Posts Tagged ‘ghosts

20
Jan
17

The Demoniacs (1974)

It’s not that I don’t like Jean Rollin, because I do, actually. Even still, every time we watch one of his flicks the first thing I wonder is how long it will be before I end up drifting off to sleep? Well, the magic number with The Demoniacs was 46 minutes.

demoniacswreckers

The wreckers are out for loot… and blood!

Rollin definitely has his thing, namely mute naked chicks roaming around in gothic settings. And fear not, there is plenty of that to be had here. The mute naked chicks in question in The Demoniacs are the latest victims of a ragged band of wreckers (folks who trick ships into wrecking on the shore and then pillaging their contents). Their ship crashes, they wander towards the wreckers in their white linens all helpless and stuff, and of course are raped and left for dead.

demoniacsghost

Seeking ghostly revenge

Somehow the mute naked chicks end up at the local ruins where they find a clown, a Jesus, and I dunno, a devil or something? They make a deal with the devilish character, and obtain his power through sex (just in case you forgot you were watching a Jean Rollin movie) in order to seek revenge against the evil wreckers.

demoniacsclowningaround

Clowning Around

So, as is usually the case with Rollin’s flicks, there are some really good-looking moments (perhaps he should’ve done photography instead of film?). Alas, he can’t seem to string them together in any meaningful way. More than any other flick of his, The Demoniacs left me perplexed as to what it was actually about or what, if anything, it was trying to say. It was almost good, which makes it all the more frustrating that it wasn’t really worth a damn in the end. That being said, there are some truly bizarre moments that I don’t regret having experienced, and the boldness with which Rollin plants naked women in unlikely scenes and poses amused me until the very end. Still, I can’t really say that I’d recommend this movie to anyone.

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27
Oct
14

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

As I probably have mentioned before, October is a triple-treat month: my birthday, my wedding anniversary AND Halloween, all within 31 days! Best month ever! Being the total romantic that I am, I insisted we continue 31 Days of Horror on our first wedding anniversary. The movie I chose was, of course, Mario Bava’s Hatchet for the Honeymoon. Q happily complied; that’s why we’re married, folks.
John Harrington is a studly fashion designer, whose expertise is in wedding gowns, bridal lingerie and murder. His favorite kind of murder involves newlyweds; preferably women who are still wearing the bridal gowns they’ve purchased from his shop. He knows he’s mad, but he can’t stop murdering brides! It’s just something he must do; every bride he cleaves will bring him one step closer to solving his insanity, or so he thinks.

John Harrington: Normal Guy

John Harrington: Normal Guy

At first, it seems obvious why John thinks the only good wife is a dead wife: his own wife Mildred is an absolutely miserable human being. She goes out of her way to make John’s life a living hell, and constantly holds over his head the fact that it’s her money that funds his whole fashion operation. Meanwhile, she holds seances so she can speak to her long-dead previous husband, whom she actually loved. All John wants is a divorce, but of course she won’t grant him one. Instead, she vows to be with John forever and ever, no matter what. I guess John decides to test her resolve and kills her in an almost understandable fit of rage. Sure enough Mildred hangs around, if only as a ghost to make him look insane to others.

Mildred said they'd be together forever...

Mildred said they’d be together forever…

Now with Mildred out of the way, perhaps John won’t be so batshit? Not so; he’s still got mommy issues to deal with, namely getting over her violent death. And what about that detective who keeps snooping around his shop, his house, his fashion shows for chrissakes? Could it be he knows John has been slaying newlyweds?
I think most Bava fans would agree Hatchet for the Honeymoon is not one of his best movies, but it is definitely a better-than-average horror movie. It is especially a better-than-average giallo! While I love the style of the giallo films, I have to say a lot of the time they are pretty darn disappointing; the plots are always going in a million directions too many and I am never genuinely surprised by the endings. At least with Hatchet we already know who the killer is. Instead, Bava is asking a more interesting question: why is John a killer? Though the answer doesn’t surprise you, it is still a fun ride.

Holy shit he's wearing a wedding veil! Yes. Yes. Thank you Mr. Bava.

Holy shit he’s wearing a wedding veil! Yes. Yes. Thank you Mr. Bava.

What is interesting about Hatchet is it seems to be the predecessor to a few other flicks I wouldn’t have expected. Comparisons to American Psycho are pretty obvious: both John Harrington and Patrick Bateman are self-obsessed rich guys who hide their murderous identities from the fools around them. But the whole mommy-issue thing reminds me a lot of my least favorite Cronenberg movie Spider.  Both Spider and Harrington are nut jobs who didn’t like to think of their mothers having sex. Throughout Hatchet we see John as a little boy re-experiencing his mother’s violent end, an awful lot like the scenes we see in Spider when the main character is transported into the past. I can’t help but think Cronenberg took a few cues from Hatchet; it doesn’t seem out of the question!

