Tuesday, March 30, 2010

If VC Andrews wrote a Hammer film is would be "Paranoiac"

Got to give thanks to "HorrorHound" magazine for turning me on to this one. "HorrorHound" is quickly becoming one of my favorite Horror mags, surpassing even my beloved "Rue Morgue." If you haven't already, check it out. Although it might get you obsessed with collecting old VHS tapes. Just a warning.
Paranoiac, released in 1963 and directed by the great Freddie Francis, is an almost bloodless Hammer film. I would classify it as a psychological thriller, although it has one scene so scary it gave me nightmares. It also stars Oliver Reed, who also gives me nightmares. Especially when he plays a drunk. He is one scary dude.

Oliver Reed and Janette Scott star as Simon and Eleanor, siblings living off their deceased parents money on a classic spooky English estate. Simon is a drunk who is waiting to come into his full inheritance. Eleanor is a fragile bird who might be mad. At least, that is what Simon and Aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell) hope. With Eleanor out of the picture, Simon would inherit the whole estate. And Aunt Harriet, who has what could be best described as an "unhealthy" relationship with her nephew, would benefit. Driving a wedge into their plans is the the arrival of long lost brother Tony (Alexander Davion), presumed dead many years ago by suicide. The body was never found, and now this man, claiming to be Tony, is back to get his rightful share.

The only person happy about Tony's arrival is Eleanor, who seems to have an "unhealthy" obsession with her brother. Are you sensing a theme here? VC Andrews. If you have never read one of her books, watching this film is pretty much the same thing. It is all very Gothic, dangerous, and romantic; with just a touch of horror and incest.

Major melodrama ensues. The acting, especially by Oliver Reed, is a bit over the top but so damn endearing you can't help but love it. There is a nice twist that I really didn't see coming and the previously mentioned "scary" scene involving this "thing" pictured above. And the whole thing is photographed beautifully, as you would expect by Freddie Francis. As I said, this is a different type of Hammer film, but well worth checking out. Especially if you loved "Flowers in the Attic."
I just noticed my error in the title. I am keeping it. Because is would be Paranoiac.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Joan Crawford

This is one of my favorite Crawford movies...quite a good, campy horror flick. I recommend you check it out!!

Waiting sucks!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Slaughter Hotel 1971

If you are in the mood for soft core giallo-esque Eurotrash horror starring Klaus Kinski, and why wouldn't you be, may I suggest Slaughter Hotel, aka Asylum Erotica, aka The Beast Kills in Cold Blood.

I have no idea how this movie ended up in my hands, but I sure am glad it did. A Medieval castle in the middle of nowhere has been turned into an insane asylum for wealthy, beautiful women. All of the women either want to kill themselves, kill others, or have lots and lots of sex. A caped killer with long blond hair is stalking and killing the women. He especially likes killing them after they masturbate or have lesbian sex. His killing spree is made easier by the fact that there are a bunch of weapons lying around the place, including a cross-bow, a sword, and an Iron Maiden. Plus, the women are always masturbating or having lesbian sex.

Mr. Kinski, as one of the Doctors, is the obvious suspect. The cops are finally brought in to investigate and after one more surreal killing spree, the whole thing is wrapped up rather nicely. Kinski is really hardly in this film. In fact, in the scenes that he is in he hardly does anything except smoke and stare off into space. Honestly, I get the feeling that he didn't even know what kind of film he was in. But since I would pay money just to watch Kinski eating dinner, I loved this film and his performance. That, and the very, very strange mass slaughter at the end make Slaughter Hotel one to check out!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1941

Because I love doing everything backwards, I watched the 1941 Victor Fleming directed version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before I watched the 1931 allegedly superior version. This version stars Spencer Tracy as Dr. Jekyll, the London Doctor who believes he has found a formula to separate good and evil in the human soul. Lana Turner plays his fiancee Beatrix, a cultured, high born woman who represents goodness and light. Ingrid Bergman plays Ivy, a "barmaid" (it is hinted that this is not her only occupation) whom Dr. Jekyll chances upon one night. Ivy represents lust and danger. She herself is not evil, but the feelings she provokes in the good Doctor would be frowned upon in decent society...

When Beatrix and her Father leave for the Continent, Dr. Jekyll takes the opportunity to test his formula. He transforms into the evil Mr. Hyde. The transformation sequence is lifted right out of The Wolfman, which was made the same year (I am not sure which chicken or egg came first.) Mr Hyde looks like an underfed, cracked out hippie version of Dr. Jekyll. No one, including the poor doomed Ivy, realizes they are the same person.

