Saturday, November 25, 2017

DIARY OF THE DEAD II: I SAW WHAT I SAW WHEN I SAW IT

AFTER A GENTLE NUDGE FROM CHEEKS, IT'S HIGH TIME I FINISHED THE SECOND HALF OF MY COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN HORROR FILM VIEWINGS.  


Oct. 16th  -  Halfway through the month of October and what to watch what to watch . . . ?  How about a rewatch of the classic 1922 NOSFERATU on my new(ish) Kino 2-disc blu ray?  The best I've ever seen F.W. Murnau's classic vampire film look!  Gorgeous! 
My very first viewing of the film was back around 1983(ish) in my college days; on the drive home (quite a commute from Glassboro State College) I stopped into the Echelon Mall and picked up the Kino VHS of NOSFERATU in the old clamshell videotape case and that is the first time I saw the film in its entirety.  I still have that damn video tape and I'll probably never get rid of it because of the nostalgia value of it; owing to a particular dark and stormy weekend afternoon a little while later.  Cable TV's USA Network (as I recall) was going to be showing two movies I wanted to tape and I was all out of blank VHS tapes.  Luckily I remembered that there was quite a bit of blank tape remaining at the end of the Kino NOSFERATU VHS; I think the film only occupied the first half of the available video tape!  Well, recording at slow speed, I was able to tack on HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and the 1970s documentary IN SEARCH OF DRACULA starring Christopher Lee at the end of NOSFERATU.  What a triple feature for me to enjoy until the age of DVD! 
Back to the present day, I followed up my viewing of NOSFERATU with the 2008 documentary THE LANGUAGE OF SHADOWS (which focused on the life of director F.W. Murnau and his early films).  The day's movie watching was hardly over yet, though.  Next I watched Colm McCarthy's one and only film OUTCAST (2010):  a ravishingly original and interesting film which combines the witch movie with the werewolf (sorta) film.  Fergal is an Irish lad whose mother Mary is wildly overprotective of him and discourages any form of social interaction.  Fergal's teenage attention is soon rivetted by Petronella (half Scottish/half Romany . . . or gypsy in the old-time parlance) who tries to open up his world while his mother tries to close it down.  Oh, did I mention that there's a werewolfy beast loose killing people (including a pre-DOCTOR WHO Karen Gillan) . . . oh, and Fergal's mother Mary is a powerful sorceress . . . oh yeah, and also there are a pair of magick-wielding Irish beast-hunters on the monster's trail?  The magick in this film is not of the Harry Potter variety but done with a gritty realism that makes you believe.  What Mary does to a clipboard-toting social worker is chilling!!!  After that, I rewatched Terence Fisher's very minor alien invasion effort
THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING (1964) which is quite a bit quieter than its title implies!  An English village with empty streets and only a few survivors (among them Dennis Price and Thorley Walters) facing off against killer robots.  Then I ended the day with an even lesser movie:  THE STRANGE WORLD OF PLANET X aka COSMIC MONSTERS (1958).  We're back in another English village this time with Forrest Tucker, some magnetic field experiments, a mysterious stranger named Mr. Smith and some giant bugs.  Mostly forgettable.


Oct. 18th  -  Started the day with a dud called SATANIS:  THE DEVIL'S MASS (1970):  a documentary {?} focusing on Anton LeVey and his Church of Satan (which consists of mostly dull and flabby Satanists trudging about their Satanic rituals in as boring a fashion as possible).  Watched mainly as a curiosity piece and it fails even on those low expectations.  After such a damp squib, I'd better find a real slam-bang horror film to lift my spirits.  And I did.  PYTHON (2000) is a delightfully-entertaining cheezefest with a laughably-bad CGI 60-foot python menacing the town of New Haven, California.  Ed (TRUE ROMANCE) Lauter and Marc (SUPERMAN THE MOVIE) McClure are two dippy pilots who insist on peeking into the huge crate they're transporting and release the huge snake, crash the plane, and let loose the monster on the unsuspecting town.  The cast is peppered with familiar faces like Robert Englund, Wil Wheaton, Casper Van Dien (who?!?!?!) and Jenny McCarthy (when she still allowed herself to be funny).

