Friday, October 09, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 9

Xenomorph from It Came From Outer Space (1953)

Thursday, October 08, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 8 - Movie 2

A journalist investigates a series of murders. Women who have been kidnapped are being found dead, drained of blood. The trail leads him to a scientist who is using the blood to help a duchess retain her youth and beauty.

I Vampiri (The Vampires) (1957) goes all out to imbue its scenario with gothic atmosphere. An old castle filled with secret passages, candles, and skeletons; a veiled figure who wanders its halls, giving commands; a mad scientist's laboratory. Contrasted with a modern European backdrop, this makes for a dynamic contrast as the world of the mysterious intersects with one of the normal.

Gianna Maria Canale as Giselle du Grand is a cold beauty, and almost otherworldly lending her role a strange credibility. The entire film is mesmerizing to watch, and is one of the better films I've watched this season.


31 Days of Halloween - Day 8 - Movie 1

Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie are Miriam and John Blaylock, husband and wife vampires who have been together for centuries, but not forever as John finds himself rapidly aging. In desperation he turns to a researcher working to reverse Progeria, but instead of saving himself, he may have instead doomed himself to be replaced as Miriam's immortal companion.

I didn't like The Hunger (1983) when I first saw it on the big screen way back when. I liked John's arc, but found Tony Scott's direction to be more concerned with flash and visual style and less with story. My memories of the film consisted mostly of crumbling corpses, white pigeons, and diaphanous curtains blowing in the wind. Seeing it again for the first time since the mid 80s, those elements are here in plentitude, and some of my earlier assessments remain true, but the style, dated as it is serves the story more than it impairs it, lending it a modern gothic flair which turns this story of doomed romance into more of a fairy tale than an outright tragedy. There's also a great satire on the interminable waiting required in sitting in the waiting room at a doctor's office.  If only the characters had a bit more depth to them, it would be possibly be one of the classic vampire movies instead of just a very good one.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 8

The Crimson Ghost (1946). Cut paper.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 7 - Movie 2

In the cautionary ecological horror film, The Giant Behemoth (1959) a radiation spawned dinosaur rises up from the sea to wreak havoc on real estate through brute physical means, and human beings, by cooking them with projected radiation. Killing the rampaging monster seems feasible, but the trick is to find a way that will kill it without scattering bits of its radioactive corpse across the countryside.

The middle film in director, Eugene Lourie's unofficial giant monster trilogy, The Giant Behemoth is not in the same league as either The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) or Gorgo (1961). The film is uneven overall. There is some nice cinematography in places and the stop motion animation by King Kong's Willis O'Brien and Pete Peterson, does have some really nice moments, but overall seems stiff and clunky, with obvious damage to the stop motion puppet Behemoth readily apparent on screen. The special effects are not done any favors by the inclusion of a puppet Behemoth shown diving beneath the waves in repetitive shots, which does not match the stop motion animated dinosaur.

The cast is all able, but don't really have much to do beyond ponder and demonstrate scientific procedures for long periods of the film.

It's more of a curiosity than a must see, but, if like me, you are a fan of stop-motion and dinosaurs (even made up ones), then you should view it at least once.


31 Days of Halloween - Day 7 - Movie 1

King Kong (1933) is a classic, if I need to go into why, then you need to stop reading this and go watch it now. It's a movie I rewatch on a fairly regular basis. It does not fail to amaze me on each viewing. I'd love to watch this with an audience in 1933. Movies were still a fairly new narrative medium, and sound was even newer when King Kong debuted, dominating the medium with its sophisticated use of music and sound design, and its still stunning special effects which impress even more when you realize that they were inventing how to do these shots as they went and completely pulling them off in the process. The scene in Kong's lair for example is a miniature set occupied by two stop motion animated characters, along with flying birds. There is also a live actor in the scene, behind the stop motion characters, a live actor in front of them, and live steam, and bubbling liquid incorporated into the scene. This is cinematic magic in its purest form, setting the bar for every fantasy film to follow, and inspiring innumerable careers.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 7

Boris Karloff as Hjalmar Poelzig in The Black Cat (1934). Cut paper.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 6 - Movie 2

A group of people find themselves stranded on an island surrounded by water inhabited by flesh eating microbes. Also on the island with them is a suspicious scientist who doesn't seem to be in a hurry to leave, or to help the castaways leave either.

