Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thirteen Ghosts (1960)

 I finally watched William Castle's Thirteen Ghosts.  I hate to admit I actually kind of like the remake that came out in 2001.  I know it is a shitty movie but it is one of my guilty pleasures, like the entire Resident Evil franchise.  I can now add Castle's Thirteen Ghosts to my guilty pleasure list.  I loved every inch of this movie!

Lets begin with the haunted mansion, which looks an awful lot like the Winchester Mystery House (my local haunted joint.)  Paleontologist Cyrus Zorba is a good man, but very bad with money.  He can't even keep his house furnished.  Zorba's luck changes one day when he is informed that his Uncle, Dr. Plato Zorba, has died and left Cyrus his furnished mansion!  Cyrus and his family, wife Hilda, daughter Medea, and son Buck (who named these people?) move in right away.  They are informed by Plato's lawyer, Ben Rush, that the house is haunted with eleven ghosts.  Make that twelve, since good old Plato is refusing to leave.  Seems that Plato dabbled in the occult, and he "collected" these ghosts from around the world.

The family moves in, but immediately begin to experience strange happenings.  It doesn't help that the housekeeper, Elaine, looks and acts like a witch (played tongue in cheek by Margaret Hamilton.)  Elaine knows that the ghosts are real, and that they are beginning to become out of control.  Plato left Cyrus a pair of goggles that allows him to "see" the ghosts.  And this is where Castle's gimmick comes in.  Audience members were given goggles with their ticket.  Brave souls could wear the goggles and "see" the ghosts on screen.  Those faint of heart only had to move a flap on the goggles and they were spared the horror!  Of course, if you didn't wear the goggles you could see the ghosts as well-- but what is the fun in that?

Plato had some very strange taste in ghosts.  One of them looks like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, another is a flaming skeleton.  One of them is a lion tamer that lost his head, and another is the lion itself!! I love that one of the ghosts is a lion!  The ghosts are actually kind of scary.  They are no Caspers, that is for sure.  Apparently they will not rest until another joins their ranks: the thirteenth ghost!   Making matters worse, there is a fortune hidden somewhere in the mansion.  The Zorba family doesn't know anything about it, but Ben Rush and the witch Elaine do.  As you can imagine, ghosts are not the only threat to the Zorba family.

The special effects are really corny, and much of the film doesn't make much sense, such as the collapsing bed.  Who would built a bed that collapses with the push of a button?  It is as dumb as building a door to the sea in your basement (see The Terror.)  But I really like the Zorba family and the ghosts are really funky.  I want a ghost lion in my house.  Maybe I already have one.  I have misplaced by goggles but that could explain why my cat is acting so weird. 

Happy Thanksgiving !!

Thanks to whoever I took this image from!  Thanks to everyone who reads my blog!  Thank you to Turkey and Wine and the sleepless night that too much of each will give me!  Thank you to my awesome family who totally supports my turn to the darkside.  Thank you for Glee and The Walking Dead.  Thank you Jason and Freddy and Michael Myers and Ghostface (what the hell is he doing in this picture?  I wouldn't invite that poser to my holiday table).    Have a wonderful day everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

RIP Ingrid Pitt

I was just reading about her yesterday.  What an amazing woman.  Survived a Nazi Concentration camp.  Rest in Peace Ingrid Pitt.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Boris Karloff!!!

Thank you for all of the nightmares!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

H.H. Holmes: America's first serial killer (2004)

 Like many horror nuts I am as obsessed with real life horror as I am with fictional.  Give me Serial Killer day on Biography and I am one happy girl.  We know all about our modern day Monsters such as Dahmer, Manson, and Fish, but most people haven't heard about the Grand-daddy of them all: H.H. Holmes, known as America's first Serial Killer.

I was introduced to H.H. Holmes by Erik Larson's amazing book Devil in the White City.  Believe it or not I did not pick up this book because of Holmes but because of my weird obsession with World's Fairs.  This book is about both the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and Holmes, who opened a hotel during the Fair and used it as an opportunity to procure more victims. 