The bride-to-be might not make it to the honeymoon...

The bride-to-be might not make it to the honeymoon…

But, as always, my favorite thing about this Italian horror flick is its style. If only I’d watched this when I was shopping for wedding dresses, I would have had so many more ideas! And what about John’s pajamas? Wow, if that’s what dude lounges in just imagine what he’s hiding in that closet (aside from the cleaver, of course). And of course the film itself is just stylish beyond words, because that is what Bava does best. It just looks so good. This one is definitely worth a watch or two.

I want those pajamas.

I want those pajamas.

17
Feb
14

Lady in White (1988)

When I was a kid, there was a handful of movies I watched over and over and over and over. The more of these movies I watch as an adult, the more I wonder to myself: what the heck kind of kid was I? I am very thankful to have had parents that trusted me to watch basically whatever I wanted, because the movies I considered favorites as a kid obviously have had an enormous impact on my taste in weird stuff later in life, and for that I am forever grateful! Though I wouldn’t call Lady in White a particularly weird movie, I think it’s at least safe to say that, despite the fact there are children in the movie, it is not a movie made for children! Just what the appeal was to an 8-year-old me, I can’t say, except I did have a thing for ghosts…

The story is set in Small Town, NY, 1962. It’s Halloween, and little Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) is super pumped for his favorite holiday; the boy is, after all, an aspiring horror writer. He dazzles his class with his giant monster story, but two young boys are less than impressed, and decide it would be a great idea to lock Frankie in the coat room all night long. They trick him into thinking he’s left his hat, a gift from his father, in the coat room. While he goes in to look for it, they slam the door, lock it, and leave him to spend Halloween alone in the dark, conveniently overlooking a cemetery!

Frankie telling stories

Frankie telling stories

Frankie finally drifts off to sleep, but soon he is rudely awakened by the ghostly figure of a young girl, skipping and singing her way into the coat room. She is talking to someone, but we can’t see who. Their interaction becomes dark very quickly when the unseen person throttles the ghost and drags her out of the coat room by her hair. Frankie tries to keep silent and hidden, but eventually the unknown man notices him and starts choking him, too, until he passes out.

When Frankie wakes up, he is unable to identify the person who choked him, though according to the racist community all signs point to the African-American janitor, who had passed out in the school’s basement while drinking. The situation doesn’t look very good for the janitor; Frankie’s attack has been linked to the murder of eleven children over the years, one of whom is Melissa Ann Montgomery, without a doubt the same girl Frankie saw dancing in the coat room. Frankie senses the janitor isn’t the killer, but he has no proof. His only hope is to retrieve the man’s ring from the vent in the cloak room, which he is certain will identify the true murderer.

The ghost girl gets it

The ghost girl gets it

The film tells the story of a pretty standard murder mystery, intriguing for kids I guess because it’s kids who actually solve the thing, not the adults. And while there is definitely a lot of eye candy here for kids, there are some uncomfortable moments of violence against children that are definitely super creepy and must have scared the crap out of me when I was little. Perhaps the adult-world scary stuff was mitigated by Frankie’s friendship with Melissa the ghost girl; the two become “friends” and it becomes Frankie’s mission to reunite Melissa with her mother who committed suicide after her daughter’s death.

Then there is, of course, the actual story of the Lady in White, a local legend about an old woman who haunts a scary old house by the cliffs. The characters mention her throughout the film, and her true story is something Frankie uncovers while figuring out just about every other secret of his small town. So, there are an awful lot of dirty little secrets for a nine-year-old boy to stumble upon; good thing he likes a thrilling mystery.

All in all, this movie is good enough, though it must be said that it is absolutely dripping with sentimentality. Frankie is re-telling us the story years later, so I guess it’s understandable that a trip back home after years of being away would evoke strong nostalgia, but they lay it on pretty damn thick here – there’s Frankie’s grandmother, who is always yelling at the family to get out of the cold, and Frankie’s grandfather, who does his best to hide behind various buildings to get a smoke without being caught by his wife. There’s the general store with all your favorite old Halloween toys, goofiness between Frankie and his brother Geno; anything you can think of that would make you yearn for days long passed, it’s here and it’s a bit much. This is obviously something that didn’t strike me as problematic as a kid, but it’s virtually impossible to watch the movie now without vomiting a little in your mouth over its sickly sweetness.

The lady in white is... Katherine Helmond!

The lady in white is… Katherine Helmond!

If you can get past the overt nostalgia and the weird adult-on-child violence, this movie’s pretty okay, but it’s a far cry from a must-see. The best mysteries always involve a ghost here and there, so it’s got that going for it. But, the best part about the movie is probably the casting; Lukas Haas and his big eyes are just about perfect for the role of a budding mystery novelist. It is hard for me to see that guy as anyone other than Frankie Scarlatti.

