of the basement and into my DVD player. This one was all over the place. I guess it was about zombies but it also had some vampires, or something, and some kind of robot DEMON SEED virus that took over a plant, or something. Like, a houseplant. I don't know. It was lame.

6. The Legacy (1978)- Fun, fun flick that's light on the horror but heavy on the 1970's smooth. THE GRADUATE's Katherine Ross heads to England with sweet 'stache having boyfriend Sam Elliott and winds up stranded in a creepy mansion where some black magic shit is going down. Really just very snappy, stylish and entertaining, plus Roger Daltrey is in it, basically as himself. Has kind of a Hammer/Amicus vibe that neither Hammer nor Amicus still had in 1978.

7. SSSSSSS- Dirk Benedict from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (the 70's one) and the A-TEAM (he's no Perry King) turns into a snake man verrrrrrrrrrry slooowwwwwwwllllyyyyyyyyy in this booooorrrrrrrrrring movie. The correct spelling of the title is seven S's.

8. Drag Me To Hell- This was a lot better than I expected but Sam Raimi just isn't special anymore (maybe it was finding out he donated money to the '04 Bush campaign), although to be fair, aside from the first two Evil Dead films, Raimi's technically never really been a horror filmmaker, if anything the majority of his filmography is action with a occasional bit of slapstick. That he happened to apply that vision to horror films his first time out, it's almost incidental, y'know? But, I mean, he's a good director, I mean this film has more style and personality than most Hollywood films of any genre, but it's lacking the depth or sincerity that could make it something more than a slight entertainment. Raimi doesn't have the wit he used to, nor the willingness to let a gag play out, everything happens so quickly, it's never really satisfying as, for instance, the long battle between Bruce Campbell and his own hand in Evil Dead 2, which builds both humor and tension by going on for a near-uncomfortably long time. So, yeah, it was good enough that I wanted it to be better.

9. Bug (1975)- After the success of producing ROSEMARY'S BABY, William Castle's filmography really starts to loose focus. Previously, as both director and producer, he was the model of efficiency, capable of turning out simple, but stylish (and deceptively smart) films in any number of genres. There might have been nothing groundbreaking about these films (aside from their inventive promotional campaigns), but flicks like THE NIGHT WALKER, I SAW WHAT YOU DID and THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL really get the job done. The later Castle, by contrast, is typically kind of sloppy and, even when it's good, just pretty weird (witness his last film as director, SHANKS, starring famous mime Marcel Marceau). This was his last film as producer, and it's really kind of all over the place, starting off as an apocalyptic monster movie, then becoming a totally different kind of monster movie, and then ending. Star Bradford Dillman fared much better a few years later in Joe Dante's PIRANHA.

10. R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly- The kids in this movie sure were whiny and annoying. Before writing preteen horror novels, R.L. Stine and his wife wrote preteen horror comics with Rick Veitch and Stephen Bissette.

11. Infestation- At a certain point, vaguely clever but ultimately shallow horror comedies reach their saturation point. There's nothing really wrong with INFESTATION, except maybe that most of its plot points seem very familiar, but there's nothing really right with it either, except that it's fairly ambitious and Ray Wise is in it. Not totally terrible.

12. The Four Sided Triangle- Smart if somewhat dry sci-fi from Hammer. Not as good as, say, the Quatermass films, but not bad either.

13. Dracula (1931)- Don't know how I managed to go 30 plus years without ever seeing the original DRACULA, I think I could never remember if this was the one I hadn't seen, or FRANKENSTEIN, so I just kept watching FRANKENSTEIN again. Anyway, now I've seen it. It's good, Bela Lugosi is in it. It's DRACULA.

14. It's Alive- This remake of Larry Cohen's classic is kind of like the original, as well as the recent film GRACE, only instead of being thoughtful and suspenseful, it's stupid and boring. Remaking a Larry Cohen movie is like trying to remake of John Cassavettes movie or something, insomuch as I'm sure it could be done, but why would you want to? It's like cooking without the seasonings, y'know, Cohen's films are so unique, so filtered through his own strange vision, unless you have someone with their own weird vision remaking them, they're just monster movies, which could be fine, but this is a pretty boring monster movie. Bijou Phillips, the lead actress, even kind of looks like the actress from GRACE, by the way.

15. How to Be a Serial Killer- This is a rip off of the 1992 Belgian film MAN BITES DOG. I'm all in favor of ripping off other people's movies if you can do something cool with their ideas, but it makes the results particularly dire when nothing new is brought to the table. How to Be a Serial Killer doesn't even have the brazen antisocial offensiveness of MAN BITES DOG, it's like the bland, watered-down version, made almost 20 years after the fact. Lame.

16. Dark Country- Actor turned director Thomas Jane's first film is just like bad film noir mindfuck style over substance student film 101, which is too bad, because I like him as an actor, and I wanted to like his movie, but it just isn't good, at all, even with Ron Perlman in it. Seriously, just like an ambitious but immature student film, right down to the warped-reality-within-a-dream-within-reality or whatever ending. Lame.

17. Oral Fixation- Dental horror is universal, yet underexploited, enough to make for the occasional grisly cringer, ala Brian Yuzna's THE DENTIST films. This promised that, but delivered a shot-on-video FATAL ATTRACTION clone instead. Why is the female stalker so endlessly fascinating to filmmakers? And what do people think they can bring to a story that's been done so many times before? Anyway, this totally sucked and watching it depressed me.

18. Staunton Hill- George Romero is not only one of the most significant horror filmmakers of the past fifty years, I'd say he's one of the most important American filmmakers as well. His son's directorial debut is unwatchable, though. Seriously, unwatchable.

19. Ghost Cat- The Animal Planet network produced this family-friendly horror flick. If it doesn't sound promising, that's because it's not, but I like the idea of different television networks producing different genres of film relating to their own individual niches. It'd be pretty cool if every Halloween all the different networks rolled out their own batch of viewer-specific fright flicks. Anyway, this is further proof that I'm an idiot and I'll watch any stupid movie that Ellen Page is in. Some guy from Degrassi is in it too. Even the cats weren't that great.

20. Orphan- I really liked this movie. It reminded me of early DePalma, like SISTERS, especially the outrageous twist ending. I was rooting for the Esther the orphan, though. It always bothers me when the parents turn on their adopted children in films like this. Like, you adopted the kid, that's a commitment, you can't start hating them just because they're weird and scary.

21. Spine Tingler- the William Castle Story- This was full of good information and great interviews (with Castle's kids, his sister-in-law, various collaborators, plus fans like Joe Dante, John Landis, Stuart Gordon and Leonard Maltin, and contemporaries like Roger Corman, who's somewhat respectfully dismissive), but thematically and chronologically, it's kind of all over the place. I think as efficient a filmmaker as Castle would be flattered but not entirely impressed.

22. Wind Chill- This one starts out pretty strong, with two college kids trapped in a potentially horrifying situation- trapped in a car in subzero weather, then it turns into a ghost story that doesn't really make any sense, everything gets pretty stupid, one of the kids dies, and then it's over. Martin Donovan from Hal Hartley movies is the ghost.

And that's how I pissed my month away! Happy Halloween.

1 comment:

Jay Amabile said...

Wind Chill made me scratch my head as well. I like Emily Blunt and the story was going pretty well, but it just crapped out. The claustrophobic atmosphere, and the cold really helped the mood.