Archive for the 'Horror' Category

17
Nov
14

Isolation (2005)

Nice guy Dan gets down and dirty with his livestock.

Nice guy Dan gets down and dirty with his livestock.

The yearlong abandonment of my Netflix queue has resulted in yet another surprise disc in the mail. I don’t remember putting Isolation in the queue, but I know for a fact I did so absolutely blindly; I’d never heard of the movie before or since, but surely it ended up on the list due to the phrases “bovine fertility” and “genetic study” in the film’s synopsis.

Dan is a broke-ass farmer who sold his livestock to the whims of a genetics company. He doesn’t know the nature of their experiments, really, but John, the scientist behind the operation, assures him it won’t cause his farm any trouble. Orla (Essie Davis), Dan’s veterinarian (and former lover, it would seem) is also in bed with the genetics corporation, and has reason to be suspicious the company’s experiments might not be as harmless as they’d like everyone to think. On top of keeping the true nature of the genetic experimentation secret, the company has made Dan promise to keep his farm isolated from strangers. The secrecy has yet to pay off, however: neither Orla nor Dan have been paid for their part in the experiments.

When one of Dan’s cows is about to give birth, Dan tries his damndest to aid the animal in the process. Unfortunately, the calf is far too large for it to come out naturally, but because Dan’s way behind on his phone bills, he can’t call Orla and must solicit the help of some guy named Jamie who is squatting on his property in a trailer hiding from his lover’s brothers, or something, to help him jerk the calf out of the cow. Needless to say, the Calf is fucked up in all sorts of ways,

Orla (Essie Davis) investigates a nasty situation.

Orla (Essie Davis) investigates a nasty situation.

and when Orla finally makes it to the farm (women’s intuition, I guess?) she discovers the calf was actually pregnant with six babies! Seems the geneticist’s interest in farm efficiency was taken just a little too far. Anyway, one of the calf’s calves not only bites the shit out of Dan and Orla, but also escapes. John believes it can cause a great illness and plans to quarantine the farm, and then you know, the search for freak baby calf thing is on.

Isolation isn’t a terrible movie, and it’s not a great movie. I guess that really just makes it unremarkable. I knew within the first fifteen minutes that it was going to be filled with a bunch of relationship drama that I didn’t care about, and it was, and that detracted a great deal from the film. Dealing with a large corporation’s big scientific secrets and inability or unwillingness to pay those involved sure sounded like a great opportunity for meaningful social commentary. Unfortunately it is totally squandered here, and really has little to say except the usual don’t-fuck-with-mother-nature-or-else-your-farm-will-be-destroyed-and-you-might-have-a-deformed-and-infected-baby. There’s just no complexity or surprise to it at all. Even the parts that are centered around relationship drama that could have been exploited to further our distaste for the corporation at hand here aren’t highlighted at all – like, what was the point of having the couple squatting on the farm? To prove that Dan is a nice

Squatter Jamie doesn't like what he sees.

Squatter Jamie doesn’t like what he sees.

guy? To make that cop that shows up that one time look like a jerk? Maybe, but to what end? All these could be achieved through other means. Honestly, it really seems like nothing more than a dangling, pointless plot line. Same goes for Dan and Orla’s former relationship: okay, they used to screw, now what? Now nothing, it seems. Some pre-fucking sexual tension would have served us better.

On the upside, the acting is all right; no complaints there, though I wouldn’t nominate anyone for any awards or anything. By far the best parts of the movie are those where the practical special effects are featured. There’s definitely tons of gory opportunities, and it feels like any lofty ideas about damning the man were eschewed in favor of grossing out the audience. Which I guess is fine, but only because the effects are actually good. Still, I’d rather watch a movie with more to say and shittier effects than one with great effects and nothing to say. So, if mother nature gone bad is what you’re looking for, there are much better movies around than this one! I can think of two that we watched just recently that far outshine this one. First there’s Bats, which isn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but is slightly more interesting and definitely far more entertaining. There’s also Kingdom of the Spiders, which is a super fun time that didn’t rely on special effects geniuses, to be sure. I’d definitely say give those a try over this one any day.

