FALLOWEEN DAY 2: MOVIES
So last time, I ranted about books. Today, I want to discuss one of my friends and his obsession. The friend is the indomitable Doktor Zall (name changed somewhat to protect the... whatever he is ;) ) and his obsession is film. Specifically movies.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that the Filthy Casual brings the Casual into any and every endeavor. I am this way with movies, too. I also have the memory of a geriatric stoner, so bear in mind that I haven't seen these movies since they were screened in the Dread Caverns of Doktor Zall from his Film Library of Madness (cue evil laughter). Anything I say may be out of context or mixed up.
All the factual stuff comes straight off of IMDB, since I'm even casual about research. Preach.
#10: The Devils; Directed by Ken Russel; Starring Vanessa Redgrave, Oliver Reed, Dudley Sutton; Based on the Play by John Whiting; Screenplay by Ken Russell; Russo Productions, Warner Releasing; 16 July 1971, USA.
This movie is about one of the bloodiest periods in French Catholocism, and one of the first things I can tell you about it is this: There are no supernatural elements to this. None. The horror is strictly of the realistic variety. It even opens with the Plague.
Things get worse from there.
Somehow there's a love story.
A crucifix gets molested by desperate nuns who just don't want to be murdered horrifically.
The Sun King himself is a narcissistic monster who wants to rule with impunity.
This movie is incredibly hard to watch, but the less I say about it, the more I want to watch it again. Yes, even the part where Father Grandier, the male protagonist, undergoes the Inquisition. Yeah. It's hard to watch.
It was honestly one of the most difficult movies I watched over at the Good Doktor's Film Emporium, and the fact that it made me laugh at times (intentionally, the beast,) only made it more disturbing to me.
If you can stand to watch a period-accurate movie in which Protestants are murdered horrifically, women are sexually abused, and the Church is not made to look particularly good, then you should watch this.
Even if you don't think you can stand it, watch it anyway. It's powerful.
#9: Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter; Directed by Brian Clemens; Starring Horst Janson, John Carson, Shane Briant; Written by Brian Clemens; Hammer Films; 7 April 1974, UK.
Oh this movie...
Why was it not a series? It should have been a series! It's fan-fucking tastic! Amazing! All of the stars in the universe, and the universe is infinite! (Okay, the universe isn't really infinite, according to some scientists, but you get the point, this movie is awesome.)
This is a Hammer film – complete with red-paint blood, bizarre misconstructions of supernatural lore, and better-than-it-has-any-right-to-be acting.
Captain Kronos is, as the film indicates, a vampire-hunter. He comes to a small village where several girls have been drained, not of blood, but of their youth! The dashing Captain must defeat this strange new kind of vampire and save the village. It also clearly sets itself up for sequels or a tv-series – both of which I would have devoured as fully as I do with Kolchak or the X-Files. I love this!
So why did a movie I love so much, with clear intentions to become a new series, never take off? Several reasons: 1 – it was 1974. 2 – Hammer was going under, if I remember correctly. The Good Doktor can always correct me if I'm wrong (and I'm sure he will).
Go find this film – sell your firstborn if you must, just find it!
Don't sell your firstborn. I'm joking. Are you nuts?! Why would you believe me! I'm a half-assed reviewer on the internet! You should trust my opinions, yes, but never, ever do as I tell you when it comes to other people, health, etc. :P
#8: The Woman in Black; Directed by Herbert Wise; Starring Adrian Rawlins, Bernard Hepton, David Daker; Written by Nigel Kneale, based on the book by Susan Hill; Capglobe, Central Films Ltd, Cintral Independent Television; 24 December 1989; UK.
So, do you remember that one line in the Christmas Song, the one everyone calls “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”? The line says “There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago”?
That's because in England, they tell ghost stories on Christmas. It's why there's ghosts in A Christmas Carol. It's also why, every year, Britain shows a ghost movie on Christmas.
In this particular ghost story, an old woman dies in an old house and a lawyer has to go settle her affairs. Sounds simple enough, yeah?
See, there's an old woman in black who keeps appearing on the periphery of his vision, and no one will acknowledge her existence or even let him know he's not crazy! Worse: every time she appears, someone gets hurt – almost always children. Our protagonist? A father. Not a particularly good or devoted father, but he tries. He guesses.
Also, this is not the Daniel Radcliffe one from a while back. This does not have a happy conclusion. No one gets away happy in this. Nothing is resolved, no evils put to right. It's not something to show the kiddies to tell them “it's okay, nothing bad ever really happens!” This is the movie you show them to let them know that everything ends, and usually horribly.
