jetpack_monkey: (Default)
I'm ending the posting experiment early because I'm not really getting a lot of joy out of it and a bunch of my next entries will be redacted for Festivids reasons. If I see anything I have something to say about, I'll post it, but I'm not going to put a daily post up.
jetpack_monkey: (Naked Lunch - Writing on the Brain)
The great Festivids redactening has begun!

I'm not actually sure I'll make a vid of the film I saw last night, but I want to leave my options open. Also, it makes writing this post super-easy.
jetpack_monkey: (Jigoku poster)
Cheating again, but I figure that a horror experience is kind of the same as a horror movie? 

Anyway, [livejournal.com profile] elipie and I went out to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood last night. It's a good idea when you're going to one of these things to bring a close friend who you don't see as often as you'd like. You're going to spend a lot of time in lines, so it's a great opportunity to catch up or just philosophize (or yammer endless movie trivia if you're me).

We only ended up going through three of the mazes -- the Evil Dead, the Terror Tram, and Universal Monsters Remix, because lines. We also didn't get to the Bill and Ted stage show. Next year, I swear. We did go on the Jurassic Park and Mummy rides, though, both of which are consistently fun. Eli got soaked on Jurassic Park.

There's actually a funny story about that ride. So, the park is split into an upper and lower level. The Jurassic Park ride is on the lower level. Also on the lower level, there were generic monstery things walking about on stilt legs. Eli and I passed them by and got into line for the Jurassic Park ride behind a man and a woman. The woman glanced back, looked at me, and jumped. Then she laughed and turned to her friend/partner/husband/whatever and said, "Oh geez, I thought one of the stilt things followed us here." And then Eli laughed and said, "He's tall, but he's not *that* tall." It was amusing.

I didn't get a lot of joy out of the Evil Dead maze, since it was apparently entirely based on the remake. I was hoping for something along the lines of last year's Texas Chainsaw maze, which paid homage to the entire history of the series (including multiple versions of Leatherface), but nothing I saw really struck me.

The Terror Tram was fun, although I think I would get more out of it if I actually watched The Walking Dead (which is the theme of the maze). You do get to walk past the Bates Motel from Psycho and the crashed plane from War of the Worlds. Eli and I also went and did the Bates house photo op, which I'll post separately under a lock later (or Eli will).

Universal Monsters Remix... sigh. They replaced most of the monsters with either generic looking ones or stuff out of recent vintage horror movies. The Frankenstein lab (my very favorite part of the whole experience) had no actual Frankenstein monster in it, but instead some sort of weirdo creature with an exposed brain. There were a couple Nosferatus running around, which was neat, and the Chucky they had running around was an actual little person, which was disconcerting for those of us with very high fields of vision. However, the section with werewolves was entirely populated with Benecio del Toro-style lycanthropes. All-in-all, I think it's really sad that their one permanent haunted house maze turns its back on the classics during the Halloween season in some sort of weird effort at being hip.

Overall, I had a lot of fun, even if it sounds like I didn't. The atmosphere was great, the lines were non-annoying, and the company was good.

jetpack_monkey: (JD - Mr. Funtimes)
This is just a quick post, because I don't have a lot to say about this one. It's the first of three feature spin-offs from HBO's Tales from the Crypt anthology series, followed quickly by Bordello of Blood and much less quickly by Ritual (which is also somewhat interesting in that it is a remake of I Walked with a Zombie, although I suspect with actual horror*).

Basically, this is a fun, dumb horror-action flick with some gross makeup effects and a delightful performance by Billy Zane as a demonic tempter trying to get his hands on a relic that will bring on the apocalypse. Most of the film is a mix of an amped-up Night of the Living Dead and an amped-down The Evil Dead with some crazy-ass comic-style visuals courtesy of director Ernest R. Dickerson (a fantastic director who mainly does television now). Also in the cast (and uniformly great) are William Sadler, Jada Pinkett Smith, Brenda Bakke, CCH Pounder, Gary Farmer, Thomas Haden Church, and B-movie stalwart Dick Miller.