16
Nov
14

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

texaschainsawposterDuring a recent trip to Seattle we hit up the EMP Museum, which offers exhibits exploring modern popular culture. There’s a pretty decent section of the museum dedicated to horror films, and it probably comes as no surprise that was my favorite part. While I don’t usually find myself interested in watching videos at museums, there were little nooks dedicated to particular films and their impact on the genre. One such nook was dedicated to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and the talking heads did a good enough job lauding the film that Q, not being a fan at all of the film the first time he saw it, was convinced he should give it another go. When our local midnight movie venue played it last weekend, we cautiously bought our tickets.

Surely the story is not new to you: wheelchair-bound Franklin and his sister Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) travel to a small country town in Texas to make sure their grandfather’s corpse is intact after they hear news of a rash grave-robbings. Franklin and Sally brought a few friends along, because what’s more fun than going to a remote town in Texas in the sweltering summer heat to confirm your granddaddy’s corpse is where it should be? On their way back home, the group makes the mistake of picking up a very strange hitchhiker. After doing some creepy shit, dude cuts himself and freaks everyone out. They scramble to kick the guy out of their van and head towards a gas station so they can fuel up and get the hell out of Dodge.

But, oh no! The gas station manager informs the youthful group that he ain’t got no gas: his supply truck hasn’t arrived yet. He advises them they should gnaw on some of his delicious barbecue while waiting for the gas guy to show up. Franklin instead thinks it would be better to check out grandpa’s old place down the road, maybe hit up that watering hole and cool off while they’re waiting for the gas. The station manager doesn’t think it’s such a great idea for the kids to go out that way, especially not those pretty little ladies, but two spooky weirdos isn’t enough to scare these kids away from checking out a dilapidated old house down the road even though they’re running low on gas so they throw caution to the wind and head towards the old Hardesty place.

There is no escaping Leatherface.

There is no escaping Leatherface.

The old house doesn’t offer much entertainment; some animal skeletons, some peeling wallpaper but not much else, so the lovey-dovey couple Kirk & Pam head off to find this famed watering hole. Find it they do, but unfortunately it’s long dried up. In the distance, Kirk can see a house with a generator, maybe that’s a great place to ask if they have any gasoline to spare! Pam is not so hot on the idea, especially when Kirk finds a tooth on the front porch! But Kirk is insistent. Finally he just walks in the door, only to be greeted by a chainsaw-wielding, skin-mask-wearing maniac. It’s all downhill from here.

Holy shit, this is one effective mother-fuckin’ horror movie. Its impact on the genre probably can’t be overstated, and after seeing it again (and on the big screen, yowza) it’s obvious why. Pretty sure I walked out of the theater saying it is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. I’m not just talking about pop-up, jumpy scares, I mean it is legitimately frightening. It is filmed on a very small budget, but it doesn’t suffer a lick from it – in fact, its cheapness only adds to the seedy, skeevy, sweaty, greasy feeling this movie leaves all over its audience. The thought of a guy wearing a skin mask chasing you with a chainsaw is pretty scary in itself, but the atmosphere Tobe Hooper manages to create with this film turns everything up to eleven.

tcmburns

This is pretty much how I felt when the movie was over, too.

On top of that, the acting is, somehow, totally believable. These characters do some really ridiculously stupid things, but never enough to really remove me from the action of the movie. Marilyn Burns screams her fucking head off probably for ten minutes straight, and it is totally convincing. Speaking of screams, the talking heads at EMP went on and on about how audio really helped make this movie successful in achieving its horrific goals, and I have to agree. The music is fucking creepy as all hell, screechy and unsettling. That coupled with the seemingly never-ending roar of Leatherface’s chainsaw was immensely unnerving.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is without a doubt one of the most unsettling and horrifying films I’ve ever seen. That being said, I think I actually really, really disliked it. There was a time in my life where Ienjoyed witnessing the power of horror film in action and relished being the victim of a horror director’s sick and twisted whims. It was this time in my life that I first saw this movie, which would explain my previous five-star rating of the film. But I think that time is now over, and instead of enjoying my time with Leatherface & Co., I felt terribly, uncomfortably implicated in a torture-session of epic proportions. That of course speaks volumes to the film’s success; it definitely achieved what it set out to do, I guess that is just a game I am far more wary of playing now than I was in my younger years.