The Flesh Eaters (1964) stands out from other genre movies of this period with its particular quirky attention to character and dialogue (written by Arnold Drake) as well as its, at the time, rather graphic gore sequences as people's flesh is devoured from their bodies in rapid, unsettling ways. The primitive special effects are rather effective, and the flesh eating creatures, when enlarged, are pretty nifty monsters. This movie has some really good energy driving it and is worth a look.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 6 - Movie 1

Today I decided to revisit 28 Days Later (2002), Danny Boyle's post apocalyptic tale of civilization being brought to its knees by a highly infectious virus which fills the infected person with lethal rage, making them akin to super aggressive zombies without the restriction of actually being reanimated dead. At the time of its release, 28 Days Later, well regarded for it's intensity and novel presence of fast moving "zombies."

While these aspects are admirable, the film has staying power because it's really about survival and maintaining your humanity while doing so while others throw it aside in order to get by and take what they want. The real monsters here aren't the infected, which while being an ambient presence aren't physically in much of the movie, but fellow human beings who see the collapse of civilization as license to do whatever they want to whomever they want. Most impressive is the haunting desolation of empty London and the countryside of England.


31 Days of Halloween - Day 6

Giant cyclops from the Lost in Space episode "There Were Giants in the Earth" (October 6, 1965). Cut paper.

Monday, October 05, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 5 - Movie 2

A small town in Idaho is besieged by some sort of gooey monster spawned from radioactive waste. The monster can dissolve itself into liquid and then back into a humanoid form, or something in between, based on what I was able to make sense of. It also left pools of Palm Olive or piles of lime Jello in its wake. It also kills a lot of people and is pretty hard to kill itself.

If I told you how long I've been wanting to see The Being (1983) you'd feel pity for me. Ever since seeing the tiny ad in the New York Times for it back in the Fall of 1984, when it was playing somewhere on 42nd street, I have been intrigued. Was it the tag line - "Half Man, Half Monster...Soul of an Unearthly Thing," or the fact that it "starred" Ruth Buzzi and Martin Landau (along with Jose Ferrer and Dorothy Malone)? All of the above to be honest. Why my then roommate, Steve Peros, and I never ventured out to see it remains a bewildering mystery to this day.

Well, I've now seen it and the mind boggles at the quality of talented actors convinced to be a part of this inelegantly directed nonsense, made more confounding by the sloppy editing and half-assed screenplay. The Being also has one of the most uncharismatic leading men you can find. The movie also plods along even though someone seems to get killed about every four minutes, or so.

It also has some genuinely funny moments, some of which are even intentional, such as the stoner at the drive-in being questioned by the police. I have to say that I liked the monster in this once it's finally shown in detail. For most of the movie you mostly get to see an arm, but it's freakishly long, gooey, asymmetric, one-eyed head full of needle like teeth was a welcome change from the usual men in monster suits that movies of this quality often display. It's behavior and abilities seemed to consist of whatever the filmmakers decided would be good for a scene, or whatever they had on hand, which kept you interested, simply from trying to figure out what was happening half the time.

This is one of those movies best appreciated with a group of friends and a large amount of liquor.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 5 - Movie 1

What happens when you combine writing and direction by the man who wrote the screenplays for Creature from the Black Lagoon, and It Came from Outer Space with the stars of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and This Island Earth? You get crap in the form of Octaman (1971) in which vague science and made up folklore come together to deliver a monstrous humanoid octopus set upon killing off the entire cast.