I Walked with a Zombie lacks an element necessary to a horror-film-as-horror-film in that, discounting xenophobia, there is at no point any real threat toward any of our protagonists. This isn't revealing the big twist. It's just not there. It's a bunch of people in a mess with some voodoo at the edges.

jetpack_monkey: (Default)
So every few years I watch Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining, not because I love the film, but precisely because I don't.

It's a much-beloved and highly-regarded horror classic and I've never been able to key into why. I appreciate the technical craftsmanship, but I've always been left with the impression that Kubrick felt like he was above the material. Additionally, I always felt that Jack Nicholson was just hamming his way through the part.

This latest rewatch failed at the 50-minute point for technical reasons -- my HD-DVD player is dying, apparently -- but what I did see left me with a slightly raised estimation of the film. For the first time, I could see Jack Nicholson's performance for what it was -- the picture of a man barely on the edge of civility, frustrated in his writing career, and feeling trapped by his marriage and fatherhood. I still think he's a bit too Jack in places, but you know, there's some bravura work being done if you can move past his usual tics.

The score by Wendy Carlos is creepy as hell and some of the tracking shots definitely add to a sense of unease.

That said, there's still this veneer of artifice over everything. The overabundance of Steadicam shots feels like a child playing with a new toy. The huge cavernous spaces of the Overlook definitely add to the feeling of isolation for the characters, but they also served to isolate me from the proceedings. As the film went on, I started getting an annoyed pang in the back of my neck, so when the disc died... I didn't really put any effort into finding an alternative means of finishing the film.
jetpack_monkey: (Default)
This is cheating, but I had to go to bed early last night and I'd already watched the haunted house episode of Haven. So, um, yeah. Enjoying my watch through of Haven. Sometimes it's a fun distraction/background noise and sometimes I get really invested... mostly in Duke Crocker. Duke is the best.

--

Festivids sign-ups open today! I'll be signing up just as soon as I figure out what I'm requesting/offering.

jetpack_monkey: (Karloff-Lugosi - Masters of the Macabre)
Needed something more sedate after Ghostwatch, so I plugged in Michael Curtiz's The Walking Dead, which is about as horror-lite as you can get while still qualifying as a horror film. Boris Karloff plays an ex-con who is framed for the murder of a judge. He's executed just before the evidence that would have exonerated him comes to light. A kindly scientist resurrects him with New Science, but he comes back an amnesiac. However, he seems to recognize the people who framed him -- even the ones he never met before. One by one he confronts them and one by one they die.

Oddly enough for a horror film, his confronting them and their dying are not connected by murder. In each case, they suffer an accident brought on by a combination of tension and guilt. Karloff's character never kills anyone and there are suggestions throughout the film that he is acting as an agent of God.

It's a very strange little film, but recommended for a bravura Karloff performance and Curtiz's excellent direction.



jetpack_monkey: (Father Merrin - All Your Demons)
Pipes lives under the stairs. Pipes is in my room. Pipes is coming for me. Pipes is coming for you. He's here. He's here. We are all of us doomed.

So, basically, the scared the ever-living crap out of me and gave me nightmares. I won't say much more on it, except that if you want a good solid spooky experience, this BBC production from 1992 is an unusual but effective means to that end.
jetpack_monkey: (Dale Cooper - Damn Good Coffee)
I forgot to post yesterday and I, um, neglected to watch a horror film because Spartacus. Blame [livejournal.com profile] sweetestdrain . Anyway. Luckily for everyone, on Saturday I watched two horror films, so I can post about both now.

The Howling, watched via DVD.
I have a lot to say about this one, but I'm saving it up for my Dear Festividders letter. Man I love this movie, though. Good stuff.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, watched digitally.
An entirely appropriate film to watch after Night Vale Live. There's a lot of Twin Peaks in Night Vale, just amped to 900. Anyway. This is a weird capper on the series in that it's (mostly) a prequel. Most of the events in the film are familiar because Dale Cooper already found out about them in the course of his investigation in the series. However, that doesn't rob them of their nightmare quality as Laura Palmer's last days are laid out. It's a David Lynch movie, so there are moments of exquisite weirdness and overplayed mundanity in equal share. I love this movie even as it irritates the ever-loving s**t out of me.