On our way home, Q and I discussed whether or not The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a film either of us would recommend to the horror-curious. Being that the film laid the groundwork for many slasher flicks to come, I would feel like not having seen it would be a big, gaping hole in your horror-film merit badge collection. At the same time, I couldn’t rightly recommend it without fair warning. Proceed with extreme caution: watch only if you are prepared for an hour and a half of relentless sickness, torture, noise, horror and pain!

13
Nov
14

Fascination (1979)

Okay friends, this is it, the last post for this year’s 31 Days of Horror! Hey, it’s only a few weeks late, could’ve been worse, right? Our 31st horror pick for this year’s set is Jean Rollin’s Fascination. It should surprise no one acquainted with Rollin’s filmography it’s an erotic lesbian vampire thriller thing, with a whole lot of really good-looking scenes (and women) and a lot of shrugged shoulders as far as plot is concerned.

The movie starts off in an abattoir. Two genteel ladies are told consuming fresh ox blood will be good for their health. Though hesitant at first, the ladies eventually come to appreciate the refreshing tonic. But we’ll get back to that in a bit: first, let’s meet Marc.

Marc: bewildered, intrigued... fascinated?

Marc: bewildered, intrigued… fascinated?

Marc is a petty thief. He made a deal with a band of other petty thieves to do some petty thieving, but ended up stealing all the loot for himself. After unsuccessfully taking one of the other thieves hostage, Marc ducks into a seemingly empty château in hopes of hiding from them until sunset, when he can escape under the cover of night. Marc quickly learns the château isn’t empty at all: two ladies-in-waiting, Eva and Elizabeth, are preparing the place for the owners to return. And by preparing the place, I mean playing with knives and running around naked and stuff.

Eva and Elizabeth... so pretty!

Eva and Elizabeth… so pretty!

Marc tries to scare the ladies into submission, but it seems they’re more turned on than scared. So like any red-blooded French thief, Marc goes with the flow. Elizabeth is more than happy to submit to his whims, but Eva seems genuinely taken with the man. The two keep warning him that at midnight, death herself will arrive. Marc is nothing but amused by this, and he decides to hang around and see what all the fuss is about.

Definitely the most striking image from the Fascination.

Definitely the most striking image from the Fascination.

Right on cue, a bevy of sexy ladies show up! Marc doesn’t know exactly what kind of club he’s found himself surrounded by, but it seems like he’s hit the jackpot! You and I of course might suspect this meeting might have something to do with the abattoir from the beginning of the film. Sure enough, turns out these ladies are thirsty for human blood, and Marc is the right prey at the right time for them to feast upon. But things are complicated by Eva’s genuine feelings for him: will she betray her coven of witches to save his life?

Things didn't end well for this pretty little lady thief.

Things didn’t end well for this pretty little lady thief.

Fascination is one pretty picture after another; I took so many stills from it and wish I could use them all. It just looks absolutely beautiful. The plot is sort of interesting, I suppose, but I didn’t really care whether or not Marc survives, or what becomes of his relationship with either lady, or what these mysterious women actually plan on doing to him or each-other. I cared more about what they were wearing (or not wearing, I guess). This movie, like other Rollin movies I’ve seen, is all about style. If Fascination has something to say, I’m not sure at all what it is.

Sexy ladies in see-through nighties meet up for an annual blood-sucking party? Who wouldn't want to see this?

Sexy ladies in see-through nighties meet up for an annual blood-sucking party? Who wouldn’t want to see this?

I will admit to having fallen asleep to Rollin’s Rape of the Vampire, so I can’t make a legitimate comparison between the two films except to say Fascination kept the plot moving along enough to keep me awake! Aside from those two, the only other Rollin I’d seen was Living Dead Girl, which I remember digging a whole hell of a lot but it’s been too long now to make a real call about it. Suffice it to say Fascination was good enough to get me pumped for watching the other Rollin we have in our collection, and I think it’s probably a safe starting point for anyone who’s down with sexy French lesbian vampires with very flimsy excuses for being nude.

10
Nov
14

Scream and Scream Again (1970)

Guess what? We are well into November and I’m still writing up horror posts from last month’s 31 Days of Horror! If only they paid me to write up this crap, perhaps I wouldn’t be so behind. Unfortunately, they (whoever they might be) don’t, so forgive me for my passé posts. Anyway, back to the matter at hand: horror movies. For day 30 we watched Scream and Scream Again, one of only two films to star the powerful horror trifecta of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing!