Mr. Hyde indulges all of the evil impulses that Dr. Jekyll tried to keep buried (we glimpse this during Dr. Jekyll's first meeting with Ivy.) He imprisons Ivy, torturing and raping her until she is half mad. You read that right. There is no doubt that this is what is going on. Quite horrific for a film from 1941.
When Beatrix returns Jekyll tries to "lock" Mr. Hyde away. He even goes as far as telling Ivy that Hyde will never bother her again. The only problem is, once you unleash the beast, it is mighty difficult to keep him chained.

Honestly, this film freaked me out a lot more than I thought it would. I had always heard that Tracy was terribly miscast as Jekyll, and the performance was "bland." I don't agree. I think you can see Hyde bubbling under the surface in his performance as the Doctor. And during his scenes with Bergman he is so horrifying that you believe her terror. Plus, there are scenes in this movie that are totally bizarro, like the one pictured above, where Hyde visualizes the two women in his life as horses he is riding. I think Mr. Fleming might have spent too much time in Oz.
Tonight I watch the Fredric March version, which many claim is the best. But I am glad I was able to judge Tracy's performance on its own. I am not the only one who liked it... Check out Bug's opinion...

RIP Peter Graves

I love Peter Graves. Airplane. Mission Impossible. Mr. Phelps was the man. Enjoy this trailer for an awesome film starring Peter Graves....

Did you know that Peter Graves was the younger brother of James Arness? Yes, the original Thing and Matt Dillon. I did not know that. Enjoy this trailer for a great film starring James Arness.....

Beware the Ides of March everyone!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

500 plus posts!!

Jesus, Mary and Joseph!! I had no idea I had hit 500 posts. That's a pretty big f'ing deal and I had no idea. Of course for the past year I have been telling people that I was 35 instead of 36. Not because I wanted to lie about my age, I just really forgot that I was 36. Real post coming soon....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Vs: Night of the Demons

I would have done this in the last post but my computer was being a jackass. Yes, my computer is a boy and today he is a jackass.


Night of the Demons 1988

I have "Fangoria" to thank for my recent viewing of Night of the Demons from 1988. They did an article about the recent remake. The remake looks pretty terrible, but the original I had to see for the lipstick scene alone. I won't spoil it, but if let me just tell you it involves a possessed Linnea Quigley, some pink lipstick, and her boob. It is really the most bizarro thing I have seen in a while. It pretty much saves what is otherwise a pretty boring moving. 10 friends hold a Halloween party in the haunted "Hull House." These people are the most unappealing group of assholes I have ever seen on screen. No doubt they were such douche bags that they didn't get invited to any other Halloween parties. Anyway, they hold a seance, as you do, and then start to turn into Demons. I was literally rooting for everyone to die.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Crazies

The Crazies has a "been there, done that" feel to it (duh, it's a remake.) Confession: I have never seen the Romero original. I know, bad horror geek. It's on the list, really.

This version (produced by Romero) stars Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell (love her) as David and Judy Dutton, Sheriff and Doc of small town Ogden Marsh, Iowa. During a baseball game, Sheriff Dutton kills a local who walked unto the field with a shotgun. Thinking the local was drunk, Dutton moves on, until another local kills his wife and son by setting their house on fire. Later, Dutton and his Deputy (Joe Anderson, who I have never heard of but is really good here) discover the wreckage of a plane in a local bog. It doesn't take long for them to put two and two together when all the locals begin to go bat-shit crazy and the military moves in to "secure" the town.

The characters are likable and there are a few good scares here. The scene in the car wash is a memorable one. The townsfolk, once they turn "crazy," don't become Zombies per Se, but they do like killin'. The disease has a 48 hour incubation period, so you just know one of the main characters is going to get it and probably die heroically to save the others. This isn't a spoiler. You can see this coming a mile a way.

Not a Zombie.
If you have some time to kill and enough money for a matinee, you could do a whole lot worse than The Crazies. But it's really a "see it and forget about it" type of film. Except, next time you are in a car wash.

The House of the Devil

The House of the Devil, directed by Cabin Fever 2 auteur Ti West is an old school, slow burn suspense/horror hybrid that is sure to appeal to genre fans. I loved it because it is evident that West has a deep love and respect for the genre, and rather than being some Scream type tongue-in-cheek flick, House is a loving tribute AND a damn good stand-alone horror film.