By the way, this movie, while made for television, is better shot, directed, and acted than probably 80% of the modern movies I've watched in the last five years. Oh, and the guy who plays the kid in this version? He's the same guy who would grow up to play James Potter, father of the Boy Who Lived. Who's actor went on to play the father of the character whose actor would grow up to be the father of his character. Confused yet?
#7: The Devil Rides Out; Directed by Terence Fisher; Screenplay by Richard Matheson, based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley; Starring Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi; Associated British-Pathé, Hammer Films, Seven Arts Pictures, et al; 20 July 1968; UK.
You read that right – Christopher motherfucking Lee.
This is the movie we watched after that legend passed. We watched a movie where he fights Satan.
Yeah. He kinda pwns.
Interestingly enough, this is the second film on the list with an evil Richelau in it – the first being The Devils. One of the main characters is also named Van Ryn, which phonetically connects him both to the painter, Rembrandt, and the astronomer (both of these tie in with the movie, subtly, if you know what to look for).
In this film, a young man gets caught up in a Satanic cult and Christopher Lee's character has to try to pull him out. This is the rare film where Christopher Lee isn't trying to rip someone's throat out. He's trying to prevent the throat-ripping. Lee is amazing in this movie, going from indignant to terrified to exhausted in the span of seconds with nary a pause in his wonderful diction. He was a true master.
If you wanna watch Saruman beat the shit outta Old Scratch himself, this is a great movie for that.
Also, there's some awesome practical effects, and the designs they have for the demons and the Prince of Darkness are amazing.
#6: Monster Squad; Directed by Fred Dekker; Written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker; Starring Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht; HBO, Keith Barish Productions, TAFT Entertainment Pictures, et al; 14 August 1987; USA.
Dracula has decided to take over the world. He assembles a crack team of the Frankenstein monster, a walking mummy, a werewolf, and a fishman who I think is supposed to be my favorite monster ever, the Gillman from Creature of the Black Lagoon. In the face of this confederation of evil, who can mankind rely on?
Apparently a group of dorky kids in a clubhouse.
This movie contains no names I recognize. It contains no monster designs I recognize past Dracula and the linen-wrapped Mummy (who I now continuously call the Yeti throughout the movie because of WCW). What it does contain is entertainment value!
Holy shit, it's so satisfying watching these brats obliterate monsters. One of them, who reminds me of Chunk from The Goonies, (I think it's that one, it's been about a year, my brain doesn't even hold onto breakfast, thanks) even winds up crotching the wolf-man.
“Wolfman's got nards!”
Go watch this movie. It's a guarenteed good time.
I cannot stand behind my guarantees, since they are based on opinion, not fact. You might not like things. I can't help it if you have bad taste. :P
#5: Nosferatu; Directed by F. W. Murnau; Screenplay by Henrik Galeen, based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker; Starring Max Schreck, Greta Schröder, Ruth Landshoff; Jofa-Atelier Berlin-Johannisthal, Prana-Film GmbH; 3 June 1929 (USA); Germany
Who gives a shit about Dracula when you can have the truly unsettling Nosferatu?
This silent film was created when no one gave a shit about copyright. In fact, it nearly didn't survive not giving a shit about copyright – every copy was ordered burned. Somehow, at least one copy survived the legal purge (brought on by the incredibly cheesed-off Bram Stoker estate, who didn't approve the film and were quite upset that it had been making money without giving them any in return, or, indeed, even asking permission!), and from these sources, the modern cut of Nosferatu rose, Vampire-like, from the dead.
The version I like best, which is also the version I own, is the one with music by The Devil's Music Ensemble. The SO and I have been to a few of their shows, Nosferatu, Red Heroine, and maybe one more? My memory – so bad.
Regardless, this is basically creepy, silent, German Expressionist Dracula – but it does have some differences. The ending, especially, is changed from the original!
If you like to be creeped out by scary-looking fellas, this is the film for you. Max Schreck, despite being, by all accounts, a wonderful human being, is truly uncomfortable to look at, and none of the lankiness of his limbs and digits, none of the long and cadaverous appearance of his face, none of that is a makup effect – that's 100% what he looked like.
#4: Evil Dead II; Directed by Sam Raimi; Written by Sam Raimi and Scott Spiegel; Starring Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks; De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG), Renaissance Pictures; 13 March 1987; USA.