Vincent Price as some mysterious "doctor."

Vincent Price as some mysterious “doctor.”

With such a beefy cast, you’d think the movie would be excellent. I’m not saying Scream and Scream Again sucks, but it isn’t amazing. And just because all three of these horror bigwigs are in this movie doesn’t actually mean they’re in it a lot. I think Cushing gets maybe five minutes of screen time (and why is it I feel he always gets the short end of the stick?). Lee gets a tad more, but not much. Price is in it the most of the three, but even still, his role is only one third of a batshit, tangled plot that finally converges within the last 10 minutes or so of the film.

Interrogation

Interrogation

I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to synopsize, because the shit doesn’t make much sense anyway. There are three separate plot lines. In the first, a runner finds himself mysteriously in a hospital, and every time he wakes his missing another limb. Somehow this is related to a sexy vampire-type who is prowling London’s mod clubs, sucking the life out of his pretty prey. Then there is a madman bigwig from some weird totalitarian country obviously up to no good who keeps Vulcan-nerve-pinching everyone to get what he wants. Actually, I guess there’s a fourth plot line: Vincent Price’s acid bath. Most of the movie happens before we have any idea how the plots intertwine, which is okay, I guess, but there’s no slow reveal: it all seems kind of thrown together at the last minute, almost as if it should have been an anthology but they changed their mind too late in the game.

A nurse so pretty she'll take your limbs away!

A nurse so pretty she’ll take your limbs away!

Scream and Scream Again is just kind of baffling, and frankly it should have (and could have easily) been better. That being said, it offers some great imagery and as always, Vincent Price is fun to watch; I just wish he was in it more. Yes, Lee and Cushing are usually pretty great also, but they’re just not even given a chance to do a damn thing here, it’s almost as if they’re not in this movie at all. And, you know, I wish the thing made a little bit of sense. Just even like a tiny bit. In the end, this movie is really just a pretty piece of mystifying film, which isn’t bad, but… meh?

02
Nov
14

Fear No Evil (1981)

There are terrible horror movies, and then there are terrible horror movies. Surely ‘so bad it’s good’ is a phrase you’ve heard uttered before in reference to a terrible horror movie that does nothing right, but still manages to keep its audience engaged and entertained. Then there are the terrible horror movies, the ones that are just so incredibly poorly made and make no sense, but in this really terrible, irritating way. Unfortunately Day 29′s selection of 31 Days of Horror, Frank LaLoggia’s Fear No Evil, falls into the latter category.FearNoEvilposter

Part of the problem with this movie is there is just absolutely way too much going on, so synopsizing it isn’t going to be easy. Basically, a couple living in small-town upstate New York (LaLoggia obviously has a preferred setting) give birth to Lucifer (or Andrew). It just so happens that two of three archangels reside in the same small town. The eldest angel (Mikhail or Margaret, depending on who you are) tries to convince the local Priest she needs help slaying the monster, but the Priest is still pissed off at her because her brother killed the last incarnation of Lucifer, and that was murder! All the while, Lucifer has really neat hair, gets straight A’s, and makes out with boys in the shower at the local high school. Everyone there listens to really awesome New Wave.

When blood explodes all over the place from an unknown origin while your kid is getting baptized, maybe he is Lucifer.

When blood explodes all over the place from an unknown origin while your kid is getting baptized, maybe he is Lucifer.

Mikhail/Margaret fails to convince the priest he should postpone the church’s annual free performance of the Passion play, even though she is certain some terrible evil is about to take over the town. That same night Andrew/Lucifer somehow raises the dead from this dilapidated castle place where the old Lucifer ran a company and killed a bunch of the workers or something and now they’re all zombies and they’re going to do Lucifer/Andrew’s bidding. I really hoped at this point the zombie horde was going to overtake the peaceful parishioners at the Passion play and the movie would end in a crescendo of zombie vs. churchgoer mayhem, but instead in the end Lucifer just ends up being a glam-rock version of Dracula, swooping his cape and sacrificing women at altars and stuff.

Lucifer likes birthday cake and tidy hair cuts.

Lucifer likes birthday cake and tidy hair cuts.