Holmes was unusual for a Serial Killer in that he was highly educated.  Trained as a Doctor, he used his ties to the medical world to dispose of his corpses.  He would sell the bones to schools and hospitals to be used as training materials!  As well as being a killer Holmes was also a swindler and con man, taking his victims money as well as their lives.  He was also an architect.  He designed his hotel in Chicago that became known as "The Castle."  He designed it to be respectable on the outside, but a chamber of horrors on the inside.  He built a crematorium, lime pit, and torture chamber in the basement.  He would lock victims into the massive vault he had installed until they died of suffocation.  He killed his business partner and the partner's three children.  When he was finally caught he claimed that Satan had possessed him. 

For more on Holmes please read Erick Larson's book or check out John Borowski's documentary H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer.  This short film tells the story of Holmes through re-creations, newspaper clips from the era, and photos of Holmes and his victims.  I found it very well made and more than a little creepy.

Exorcist III: Legion

I have never seen any of the Exorcist sequels until now (I did see the awful prequel from a few years ago.  Lets not talk about that.)  What I had heard is that The Exorcist II is downright awful but the William Peter Blatty directed Exorcist III is a worthy successor to the "scariest film ever made."  Well, I don't really agree with that.  I didn't hate The Exorcist III, but I didn't think it was all that great either.  Perhaps this is because I have never seen the stinker that is Exorcist II.  Nearly every review I have read of Exorcist III mentions it as a "true" sequel, unlike Part II.  So I will revisit this film after seeing Part II.  Wonderful.  I sometimes wonder what the people at Netflix must think of my queue.  I wonder if they go in and read them and think: "My God-this person has no life AND the worst taste in movies". 

The Exorcist III starts out well enough.  The spooky music, the Georgetown setting, the stairs- the stairs are shown over and over again- I loved it.  George C. Scott plays Lt. William F. Kinderman, the movie loving cop from the first film (replacing the deceased Lee J. Cobb.) Kinderman is still good friends with Father Dyer (Ed Flanders) and two get together every year to see a film on the anniversary of Father Damien's demise.  The best part about this film is the relationship between these two very different men.  It is the emotional center of the film.

A series of grisly, satanic murders is rocking Georgetown.  Kinderman thinks it may be the work of the "Gemini Killer", a madman who was executed 15 years prior (around the same time as the events in the first film.)  He has a hard time convincing anyone of this since the Gemini (played by the always awesome Brad Dourif) is clearly dead.  The other problem is that according to the fingerprints, the murders are being done by different people.  Sounds like a case of possession to me!

When the murderer begins to target Kinderman's family and friends, it becomes a race against time to uncover the mystery.  At the local hospital Kinderman is introduced to "Patient X," an unknown man that has been locked in the psych ward for 15 years.

Does he look kind of familiar?  It's Father Damien (Jason Miller!)  At this point things get really crazy in this film, and I was as confused as George C. Scott looks throughout the entire thing.  What begins as a pretty intriguing hunt for a serial killer turns into a strange possession/exorcism/body jumping finale that looks like it was thrown together at the last minute.  The film just didn't feel right, despite some great performances and good scares. 

Upon further research I found that the film I saw wasn't really William Peter Blatty's true vision.  Morgan Creek Productions, the same company that fucked up Nightbreed, insisted that Blatty re shoot some of the film so that there was an actual exorcism in it.  Blatty wanted to release the film as Legion, after his book, but Morgan Creek, looking to cash in, wanted it to feel more like a true sequel to The Exorcist.  Hence, the return of Jason Miller, the inclusion of Father Morning, an exorcist that shows up and has nothing to do with the other events in the film, and the strange ending. 

I would love to see Blatty's original film, but Morgan Creek claims that the original footage has been lost.  Conspiracy!!  The story behind the film was more interesting than the film itself!