Oct. 19th  -  The sole horror film I watched today was Daniel (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT) Myrick's 2008 film THE OBJECTIVE which I appreciated if not totally enjoyed.  The film is set in a desert region of Afghanistan where a US military unit is dispatched to find the source of strange radioactive readings.  As the unit goes deeper and deeper into the uncharted desert mountains, some strange force manifests itself and slowly begins picking off the soldiers.  Is it some occult force or some extraterrestrial shenanigans?  While I did find the premise original and absorbing (I've heard some reviewers call it like an "Afghanistan Triangle"), I have a hard time drumming up interest in movies featuring military units in a light-beige desert setting so the film didn't grab me as much as it could have.  Mildly recommended.

Oct. 20th  -  Today I thought I'd experience the joys (!) of Terrorama with GUESS WHAT HAPPENED TO COUNT DRACULA? (1970); a film I was mildly interested in seeing ever since it appeared on the cover of an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland.  Not expecting much, I wasn't disappointed.  This goofy (but not goofy enough) movie finds Count Dracula calling himself Adrian (!) the proprietor of a Los Angeles nightclub with a haunted house decor.  Annnnnnnnnnnnnnd that's about it.  Almost watchable starring nobody in particular.  My favourite review of this film I found on letterboxd.com:  Kyle Bragg gives his one sentence review of GUESS WHAT HAPPENED TO COUNT DRACULA as "If you guess nothing, you are correct."  The next two films I watched today were the result of my (mostly) weekly visits to the Cheeks Movie Club where we watched FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982):  Steve Miner's unremarkable but serviceable second sequel of the franchise which is remarkable solely for the introduction of Jason's now-famous hockey mask (which apparently was "inspired" by the rapist's hockey mask in ACT OF VENGEANCE (1974) almost a decade earlier. 
ACT OF VENGEANCE (1974) . . . he look familar???
Shout out to Moodz616 for bringing this earlier film to my attention.)  The second half of our double feature was Paul Naschy's umpteenth Waldemar Daninsky werewolf movie NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (1981).  This time a witch resurrects the "blood countess" Elisabeth Bathory to complicate Paul Naschy's day.  Not bad.


Oct. 21st  -  A heckuva marathon movie day!  Starting off with MORNINGSIDE MONSTER (2014) which sprang from the deep, dark recesses of my Horror Pack.  A slasher film which puts more than the usual stress on characters, this was above average and features Tiffany Shepis once again showing some nice acting chops.  Also, props for taking place in my native New Jersey.  After that, I once again popped in one of my all-time favourites:  John Carpenter's THE FOG (1980).  My umpteenth viewing of this classic this time was on my new limited edition blu ray steelbook.  I can and do watch this film a LOT! 
Next, Italian giallo meets German krimi in this odd little Edgar Wallace movie SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS (1972) directed by Umberto Lenzi (who sadly just died this month).  "The Half-Moon Killer" is going around menacing the ladies in this one.  Not spectacular but good.  I'm a big fan of Lenzi, gialli AND krimi but this one feels a little subdued; as if it's not quite sure which tack it wants to take.  Still worthwhile, though.  And no, we're still not through with my mini-tribute to the late director as I then watched Lenzi's 1975 giallo EYEBALL.  This one is pure giallo and succeeds more because of it.  John (BLACK SUNDAY) Richardson is among the Italian cast which finds a killer in a red hooded raincoat killing tourists on a bus trip to Spain by extreme eye trauma!  While Lenzi's ORCHIDS felt oddly restrained, EYEBALL is off-the-hook bonkers.  Good stuff! 
So, the day's movie watching MUST be finished by now, right?  Not on your nellie!  Next I rewatched BLOODBATH AT THE HOUSE OF DEATH (1984); a horror comedy I haven't seen since I rented it on VHS in the mid-1980s.  Comedian/DJ Kenny Everett (THE KENNY EVERETT VIDEO SHOW) and Pamela Stephenson (NOT THE NINE O'CLOCK NEWS) star in this send up of 80's horror/video nasties which also features a funny comedy turn by none other than Vincent Price himself as "The Sinister Man"!  Come on, you really don't need a plot synopsis for this one . . . just watch it and enjoy the fun . . . of course, that's if you can find a copy to watch since it's not currently available on dvd!  (Teeth gnash teeth gnash!).  OK, that's gotta be it for the day.  Oh no, there's ONE MORE MOVIE I watched.  MIRRORS (2008) directed by Alexandre (HIGH TENSION) Aja.  Looks great, less filling.  Meh movie with Kiefer Sutherland as an ex-cop and full-time screw-up who takes a job as a security guard in a burned out old department store which has evil ghosts in its mirrors.  Good idea squandered.