Although a date is never given, it is obvious by the feathered hair and Walkmans that this film is set in the 80's. A young college student, Samantha, is desperate to move into an apartment of her own. She finds one that is perfect (the landlady is Dee Wallace!) but she cannot afford the down payment. Desperate, she takes a "babysitting" job in a spooky, isolated house. The "parents," the Ulmans, played by Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov, offer Samantha a ridiculous amount of money to watch "mother" for the evening. Samantha accepts, and as you would expect, things go downhill from there.

If you like your horror films action packed and fast paced, House of the Devil is not for you. West builds up the suspense slowly. Very, very slowly. But it is worth it. Smartly, he gives you a shocking jolt near the beginning of the film, a hint of the horrors to come. Jocelin Donahue is great as the girl in peril/final girl/Laurie Strode hero/victim. Tom Noonan nails his role as Mr. Ulman. He is slightly charming but socially awkward, like many a Stanford Professor round my parts. Watching his performance I couldn't help thinking, "God, I've met this guy. I bet he is a member of the Hoover Institute." Yes, he is that scary.

I am looking forward to Ti West's next film. I haven't seen Cabin Fever 2 yet, but it is on my list. And I think Tom Noonan should just be in every film.
On an unrelated note, I was very happy that the Oscars played "tribute" to the horror genre last night (the inclusion of The Twilight films and Edward Scissorhands notwithstanding). The best part was Martin and Baldwin's Paranormal Activity parody. I can't find a good version on the net, but it is worth checking out. And congratulations to Katherine "Near Dark" Bigelow! Not only are you the first woman to win best director, you also beat your ex-husband! That has got to feel good!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The results are in....

The results for the 2nd annual Cyber-Horror awards are in! Check them out at: http://thevaultofhorror.blogspot.com/2010/03/vault-of-horror-presents-2nd-annual.html
Thanks to B-Sol at The Vault of Horror for putting this together. Trick or Treat was a film I bought without seeing it first on the advice of the Horror Blogging community..it turned out to be one of my favorite films of the year: a love story, so to speak, to Halloween and all things that go bump in the night. Check it out if you haven't already.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Edge of Horror: Rashomon 1950

I find it very hard to write about the films of Akira Kurosawa. Words do not do justice. The first film of his that I saw was Dreams, which was one of his last. Dreams was a film that I thought was beautiful when I first saw it, but I really didn't understand it until I was much older. Watching it as an adult I find the film terrifying (the majority of the dreams have an element of horror in them), melancholy, visually dazzling and strangely hopeful. Many of the same things can be said about his 1950 masterpiece, Rashomon.

The plot of Rashomon is well known (and much copied). A rape and murder take place in the woods, and 4 witnesses (including the dead mean speaking through a Medium) tell their conflicting stories about what really happened. Each version contains an element of truth, but that truth is twisted to satisfy the teller's needs. A Priest, a Woodcutter, and a Commoner debate the accounts under the gate to the city of Rashomon. Each man draws his own conclusions about human nature from the tales. The film ends on a sad but hopeful note.

Much has been written about the incredible cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa. It was not until I saw Rashomon on the big screen that I was really able to appreciate and marvel at what Kurosawa and Miyagawa had done. The natural light, filtered through the trees of the forest, create a surreal setting for the horrific events that take place in the grove. The light, the breeze, the dazzling sun puts you in the grove with the participants. You feel the wind brush past you, and you squint with the characters as they look up into the sky. May God strike me down for saying this, but in a way it reminded me of the scenes in the woods during Last House on the Left. So familiar yet so horrifying. You can easily imagine yourself there.
As a final thought, haunting my dreams tonight will be the Medium, seen above, who conveys the dead man's tale. Through body language and tone of voice alone she conveys the wrath and rage of the wronged Samurai. If I were the Priest and the Woodcutter sitting behind her I would have hightailed it out of there the minute she let out her first scream.

If you can, see Rashomon, or any Kurosawa film, on the big screen. And if you haven't seen one in years, I recommend watching some again. I find new things in his films with every viewing.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sorry Mr. Kinski, my next obsession is....

Going to see Rashomon at the Stanford Theater tonight. Whenever I see a Kurosawa film starring Toshiro Mifune I become a little obsessed. This could be a regular segment on "Zombies are Magic": Dead guys I love. Here is a partial list:
  • Klaus Kinski (duh)
  • Toshiro Mifune
  • Colin Clive
  • Joseph Cotton
  • Gregory Peck
  • Bogart
  • Karloff
  • Lon Chaney (Sr and Jr)
  • David Naughton (he's still alive!! I saw him last night on Big Love!)
  • Ivor Novello

Cute children reviewing horror...