What I really liked about the film was Blatty's little touches of weirdness throughout.  From the witty and sometimes strange dialog to the bizarre visual touches, watching this film is a bit like an Easter egg hunt.  If you watch it be on the lookout for Larry King, Samuel L. Jackson, and the Joker.  Seriously, its weird.  In a good way. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe

Early pic of John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven, due out next year.  Thanks to "Ain't it Cool News"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Terror

 I love Roger Corman.  How could you not?  He gave first chances and guidance to many of our favorite filmmakers of today, including two involved with his 1963 film, The Terror.  I am talking about Jack Nicholson and Francis Ford Coppola- they were both involved in this hot mess of a movie.  Both apparently had a hand in directing the damn thing as well... we all have to start somewhere.

You have to read up on this movie: I am not going to go into the whole mess.  The short version is Corman still had the sets and costumes from another film he was making and decided to shot The Terror with the leftovers.  The Terror had no real script, no direction, no clue.  It did have Boris Karloff agreeing to take on the role of The Baron, and the young and eager Jack Nicholson to play Andre Duvalier, a French officer.  It took me about an hour to figure out he was French.  Nicholson was pulling a Costner before he was even a big shot!  I mean he wasn't even trying! 

The Terror is sort of a Gothic ghost story/thriller hybrid that doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  You can tell by watching the film that they were making it up as they went along.  The continuity errors alone are worth the price of admission.  It has great charm however.  Karloff does his best (as he always did) as the guilt ridden Baron, and Dick Miller as Stefan, his manservant, is a revelation.  Sandra Knight plays Helene, the love interest/ghost/melting face woman.  She is beautiful and amazing but I had one problem: during one scene you can see her mustache.  This sort of thing does not bother me.  Really.  But it really distracted me for the rest of the film.  Why didn't they shave it!?  I know this was filmed in 1963, but they must have had razors! 

Here is the plot best as I can tell.  Jack Nicholson was separated from his regiment.  On the beach he sees a beautiful woman who leads him to drinking water and introduces herself as Helene.  He falls in love with her instantly (as you do) and then gets very upset when she turns into a hawk that attacks him.  He finds shelter with an old witch and her mute son.  The witch owns the hawk, who is named Helene, but Nicholson doesn't believe the witch.  The mute son, who actually can talk, tells Nicholson to go the the Baron's castle and find Eric.  Because Nicholson had nothing better to do he goes to the castle.  There he meets Boris Karloff and Stefan.  They reluctantly let him stay.  While there he sees Helene again, but she is acting like a bi-polar bitch.  Nicholson confronts the Baron and he admits that Helene is Baroness Ilsa, his dead wife.  Whom he killed.  And Stefan killed Ilsa's lover: Eric.  So far so good. 

 Nicholson goes back and spies on the old witch and discovers that she had possessed the body of a young woman with Ilsa's spirit to get revenge on the Baron.  See, the witch was Eric's mother.  We don't know who Helene/Ilsa is, but we know she is the pawn of the witch.  She is trying to convince the Baron to kill himself by flooding the crypt where Ilsa is buried.  And this is where I checked out.  See, the crypt is at the bottom of the castle, and there is a special door that if opened lets the sea in.  Why would anyone do this?  What is the motivation for building something that can be flooded BY THE SEA by opening a door?  I won't spoil the ending for you (you wouldn't believe me anyway) but lets just say it makes no sense.

But if you can, by all means see The Terror.  It is cool in it's own weird little way and it is fun to see Nicholson before he was big.  Here he is basically an asshole.  I am off to buy some wax strips for my upper lip.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Battle LA trailer

Ok SKYLINE, if your trailer looked half this good I might consider seeing you.  But it doesn't, so I am going to stay home and watch South Park.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lake Mungo

Lake Mungo has been on my horror radar for the last few months.  First one blogger talks about it, then another, then another.  A must see film, a horror film like no other, really scary.  Sign me up.  Lake Mungo delivers.  It had me weeping at the end, as well as turning on all the lights. 

As I was watching this Australian film I couldn't help thinking of another one of my favorite Aussie movies, Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock.  Both films deal with not only the loss of a young life, but also the loss of innocence, or what we as adults want to believe is innocence. 