Did I think this movie was going to be a gem? No. I'd caught enough of it on television years ago to know that it was going to be a turd. The screenplay, including the dialogue was earnest, yet dreadful, a problem enhanced by the film being shot mostly silent with the dialogue dubbed in later. The special effects consisting of a mutant baby octopus being pulled acrid the ground with string and an obvious man in a monster suit designed and built by Rick Baker and Doug Beswick did not impress, though Octaman himself had a bit of charm as far as obvious, inexpressive rubber suit monsters go. Sadly, the suit performer was no Doug Jones, simply walking slowly enough so as not to trip, and flapping his arms on occasion.

That said, where other movies of this budget would have done their best to show as little of the monster as possible, until the end, here you get a good look at it before the opening credits and it shows up quite often grabbing quite a bit of screen time away from the dull interactions between the generic character types.

As bad as it was, Octaman was still fairly entertaining and would be perfect on a drive-in screen, or really late at night, or on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 5

They Live (1988). Cut paper.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 4 - Movie 2

Seymour Krelboyne (Jonathan Haze) crossbreeds a new plant in order to impress a girl (Jackie Joseph), and his boss (Mel Welles). only to discover that what keeps it growing and thriving is blood, and the bigger it gets the more it wants.

It's been a long time since I've watched The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Roger Corman's comedy-horror famously shot in two days, featuring Jack Nicholson in a small role, and later turned into a successful off-Broadway musical, and movie version of the musical. The film is still very enjoyable, and some of the comedy still genuinely clever and funny. My daughter also found the voice of the plant (screenwriter Charles B. Griffith) to be more effective, funnier, and creepier, than the voice in the musical remake.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 4 - Movie 1

In Bluebeard (1944), John Carradine is suave and sinister as a puppeteer and painter who strangles to death the women who model for him. Edgar G. Ulmer brings some style and atmosphere to this poverty row horror-mystery, elevating it to a decent viewing experience. The featured scenes with the marionettes are pretty impressive and made me wish that this type of street entertainment was still common.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 4

The Suparplum Fairy in Cabin in the Woods (2012). Cut paper.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 3 - Movie 2

Spread across the length of Manhattan and between the rich and the poor, a series of grisly murders begin to look connected by the presence of wolf hairs on the corpses of the victims. More of a thriller than an outright horror movie, Wolfen (1981) is intelligently played out, well directed, and well cast.

Like jaws, the titular creatures here, don't have a physical presence until the final minutes of the film, but haunt the film through the use of effects enhanced point of view and strong sound effects and music by James Horner representing them as they make their way through their urban hunting grounds.

There's a lot going on in this movie from political intrigue, fringe terrorist groups, Native American activism, environmentalism, the encroachment of man onto the wild, and even the use of high tech lie detection tests which mirror the vision of the wolfen.

I loved this movie when it first came out, and still find it to be a really strong, underrated movie.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 3 - Movie 1

I've never played the video game that Silent Hill (2006) was based on, so didn't know any of the established elements going into the movie. The plot is essentially a mother (Radha Mitchell) searching for her adopted daughter (Jodelle Ferland) in the ghost town, Silent Hill. Silent Hill,  evacuated because of a still burning coal fire seems to be anything but deserted. The mysterious town is gloomy with an ever falling snow of ash, periodically disrupted by a siren announcing unnatural periods of darkness which seem to invite all manner of disfigured human monstrosity to manifest. These aren't the only monsters as there is also a group of apocalyptic religious zealots who are convinced that the outside world has been destroyed, and still more secrets.

The plot is thin, essentially, like a video game in which a character explores a strange landscape and tries to make sense of all they encounter. This didn't really detract from the movie, as much as help build the weird atmosphere by not feeling compelled to explain everything. The visuals ranged from beautifully creepy to Hellraiser inspired haunted attraction. It would have been much stronger relying on more of the former and less of the latter. I found myself less involved with the characters and their fates than with what they might find around the next corner, and didn't really mind this, or find it off-putting, since I found myself intrigued enough by the world they inhabited.

Silent Hill is not a great, or particularly memorable,  movie, nor will it please everybody, but it's worth a look.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 3

Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) in Planet of the Apes (1968). Cut paper.