Holy moly, this movie just makes one mistake after another. Where do I even start? I guess its worst offense is that it has no idea what kind of movie it actually wants to be. Is it a zombie movie? A vampire movie? A religious movie? A teen slasher flick? A family drama? The movie is none of these, but aspires to be all of them. The film can’t even manage to hold a tone for an entire scene. Not only that, scenes seem to end prematurely; just when you think there’s going to be an interesting confrontation, we cut to a different movie entirely. There is no cohesion from one moment to the next. If you played a ‘what the hell’ drinking game while watching this movie, you wouldn’t get through it without downing a few bottles of liquor.

Never a good sign when Lucifer's eyes turn yellow and he's sweaty...

Never a good sign when Lucifer’s eyes turn yellow and he’s sweaty…

I’m not even sure if it’s worth getting into the lack of character development here. Put it simply, there is none. Lucifer’s parents hate each-other, and the dad is convinced it’s because his child is evil incarnate. He is right, of course, but he and Lucifer’s mom never actually have a conversation about it. They get into a fight over Lucifer’s birthday cake and she gets brain damage as a result well before they can actually discuss repairing their marriage. Then there’s the slew of high school kids we come into contact with. Most high school movies have a range of stereotypical characters, and Fear No Evil is no different, but here even having most of the high school scenes is pointless and irrelevant to what I think is supposed to be the main plot. I haven’t decided if the weirdest high school scene is where Lucifer possesses the gym teacher into dodgeballing a boy to death, or the part where Lucifer is taunted in the gym’s shower by a couple of bullies and ends up making out with one of them in front of everyone.

DEATH BY DODGEBALL

DEATH BY DODGEBALL

Then there is Julie/Gabrielle, another high school kid whose boyfriend was the poor kid that got dodgeballed to death, right after they got engaged. She’s confused and sad and also an archangel and has dreams about fucking Lucifer. Did Lucifer kill her boyfriend specifically because he knew she was an angel? Or was it because he liked her like a human boy likes a human girl? No sense in pondering a question to which there’s no answer, I suppose. But she goes and hangs out with the creepy old lady/Mikhail/Margaret and they get their hands on a glowing staff in hopes of slaying Lucifer before his zombies can kill everyone in town, or something.

I'm sorry, when did Lucifer turn into a vampire?

I’m sorry, when did Lucifer turn into a vampire?

If you’ve ever eaten a burrito bowl at Chipotle, you’ll know what I mean when I say Fear No Evil is missing the guacamole: there is no cohesive element to keep all the fragments glued together; there’s an errant grain of rice everywhere you look. LaLoggia really likes the look of seemingly every movie he’s ever seen and tries to incorporate it all in one film with absolutely disastrous results. It is easy to see the roots of Lady in White here, especially in the first fifteen minutes of the film, which is dripping with sentimentality and nostalgia. But then he must have gone to a new wave concert in the middle of filming and decided Talking Heads, Ramones, Richard Hell & The Voidoids among other great bands should be included in this film about angels hunting Lucifer on earth.

Last but not least, there’s the whole Lucifer thing. I don’t know what kind of Lucifer LaLoggia grew up with, but I never got my Lucifer mixed up with Count Dracula. By the end of the film, Lucifer/Andrew is a cape-swooping glam-rock vampire, which sounds amazing, and probably would be in any other movie, but here it is just like… WHERE THE FUCK DID THIS COME FROM? It just does not make any damn sense no matter how you slice it.

I didn't even mention the really shitty special effects. Look at the shitty special effects. And crying Lucifer.

I didn’t even mention the really shitty special effects. Look at the shitty special effects. And crying Lucifer.

While this movie may seem like it has all the perfect elements for a so-bad-it’s-good joke-a-thon, it’s missing the most important thing: watchability. This movie is just so absolutely dreadful, frustrating and exhausting to watch, I can’t imagine anyone having fun with it. It’s not often I insist in the middle of a movie we pause it and venture out into the world for ice cream, because only ice cream can make it tolerable, but that is exactly what happened with Fear No Evil. It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the ice cream did not help improve my feelings towards this piece of garbage. All that being said, though, I think there is a very, very small audience of folks who would want to spend the time to watch this movie. If you have the sort of tolerance for a legitimately terrible, horrible, irredeemable movies and this blog post has poked your curiosity, it might be worth your time, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

02
Nov
14

The Black Cat (1934)

Note: Hi! This is Mike Q, and I’m not the one who usually writes here. I got this guest-spot because Katy’s fallen behind in writing up movies of late, so I’ve been called in to do some of the titles she doesn’t especially want to deal with.