Evil Dead II is just Evil Dead with different characters and a weirder ending. Seriously, that's exactly what I've heard people who worked on the film call it. That's fine – it's better shot, better lit, has better effects, and Bruce Campbell is on his lovable-doofus-who-may-actually-be-utterly-insane A-Game. It's a fun flick, though it's unintentionally disgusting on occasion. Ted Raimi has sweat pouring out of the ear of one of his full-body prosthetics at one point. It's just nasty. And awesome.
Plenty of pratfalls, lots of creepy atmosphere, and excellent practical effects abound. Watch this!
#3: Creature from the Black Lagoon; Directed by Jack Arnold; Written by Harry Essex, Arthur A. Ross; Starring Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning; Universal International Pictures; 5 March 1954; USA.
Doktor Zall's indomitable parent will not permit me to watch this set of films at the Emporium. Apparently, said parent lived near where the sequels occurred and was terrified by them. I love this parent like one of my own. I love the Gillman design. I still don't understand how anyone could actually be afraid of it.
The Gillman is a fish-person who lived in a secluded lagoon deep in the Amazon. Then the white man came and made him into a killing machine. For some reason, it wants that white-girl booty. In the long-running tradition of Universal Monsters, white girls are monster-nip in these movies. I don't believe that a single woman was actually harmed by the creature – it's only men. Usually the South American hired help. Totes not racist guys. Totes.
I love this design – it looks great, the suit moves (in the first film, at least) with the actor wearing it, and it holds up well under the constant motion. Unfortunately for said actor, it was nearly fatal to do the underwater scenes, since they had no way of giving him air without spoiling the look. This is a movie which nearly killed its actor. Holy crap.
The sequels, while snappier in pace from the original, are nowhere nearly as well-written. The second movie is slightly better (and has the Creature raiding a crab-shack and terrorizing tourists in Florida), but the third... oh The Creature Walks Among Us, you had such potential and you wasted it all on a shitty redesign and truly wretched lines about Jungles and Stars...
Still, give these a watch for some man-fish fun!
#2: Night of the Hunter; Directed by Charles Laughton, Robert Mitchum; Screenplay by James Agee, based on the novel by Davis Grubb; Starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish; Paul Gregory Productions; 24 November 1955; Argentina.
This movie gave me nightmares for a week, and there is, again, nothing supernatural or unrealistic about it. This is a movie that could happen next fucking week, and no one would bat an eyelash, despite how horrible the events are.
It goes like this: Man stealls $10k and kills two cops or guards, gets captured after hiding the money and making his children promise never to tell anyone – even their mother – where it is, man shares a cell before his execution with a con-man/murderer who finds out about the missing money and escapes, con man tracks down thief's wife and seduces her despite her not knowing where the money is, con man murders wife and proceeds to spend the rest of the movie chasing the terrified children across the southern US.
Robert Mitchum's performance as deranged con man Harry Powell is so superb that it gives me chills to even think of it. He professes that he is a holy man, and the most terrifying part is that the character seems to believe that God (or who/whatever) truly wants him to go out and murder widows and old maids for their money. At one point, he lets out a howl that made me shrink back into the Emporium couch with a barely-audible whimper.
By the end of the film, I feard that I'd need to go to the hospital, my heart was pounding so hard.
If you have a heart condition, perhaps give this one a pass. It's supremely intense.
#1: House II: The Second Story; Directed by Ethan Wiley; Written by Ethan Wiley, inspired by an original story by Fred Dekker; Starring Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Royal Dano; New World Pictures, Sean S. Cunningham Films; 28 August 1987; USA.
Oh House II, I had nearly forgot thee...
Until I went over to the Emporium and mentioned to the Good Doktor and my SO that I seemed to recall a film about a weird house where zombie cowboys fought on a dinner table, a weird caterpillar-pug wandered the kitchen cupboards, and John Ratzenberger played an electrician who was surprised by none of this.
Their response was that House II had not, in fact, been a fever dream from that time I stayed home with Influenza for a week. It was real, and they intended to rewatch it.
I want to watch this movie every year. I want to watch it maybe every month. It's not good, it's not well-made, it's utterly bullshit, but dammit, it's fun as fuck!
Seriously, though, that this movie made such an impression on me is no surprise – I have a deep-seated horror of zombies and ghosts. This movie had both – a zombie and a zombie-ghost. I barely remembered it, my mind trying to block the image of the juicy corpse of Slim Razor rising through the crown roast from memory.
Also, there's a character named Virgin. She's a virgin sacrifice.
Watch the movie!
That about does it for me for now – maybe I'll do one more list, this time on Halloween-ish television?
We'll see :)
Go out and enjoy something!