Filmed in a faux Documentary style (one of my favorite storytelling devices) Lake Mungo tells the story of the Palmer family, a typical middle-class family trying to deal with the death of Alice, the 16 or 17 year old Daughter.  Alice drowned while on a family vacation, a pure accident.  Soon after her death, the family begins to feel that there is a presence in the house.  As they try to unravel the mystery of what might be haunting them, they also unravel the mystery of Alice herself.  Like Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks (an obvious influence here), Alice was a girl of many secrets. 

The real story here is the often complicated relationship between Mothers and Daughters.  Unfinished business in life can translate into unfinished business in death.  I don't want to give to much away about this film, but it is this fact that had me in tears at the end.  Lake Mungo is hard to classify as horror, but it is. I was scared.  I was on the edge of my seat.  I will probably have nightmares tonight.  But like Picnic at Hanging Rock I will also have this hard to shake feeling of sadness.  If you are in the mood for a different kind of horror film, Lake Mungo is for you.  Just be prepared to live with it for a few days.

Saw 3D

The seventh (and hopefully final) Saw film hit theatres right before Halloween.

Seven years. Seven years of Saw movies.  Who would have thought that this inexpensive, at the time original, horror film made by two Australian guys would go on to become a major horror franchise?  Like many, I really wish it hadn't.  I go every year to see the new one not because I really want to, but I feel like I have to.  The producers and writers were very clever to have turned the franchise into a horror "soap opera."  There are betrayals galore, people you thought were dead returning to settle scores, tragic romances, convoluted story lines that make zero sense, and a cliffhanger at the end of every episode.  Jigsaw is a bit like Erica Kane.  The whole mess revolves around him. 

In this weeks episode of As the Saw Turns, Hoffman is out for revenge.  His target is Jill, Jigsaw's wife. Jill attempted to kill Hoffman by attaching the Shawnee Smith jaw clap from the first film to his head.  Because she is not engineering genius like Jigsaw, Hoffman, and Amanda, she doesn't do it right, and Hoffman gets away.  Jill is taken into police custody for protection.  Meanwhile, with all of his free time, Hoffman is setting up more traps.  His main target is Bobby, a supposed "trap" survivor that has written a self help book about his experience.  Bobby even runs group therapy for other survivors of Jigsaw, including...Dr. Gordon from the first film!  Yeah, Cary Elwes is back! 

While the cops are hunting for Hoffman, Bobby is running around a trap filled warehouse, trying to save his pretty young wife from destruction.  Along the way he must decided the fate of his "handlers," people who helped him with his deception. 

Will Bobby get there in time?  Will Jill survive?  Will Hoffman get what is coming to him?  And why did Cary Elwes return for the seventh film?  And where is Shawnee Smith?  These answers and more coming right now:

No. No. Yes. Money. Not enough money and her character is dead. 

I really hope this is the last one.  I have a feeling we need to prepare for the next seven years of Paranormal Activity sequels.  I can only handle one horror soap opera at a time.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The House on the Borderland


 I don't often write about the books I read: its just not my thing.  But I feel compelled to write about The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson.  It took me a month to read this slim novel, not because it bored me or I didn't have time, but because I could only handle a chapter at a time.  It is that terrifying.

 William Hope Hodgson was a huge influence on HP Lovecraft and it is easy to see why.  He transports you to a world of color and terror, a world way beyond our own reality and understanding.  In this world ancient, swine-like creatures attack from all sides, an endless pit of horror lies right beneath your feet, and a helpless old man is hurled through time and forced to watch the end of the universe.  This is not light reading.

Two English Gentlemen are vacationing in the Irish countryside.  They stumble upon the ruins of an old house located on the edge of a pit.  Inside the house they find a dusty old manuscript.  It is the story of the old man who lived at the house, with his Sister Mary and faithful dog Pepper.  This old man, never given a name, begins the journal to record his horrific experiences at the house.  At one point he is besieged by pig like monsters, intent on invading his home.  He barricades his house and attempts to kill as many of the monsters as he can, until they finally disappear, back into the pit that he discovers exists under his house.  