15
Feb
14

Pulse (2001)

There was a time in my life where I was a little J-horror curious. I did my duty and rented all the staples; you know the ones, Ju-on, Ringu, Audition and the like. Looking back, I feel like I did this out of some weird sense of horror-love obligation, and not actually because I liked the movies. Audition marked the end of the road for me; after that one, which I did not like, I gave up on the J-horror experience. Ever since, I’ve been reluctant to sit down and dedicate time to them.

Never good when the weather guy loses his head.

Never good when the weather guy loses his head.

This is not fair, of course; one shouldn’t dismiss an entire sub-genre so easily. That being said, I think I still groaned audibly when the husband pulled out Pulse and informed me that’s what we’d be watching that evening. I probably said something along like: “Japanese horror? Ugh.” But I’ve too often said I’ll watch anything to declare J-horror off-limits, so I watched.

Pulse centers around a few different groups of young people working and studying in Tokyo. First we are acquainted with Kudo, a young woman whose co-worker Taguchi has been mysteriously out of touch for the last few days. Kudo decides it’s been too long and goes to his apartment to check up on him. When she finds him there, he is distant and aloof, and slowly walks away from her into another room where he promptly commits suicide. The only clues the group of friends has into Toguchi’s suicide are some mysterious pictures of him at his computer…

Meanwhile, Ryosuke, a college kid who doesn’t know much about computers gets his first internet connection. Without help from Rryosuke, his computer connects itself to a website that just shows dark,

You can try to tape up the horror...

You can try to tape up the horror…

grainy video of random people, all of them alone. Ryosuke goes to the university to see if anyone there can help figure out why his computer brought him to the website. Here he meets Harue, who offers him some suggestions on getting screen shots of the website for her to examine.

Throughout the movie, our friends continue to delve deeper into the world of this internet weirdness, and what they find is, of course, totally disturbing, though frankly I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is they do find. There are some creepy shadows on the walls, some disturbed people who refuse to talk, and other people simply disappearing into thin air. I guess really what they really find is alienation and loneliness. These feelings, naturally induced by the anonymity offered by the big city are only multiplied by the seeming connectivity of technology.

I appreciate what the film is trying to convey, but I don’t think I’m such a fan of how it goes about doing so. It bears a lot of the hallmarks of Japanese Horror, namely a deep, dark mystery that almost always has

Weird TV face!

Weird TV face!

long, black hair. There are weird ghostly creatures with mouths at jaunty angles and elbows and knees in all the wrong places. I guess I just saw this too long after I’d seen all the other J-horror flicks I’d already written off. I must at least mention that Pulse is one of the first of the new wave of J-horror as I think of it, so it definitely gets credit for that.

As far as Japanese horror flicks from the aughts go, this is probably one of the best I’ve seen. The fact still remains, though, I am just not all that impressed with the style of these films. If it’s the kind of thing you’re into, than this movie should definitely be at the top of your to-watch list, if you haven’t already seen it. If it’s not your bag, well, take it or leave it.

15
Dec
13

The Conjuring (2013)

Honestly, I didn't know they had five kids until this shot.

Honestly, I didn’t know they had five kids until this shot.

Well, the ghost story has struck again. This time, it’s The Conjuring that had me clutching stuffed animals from my childhood to my face in hopes of stifling my screams. Now, it is important to note that a ghost story doesn’t have to be particularly good, or even particularly scary for that matter, to work on me like a charm. It just takes a little “boo” here and there and I turn into a pile of fear jelly.

The Conjuring is supposedly based on a true story. The same “paranormal investigators” that inspired The Amityville Horror and A Haunting in Connecticut, Ed & Lorraine Warren, are behind this one, too. This time, they’re called upon by a woman in absolute desperation: she and her family (husband, five girls) are being terrorized in their new home. Selling the thing is out of the question; they sunk all their money into the place.

Ugh, creepy toy!

Ugh, creepy toy!

Her children can’t sleep, and she is covered in mysterious bruises, which she blames on anemia. Lorraine Warren has a different suspicion, though, and despite her husband’s reservations is determined to help the family in need. Her research yields terrifying results; you’ll have to watch (or heck, read Wikipedia for the details) that lead to plenty of screams and spilled popcorn.

Yes, this movie scared the crap out of me. Surprisingly, I did not suffer nightmares or the need to run from the bathroom to my bed in the middle of the night like I did after The Innkeepers. Perhaps part of the reason for that is the movie kind of gets a little ridiculously over the top towards the end, or it just might be that the build-up is always more exciting to me than the actual ghost-human

Mr. Livingston, you should have stayed in the office.