Oct. 22nd  -  And my one and only horror movie for the day was NIGHT CLAWS (2012).  Now, Bigfoot movies usually suck (except for the great Bigfoot movie EXISTS).  NIGHT CLAWS, while it doesn't actually suck, isn't that great either.  It's OK.  Reb (SPACE MUTINY) Brown and Frank Stallone are in the cast.  And there's a killer Bigfoot messing up the town.  Not much else to say, really.  A nice enough time-waster.

Oct. 23rd  -  Started the day with the execrable P-51 DRAGON FIGHTER (2014) directed by Mark (HALLOWEEN NIGHT) Atkins.  Fun premise abyssmally botched.  It's World War II and the Nazis have unleashed their new secret weapon against allied fighter planes; they've gotten some witches to control some real-live fire-breathing dragons.  It's a shame the movie is so relentlessly dull!!!  Can any movie save me from this unending blah?!?!?!?  Yes!  It's GO GOA GONE (2013):  a zombie movie from India!  Now, Hindi horror movies don't have a zombie tradition and you don't see many zombies.  However, this cheeky (and cheekh-y) horror comedy is fantastic!!!!  Knowingly witty concerning the zombie movie tropes we've all seen 100 times, GO GOA GONE is laugh-out-loud funny for most of its running time.  A group of slacker friends (think the boys from IDLE HANDS . . . only speaking Hindi) decide to go to a rave on the island of Goa.  Sadly, the island then gets overrun by zombies and the slackers have to someone survive.  Fun fun fun!  Next up was RAZE (2013) starring the spectacular Zoe (DEATH PROOF) Bell as a woman who is abducted and wakes up in an underground complex where she is forced to battle other woman gladiator-style to the death for the entertainment of the idle rich.  Is this a horror film or is it not?  I kinda think so.  It's a horror film in the same way that BATTLE ROYALE (2000) is a horror film.  Who cares, it's awesome, that's all that matters. 
Another marathon movie day continued with James Whale's masterpiece THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932) which I rewatched this time on my brand-new blu ray edition.  The film looks like fried gold!!!!  Then I finished the day off with Hideo (RINGU) Nakata's 2002 creepyfest DARK WATER.  I rewatched this ghostly tale on my brand-new Arrow video blu ray.  Phenomenal.

Oct. 25th  -  Today worked out as a Peter Cushing double feature.  Freddie Francis' LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF (1975) was . . . not too good.  Despite the presence of the "gentle man of horror", Hugh Griffith, Ron Moody and a goofy Roy Castle cameo, LEGEND is pretty lackluster.  So I recovered by rewatching an old fave:  ISLAND OF TERROR (1966) directed by Hammer's maestro Terence Fisher and starring Peter Cushing, Edward (THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE) Judd, Carole (DEVILS OF DARKNESS) Gray, Niall (NIGHT OF THE DEMON) MacGinnis on an island overrun by deadly blob creatures.  This time I watched the film on yet another brand-new blu-ray edition.  I've always loved the autumnal leaves covering the ground in this movie and the blu-ray looks fantastic!