The Old Man cannot leave the house.  Despite all the terror, the house also gives him glimpses of his lost love in place known as the "sea of sleep."  This love is what keeps him there, and is what will ultimately bring him his to his doom.

I kept expecting Cthulhu to make a guest appearance in this novel.  Thank elder god he didn't because it would have been more than I could handle.  I couldn't recommend this novel enough, just be prepared for feverish nightmares.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Zombies invade TV: Dead Set and The Walking Dead

It has been a jolly good week for us who love Zombies and love TV.  Zombies invaded the tele during Halloween, and we were treated to not one, but two pretty decent Zombie shows.  First up:  Dead Set.  This five part mini series created for Channel 4 wears its affection for Romero on its sleeve (well, except for the fact that these are fast Zombies.)  Set at the "Big Brother" house, Dead Set examines what happens when a bunch of a-hole fame whores try to survive not only in a world of flesh eaters, but in a world without cameras and an audience!  The horror!

With it's obvious social commentary Dead Set is very Romero-esqe.  Being set in the "Big Brother" house, we are introduced to a cast of characters that I found very hard to root for.  The only "likable" one in this lot is Kelly, a production assistant who survives the initial carnage and finds herself in the house with the rest of the contestants.  It is up to her to explain to these vapid morons what the hell is exactly going on. Dead Set has some great moments of humor and a lot of gore.  It also boasts one of the more depressing endings to come along in a while.  I mean we are talking The Mist depressing.

But call me old fashioned--I don't want my Zombie apocalypse tied up with a pretty pink bow.  There is no happy ending to this mess.  People often ask me what my thing is about Zombies.  I find myself defending my love of the genre.  Friends say that Zombies are "boring" monsters, that there are no new stories to tell, that they are not "scary."  I say for one: Zombies are scary.  You can't reason with them, they are relentless, they want to eat you, and that Zombie out there trying to break your door down to get at your juicy brains?  That may be your Husband.  Or your Mother.  Or your Kid.  That is scary.  And I say for two: the Zombie genre is not intriguing because of the Zombies.  It is intriguing because of the humans: the survivors.  And here we arrive at The Walking Dead.

I have not read the entire comic series that this show is based on, but I have read enough to know that the focus is on the survivors, not the Zombies.  Their stories, their struggles.  Living in a world where you are no longer the dominant species.  All government and social order has broken down.  Everyday is a fight to stay alive.  This is the reason I love the Zombie genre.  And this is what The Walking Dead is all about.

A man wakes up in a hospital bed.  He doesn't know how long he has been there.  When he cries for help, no one answers.  Blood covers the walls of the hospital.  Dead bodies lie everywhere.  He sees half rotting corpses come alive in front of his eyes.  So begins the journey of Rick Grimes through the land of the dead.  This show is as good as I hoped it would be.  It was scary.  The Zombies are of the good old fashioned slow moving kind and they look like they have seen better days. It was also very moving.  I cried twice (three times if you count the horse).  I am very reluctant to become attached to risky TV shows such as this: they usually get cancelled and all we are left with is Season One on DVD (Pushing Daisies anyone?).  But I have a feeling The Walking Dead may be here to stay.  I hope people watch it and get off my case about the Zombies.  Try having nightmares about them every night of your life and tell me what is scary.

Halloween 2010

 Had a great Halloween despite the fact that I came down with a slight case of Zombie-itis.  Luckily, I am almost fully recovered and only have the slightest craving for human brains.

 As usual, The Orange Menace won the Halloween costume contest with this interpretation of Sleeping Devil. 

I got out of bed long enough to carve a Pumpkin.  It really impressed the ZERO Trick or Treaters we got.

And I made my own Halloween tree.  Out of Turnips.  It actually turned out awesome and will be a new tradition.

And then I ended the night by watching The Walking Dead and pledging my eternal love to AMC for putting this amazing show on the air.  More on that later!!