A few of my next few entries may be brief as I may be watching some horror movies for secret Festivids purposes. Shhhh.  

jetpack_monkey: (Henry Frankenstein - l33t g33k)
Island of Lost Souls watched via Criterion Blu-ray

In 1956, Paramount Pictures sold the majority of its pre-1948 film library to MCA for quick cash. MCA later merged with Universal, leaving Paramount's early film catalog with that studio. This presented a problem in the question of releasing Paramount's early horror films on DVD, because Universal had its own horror brand that was strongly linked with films that were explicitly produced by that studio. Universal tended to release its horror films in sets or special editions centered around a particular monster. Paramount's horror films were few and tended not to fit in with Universal's marketing/groupings.

At least two of the films, 1932's Island of Lost Souls (adapted from H.G. Wells' "Island of Dr. Moreau") and 1944's The Uninvited (a haunted house tale starring Ray Milland), are bona fide masterpieces, but for a while it looked like they would never see a proper release beyond the existing VHS versions*. In the case of Island of Lost Souls, prospects were particularly bleak, as no original negatives survived -- only some prints that were in less-than-stellar condition.

Thank the cinema deities for Criterion Collection, which licensed both films from Universal for release on both DVD and Blu-ray. Island came out in 2011 and The Uninvited will come out later this month.

I watched this last night after not having seen it for decades and it really holds up. It came in right before enforcement of the Production Code started, so there's a lot of surprising elements, like a quick scene of mad scientist Dr. Moreau (an excellent Charles Laughton) performing surgery on one of his man-animal creations. The ending was just as brutal as I always remembered it being (while being mostly suggested after a tasteful pan away).

There are, unsurprisingly, some major problematic elements. The evolutionary scientist is an unscrupulous madman who casts himself as the god of his creations. There's also a lot of sexism and gender essentialism surrounding the two female characters. One of the underlying themes is "there are things man is not meant to know", but thankfully that's buried under "brutality begets brutality" and "maybe science works best with patience and possibly some control groups" (I may be bringing my own prejudices in here a bit on that last one).

In any case, it's a brilliant, brilliant film, featuring great performances from Laughton as well as Bela Lugosi in a small role as the furry, wide-eyed Sayer of Law. The screenplay is succinct and to the point, while still weaving in the themes I discussed earlier (and a few others). Director Erle C. Kenton works with cinematographer Karl Struss to create some visually dynamic sequences, including some unnerving uses of shadow.

Whatever Criterion did to restore the film works, because it's looking gorgeous. They also put together a rich package of extras. I only had the chance to sample two of them. One is a featurette where Devo's Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh discuss the influence that Island of Lost Souls had on the underlying philosophy of the band during its formation. The other is Devo's difficult-to-watch-but-impossible-not-to-watch 1976 short film In the Beginning Was the End: The Truth About De-Evolution, which features them performing Secret Agent Man and Jocko Homo.

I will post about Night Vale Live separately later on. Probably. I will say that Bobak Ferdowsi was there, sitting across the aisle from our group. That was frickin' awesome.

* Paramount had at least one other horror masterpiece from that era, 1931's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but that is owned by Warner Bros. for complicated reasons.
jetpack_monkey: (Plan 9 from Outer Space)
Watched via Youtube

Last year during Festivids nominations and disputes, I had a huge stick up my butt about fandoms being complete (I disputed Land Before Time and argued that the nine billion sequels should be part of the fandom -- yeah, I was an asshole). Anyway, when I nominated The Howling, I nominated The Howling II alongside of it, because I knew that it followed on the events of The Howling.

I was wrong. So very very very wrong.