Oct. 26th  -  THE HORROR OF IT ALL (1983) is a documentary I first saw on my local PBS station probably in that very year.  Narrated by the velvet-voiced Jose Ferrer, the documentary traces the history of horror movies from the silent era up until then-present day.  I have this on a VHS tape I bought back in the day but this Wombat Production film desperately needs a dvd/blu ray release!  Then it was back to India for the Ramsay Productions super-smash hit PURANA MANDIR (1984) featuring a cursed family menaced by the blood-thirsty demon Samri (nicely played by Anirudh Agarwal in a career-defining role).  I liked it; I didn't love it.  A little overlong (as any respectable Hindi film should be) but not as pleasantly bonkers as I expected.  

Oct. 27th  -  Today we venture in Corman Poe-land with THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) -- and, of course, I watched it on the Scream Factory Vincent Price Collection blu-ray box set.  What can you say about this classic?  Vincent Price, the great Barbara Steele, Luana (DEMENTIA 13) Anders, Antony (CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA) Carbone and John (SOUTH PACIFIC) Kerr having diabolical fun with ole' Edgar!  And I ended the day with AU SECOURS! (1924) directed by Abel (NAPOLEON) Gance and starring early silent comedy superstar Max Linder.  This is a late film in Linder's career and occurs after his service in the trenches of World War I which changed him so drastically.  The first 2/3rds of the film is typical Max Linder comedy as Max accepts a bet that he can stay in a haunted house for one hour between 11pm and midnight.  However, the final third of the film suddenly morphs into something quite frightening and disturbing.  It's really something to see and quite unexpected after the rollicking comedy antics seen thus far.  

Oct. 28th  -  One of my favourite films of all-time starts this day:  THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963) -- also, of course, from my Vincent Price blu ray box set.  Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Jacques (CAT PEOPLE) Tourneur directing, music by Les (HOUSE OF USHER) Baxter and Rhubarb the Cat -- from American International Pictures.  The story of a funeral parlor that makes its own customers.  One of the best horror comedies of all-time!  While in the comedy vein, I chose to watch the Little Rascals short WHEN THE WIND BLOWS (1930) which, while not an all-out horror comedy has quite a few horror elements to it.  Young Jackie Cooper (later to play Perry White in SUPERMAN THE MOVIE) gets tired of doing his homework on this dark
and windy night and chucks them out the window.  When he eventually climbs out to retrieve his books, the window slams shut and he's locked out.  His various attempts to get back into the house without his parents seeing him (or he'll be punished) result in many mistaken scares all through the neighbourhood.  The other "Our Gang" kids featured are Allen "Farina" Hoskins and Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins while Edgar Kennedy (of the slow burn) plays a befuddled cop.  Next was the shockingly excellent remake of MANIAC (2012) starring Elijah Wood as the slasher/serial killer originally play by Joe Spinell in the Bill Lustig original.  This remake had no right to be as good as it is!  The film quite rightly chooses not to ape the original but to go it's own way while remaining true to the spirit of the earlier film.  Elijah Wood couldn't be more physically different than Joe Spinell but both give vivid performances in their respective versions of MANIAC.  A huge pleasant surprise!

And that, I'm afraid, is that for horror movies watched in October.  Due to work etc. I wasn't able to really watch anything for the rest of the month.  But hey, Halloween doesn't stop at November 1st.  Halloween is 365!  And I continue to watch horror movies all year 'round!

5 comments:

Dis Guy said...

All in all it seems like a light month for you considering it was October. You slipping in your old age?

Cerpts said...

Yeah, only 61 horror movies in October (not counting all the other non-horror films I watched as well) -- what a slacker.

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