The Black Cat is one of my favorite horror gems to share. It’s strange, unsettling, and moves at an extremely brisk pace, and while it gets mentioned in reverent tones by the bought-in, it just as often seems to have flown beneath the radar for many. Its current availability speaks to this: it’s one of six movies on the budget Bela Lugosi Legacy Collection DVD set, and is there without fanfare. One wouldn’t think to pick it up, unless one knew what treasure awaits. That’s a pity, since this is one of the finest horror films Universal released during their 1930s heyday. Thus, this movie was night 28 of our 31 Days of Horror for 2014.

The Alisons are happy young newlyweds taking the Orient Express to Hungary for their honeymoon. They are bland and normal, but oh so much in love. It’s a drag when overbooking forces them to share their private compartment with Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Béla Lugosi), and that drag turns creepy when he starts petting a sleeping Mrs. Alison. It’s OK. though — she just reminds him of his dead wife. See, the good doctor has been in a terrible prison for many years, and he’s making his pilgrimage back to where he fought in one of the bloodiest battles of World War I so that he can visit his old friend, the battle’s commanding general, who has built himself a house right at the site of the old fort… a location that happens to be right on the way to where the Alisons are themselves headed.

theblackcatset1934

The Poelzig place. It may not be much, but it’s home!

They all share a ride, which inconveniently crashes miles from everywhere but Dr. Werdegast’s friend’s house, an imposing Art Deco manse that looms on the mountain. Werdegast sweeps in like he owns the place, and he and Alison work on tending to the injured Mrs. Alison before the formal introduction to their inadvertent host. Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff, as a character reportedly inspired by Aleister Crowley, and with a look that supposedly inspired Steve Ditko’s initial depictions of Dr. Strange) is far more than what he seems, though: not only the turncoat commanding general of one of the worst battles of the war, he also is one of Europe’s finest architects: he designed and built the house himself, using elements from the old fort. He’s also got a basement full of female corpses suspended in glass cases. All involved find out rather quickly that Werdegast isn’t there for as friendly a visit as it at first appeared – Poelzig stole his wife and daughter while he was in jail, and might even have had set him up to go there. Werdegast is bound and determined to get the women in his life back from Poelzig, and grows all the more concerned as Poelzig seems to have sinister plans in store for Mrs. Alison…

black-cat

Werdegast, Poelzig, and a decorative floating corpse

This movie is great for all sorts of reasons. One is it fantastic look — though decidedly Gothic in its story and execution, much of this movie’s horror is rooted in its invocation of modernity rather than in the aesthetics of the distant past. Here, Poelzig’s malignant evil is expressed in the vocabulary of German Expressionism so popular in the Universal horrors, but by way of the clean lines and large empty spaces of contemporary architecture. Poelzig’s crime seems, in part, to stem from his efforts to erase the past, and in the monumental scale of his own ego, both as manifested in the icy beauty of his domicile. Also imminently compelling is that the two feuding men are so extremely civil to one another, but in that civility always have a heavy weight of latent menace. The boring Alisons are trapped in the midst of this, and while we perhaps have some sense of concern about their situation, I know my attentions are always on how — and when — the smouldering hatred of the big names will finally explode.

boris-karloff black cat mass

Did I mention that Poelzig has a meeting room for his Satanic cult in the basement?