Yes, technically the film opens on the funeral of the main character from the first Howling and her brother is one of the main characters, but beyond that and the werewolves being the monsters, there was nothing in common. From a pure canon standpoint, they altered the ending of The Howling and also the established canon (mixing in a lot of religious mumbo-jumbo and vampire lore).

From a visual standpoint... I don't know how to really describe it, but the director loves randomly intercutting bits from other parts of the film. This is a great technique in vidding when used with restraint. It's a lousy technique when it runs rampant over a 90 minute film. There's a variety of wipes used throughout the movie... it's like somebody gave the director a catalog and he said, "I shall have them all!" The action is confusing and muddled, but there are flashes of inspiration here and there.

The acting is terrible. Sybil Danning plays the the werewolf queen, Stirba, in a manner that I think is supposed to be sexy, but kind of comes off as nonchalant and wooden. She's not helped by the number of "I am describing the evil things we will do now" speeches she has to give, which seem straight out of bad children's television. Heroes Reb Brown and Annie McEnroe hit their marks and speak their lines and no more can really be said for them. Only Christopher Lee does his stentorian best with some terrible dialogue and comes off the best of anyone in the film.

Oh and they either didn't have money for either music or they really liked the song "Howling" by Stephen Parsons, because it pops up five or six times throughout the film, including over the end credits.

So, yeah, it's terrible. Enjoyably awful in some ways, but just embarrassing and difficult for the most part.

--

Going to Night Vale Live tonight. I'll post about that tomorrow along with whatever movie I end up posting about.
jetpack_monkey: (Default)
Watched through Netflix Instant.

Alas and alack, this is not related to the bats**t genius Japanese film Hausu. It is a head-scratcher, but for less awesome reasons.

The story is that a horror author (William Katt) moves back into his childhood home to work on his next book, a memoir of his time in Vietnam. This same house is where his aunt recently committed suicide and where, a few years back, his son went missing. The set-up is for a dark, moody haunted house film that uses the haunting to highlight the author's tragedy.

What happens instead is a series of wacky supernatural vignettes, several of which either seem to call back to The Evil Dead or predict Evil Dead II (released the following year). Interspersed throughout the film are a series of 'Nam flashbacks that only (barely) become relevant at the end of the movie.

There's a number of funny parts in the movie and some great uses of unexpected space (there's a bigger-on-the-inside moment that was very familiar to me as a Doctor Who fan). The mood whiplash, though, was a bit too much to take. I really wish the filmmakers had figured out what they were doing and where they were going with this.

jetpack_monkey: (Plan 9 from Outer Space)
So I decided to get on the posting once every thirty days bandwagon and decided to tie it into something else I'm trying to do every day this month: watch a horror movie.

Since Classic-Horror.com shut down in June 2012, I haven't been on a really good horror binge, so I thought now was a good time, being October and all. I'm making a concentrated effort to focus on films I haven't seen or that I haven't seen in a really long time.

I might post about other stuff (Festivids is a thing that is happening that is amazing and I cannot wait for sign-ups), but I will at the very least try to make a post talking about what I watched the previous night.

Last night: The Black Sleep (1956) via Netflix Instant.

It's a mad science movie about a doctor who is experimenting on the human brain in the 19th century to save his coma-bound wife. And he's not gonna be bothered with ethics! 

This is mostly notable for featuring a roster of horror greats -- Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Tor Johnson (for values of great), and Basil Rathbone. Of the four, only Rathbone has anything to do as the mad doctor. The rest all play the various results of Rathbone's experiments, dull-eyed (very dull-eyed in Johnson's case) and mostly mute (Carradine has lines and they are delivered with all of the theatrical pomposity one expects from the man).

This could be considered Lugosi's last legitimate film role. Although Plan 9 from Outer Space came out a few years later, Lugosi's part was scraped together from unrelated footage filmed for another project.

The IMDb just confirmed something I suspected -- that Akim Tamiroff's role as a conniving body-snatching Romani was originally intended for Peter Lorre. It had some serious Lorre vibes to it.

There were some interesting visual choices made here and there, but it was mostly a pretty rote mad science affair. Rathbone was excellent, however, as he always is.

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