Mr. Livingston, you should have stayed in the office.

confrontation. And, since The Innkeepers is 95% build-up, that would explain why it’s scarier to me, and more effective than this movie. But, if you like ghost stories, you shouldn’t miss this; it is pretty standard, but it does its job pretty well.

Ghosts aside, though, the costume and set design is a mid-century cream dream! The film is set in 1971, and the clothing, the kitchenware, the furniture, everything is just to die for. I think I actually said a few times I’d live in that horrible, terrifying, haunted house if it came fully-equipped with that gorgeous freaking kitchen! This is probably not going to be a distraction for most viewers, but for me, it actually helped make me feel a little more at ease when I know I was supposed to be tensing up. I wonder if I’m the only one that felt the urge to hit up etsy after watching this?

30
Apr
13

The Innkeepers (2011)

InnkeepersPosterI like horror movies. All kinds of horror movies: psychological-thriller types, guts-n-gore types, David-Cronenberg types, silly b-movie horror, slashers, creepsters, pinheads. You name it, I’ll watch it. Friends even consider it a triumph when I gag at something disgusting on the screen. That being said, The Innkeepers exposed my one, true horror weakness. The one aspect of horror movies that turns me into a three-year old little girl hiding under the covers: ghosts. I don’t know what it is. It’s not even that I necessarily believe in ghosts, but something about them scares the bejeezus out of me.

I'll be damned, she *has* lost that lovin' feeling.

I’ll be damned, she *has* lost that lovin’ feeling.

The Innkeepers is, as you might have guessed, a movie about a haunted hotel. The Yankee Pedlar hotel has seen better days, and this is its last weekend running. The two remaining employees, Claire and Luke, are out to prove the place is haunted for real, Ghost Hunters style. Considering there are only three occupied rooms, this should be a piece of cake. Lucky for Claire, one of the guests is a former actress turned psychic healer named Leanne (Kelly McGillis)

Claire's going to catch the ghost on tape, she just *knows* it.

Claire’s going to catch the ghost on tape, she just *knows* it.

who offers her help in communicating with the supposed ghosts. Unluckily for Claire, Leanne’s magic crystal does not see good things. She warns Claire not to go into the basement. What does Claire do?

Come on. She goes into the basement.

I know, it sounds like a pretty standard ghost flick, but there are some interesting things going on here. Beyond being simply entertaining to watch, which it is, it’s also an examination of the power of faith and fear. If we believe anything enough, does it have the power to cure us? If we fear anything enough, does it have the power to destroy us? The conclusions are yours to draw, but I’ll tell you I felt like a damn fool being so scared at the end of it! Thing is, I know I’d still be scared the second time around.

06
Mar
13

Beetlejuice (1988)

The Deetz Family

The Deetz Family

I can probably blame a great deal of my affected, preteen discontent and misanthropy on Winona Ryder’s 1988 film roles.  Her portrayal of Veronica Sawyer in Heathers fed me the taste of revenge against the “cool” kids, and like Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice, I felt oh, so “utterly alone.” I watched both of these films incessantly growing up. Revisiting Beetlejuice for the first time in years, I saw a pretty clear connection between its worldview and my own at the time, but my adult eyes also found a movie much more clever than I ever could have realized as a kid.

Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play Adam and Barbara Maitland, owners of a hardware store in a quaint little town in Connecticut. They live in a much-coveted house, which a pesky real-estate agent named Jane is constantly trying to buy out from under them. But the Maitlands are happy where they are, until Adam drives their

Barbara Maitland, waiting room, No Exit.

Barbara Maitland, waiting room, No Exit.

car into the river, killing them both. As they become acquainted with the world of the dead through reading The Handbook for the Recently Deceased, their house is purchased by some truly awful New Yorkers. Charles Deetz (Jeffrey Jones) is just looking for a place to “relax,” while his wife, Delia (Catherine O’Hara), is looking for a remodeling project. Charles’ daughter, Lydia, doesn’t know what she’s looking for other than some space away from her stepmother.

Beetlejuice, the last resort.

Beetlejuice, the last resort.

The Maitlands are forced to watch in horror as Delia and her interior designer, Otho, knock down walls and paint the place horrifying colors. They’ve had no luck with Juno, their caseworker, and against her warning enlist the help of a Bio-Exorcist named Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) in hopes of scaring the Deetzes out of their house. Wackiness ensues.

I can only hope to look this good when I'm dead.

I can only hope to look this good when I’m dead.

These days, the name Tim Burton carries nothing but negative weight as ar as I’m concerned, but Beetlejuice is darn-near perfect. It’s a great mix of comedy and horror, and instead of pulling from one tired bag of tricks, it actually has some interesting things to say. How can the country bumpkin come to terms with the lives of New York socialites? How can the dead come to terms with the living? And how can a young girl caught in between not jump off a bridge?




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