By the time we really get down to it — when Poelzig’s Satanic cult comes a-calling, and when Werdegast finally exacts his horrifyingly under-stated revenge — the movie seems like it is simultaneously completely off the rails and also exactingly, minutely in control of its every action. We’ve been building to this, but have come such a long, strange way from those opening moments aboard the Orient Express that when in the movie’s final moments, we return there again it’s awfully jarring. How can we return unfazed to the exotic but decidedly middle-class trappings we came from after the curious, sinister, fascinating world that we’ve just been privy to? To some degree, that’s The Alisons’ problem — viewers I know seem to remain too haunted by the deliberate, frosty manipulations of Karloff’s Poelzig and Lugosi’s equally sympathetic and alienating Werdegast to really be placated by the efforts at a light ending. The two men are so driven, and so locked together, that it’s easy to read a kind of fascinating queerness underlying their relationship (at least, Henry Benshoff seems to see it too). That and the broad strokes of the plot have led many to credit this (along with James Whale’s Old Dark House) as one of the primary inspirations for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I suppose it’s also worth saying that while the credits and period advertising materials credit Edgar Allan Poe’s famous story as inspiration, there’s as much Poe here as there is in Corman’s Haunted Castle or the AIP Conqueror Worm cut of Witchfinder General — that is to say not much at all. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s a thing worth noting.

black cat 3Anyway, for such a short movie (only 65 minutes!) there’s lots going on, and lots to recommend it.  If you have the chance, you should check this one out. Heck, don’t wait for the chance, go ahead and seek it out; I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

02
Nov
14

The Evil Dead (1981)

TheEvilDeadposterAfter giving the recent remake of The Evil Dead a fair chance, I had no choice but to pop in the original. It had been a long while sine I’d seen it, or even Evil Dead II, and I needed to refresh my memory before really making a final judgement call on the glossy makeover version. So we dedicated the 27th day of our 31 Days of Horror to the mother of all cabin-in-the-woods horror movies, and it should come as no surprise to anyone on the planet that it far outshines its expensive remake.

A group of friends are taking a little trip into the unknown: a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Ash (Bruce Campbell), his girlfriend Linda and sister Cheryl accompany another couple, Scott and Shelly, for what is supposed to be a relaxing weekend. If only that damn Cheryl wasn’t so uptight, and didn’t freak out when they played this tape recording they found in the basement of an academic reading aloud some weird, old book, they could have had more fun. Or maybe Cheryl was right to be creeped out by the mysterious tape recording…

Indeed, not long after they shut the recording off, there’s a strange rustling out in the woods. What could it be? Perhaps the awakening of a sleeping evil that wants to take the happy-go-lucky-campers’ souls? It would seem so. At the very least there is no doubt it has some pretty nasty intentions once we see

Ash takes on the Evil Dead

Ash takes on the Evil Dead

it tree-rape Cheryl. When she comes back to the cabin, she seems a little off. It isn’t long before the rest of the group realizes something has possessed her, so they throw her into the basement from whence she can spout vindictive, raspy comments in her I’m-possessed voice! Will the group be able to survive the spreading evil?

I like to imagine when people say they enjoy gory horror movies, it’s movies like The Evil Dead they are talking about. As the movie progresses, each scene gets gorier, nastier and bloodier, but its tone is never really mean-spirited. It certainly doesn’t fall under the torture-porn category that is so popular these days; it isn’t watching people suffer for suffering’s sake. Instead, it seems a lot more like a showcase of the

Linda is so pretty!

Linda is so pretty!

special effects and make-up talent behind this movie. The stuff looks great, and what’s so great about it? One, it’s real. I know, I know, you’ve heard it a million times before, but get used to it, because you’re just going to keep hearing it: CG sucks and this movie is prime example of why. Nothing takes the audience out of a movie more than shitty special effects, and there is shitty CG and there is shitty claymation and there is shitty make-up, but of the three I’ll take the latter two over the former any day. Shitty CG is just so lazy, at least I feel if it’s something someone has touched with their hands they at least gave a shit. There is just nothing better than watching real, material special effects unfold in a movie like this. It’s glorious. And it’s even more glorious when the filmmakers manage to make it look good on a low budget; that’s when the true imagination, innovation and talent shines through, and it’s all over The Evil Dead. It’s quite clear why this movie set the template for so many that came after it.

Can Cheryl be contained by her chains?

Can Cheryl be contained by her chains?

Just as I felt silly writing up Evil Dead II, I feel silly writing this one up. If this is a movie you should see, you have already seen it. Though, now that I’m all old and out of touch with the young kids, I wonder – what horror movies are those kids watching? Are movies like The Evil Dead even on their radar? If they aren’t, should I be thankful for the remake in hopes that it piques their interest? I guess the answer is yes. I don’t want horror to die! I want a special-effects and claymation renaissance! Get on it, kids!




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