Friday, October 31, 2008

Horror Fest III: The Prequel!

The Cap'n is busier than carp doing whatever carp do getting ready for


tomorrow night, so I have to be quicker than usual. Don't get me wrong; I've really enjoyed writing these long pieces about discovering movies and "old school" vs "new school". That's definitely something I want to pursue, particularly because writing longer pieces is what The Cap'n wants to do for a living.

However, I also need to get things together for the pre-Horror Fest double feature of movies, madness, gore, trailers, and ZIM!!! on campus. I did decide on two quite suitable movies, one of which came recommended from Mssr. Ledbetter (In the Mouth of Madness) and the other Peter Jackson's Dead Alive.

Dead Alive may be the only movie that's ever made me sick to my stomach (aside from the "urine ice cream cone" scene in Jackass), and that's for the "custard" sequence alone. Not looking forward to watching that on a 40" HD tv*.

It is, however, the kind of movie you can show to the Army of Darkness set that straddles the fine line between horror and comedy, and will offset Madness for its bleak ending. The trailer reel I put together (which is really difficult if you're looking for downloadable trailers in .mov file legally) is a curious cross section that I hope they enjoy, and everyone likes ZIM!!!


The Cap'n did notice an interview with Paul Giamatti which indicates that not only is Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires still alive, but in the absence of Bruce, they've found a new Elvis.

Ron Perlman.

It's weird... okay, really weird, but it could be very cool. Giamatti seems genuinely enthused about the project (and this is before it's even begun filming) and Don Coscarelli is writing and directing again. Bubba Ho-Tep was kind of lightning in a bottle, but there's certainly promise for more weirdness and I for one am interested.

More interested than I am in My Name is Bruce, anyway.


Okay, the Cap'n has much to do before he sleeps, so I have to leave you to clean up and prepare a possible spillover from campus to AOS (aka Fest HQ) tonight. You kids be good and I'll be back with regular reports after each of our films for "DAY ONE: CLASSICS IN HD"

* not mine, though. the rc-ers, so impressed by my theoretical tv they've never seen, purchased a comparable size and type. tonight will be the first time they've ever used it, which is something of an honor for me.

Horror Fest III: Day Zero / One

Before the Cap'n goes to bed, I thought it'd be fun to share the experience of impromptu marathoniness.

In the Mouth of Madness and Dead Alive were punctuated by episodes of Invader Zim and a trailer reel I put together at HQ. (The Zim episodes, for those curious, were "Dark Harvest", "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy", and "Room with a Moose"). While turnout wasn't ginormous, the people I thought would be there did in fact arrive and they seemed to enjoy Madness.

Dead Alive went over much better, but Dead Alive is always going to win in a heads up match with In the Mouth of Madness. I forgot how quaintly nineties Madness is in the beginning, which makes the slow burn a little harder to get into for folks who didn't see it the first time around. Once John Trent (Sam Neill) gets to Hobb's End, the movie settles in and I could tell people were starting to follow the movie. I don't think it creeped anyone out as The Haunting might have, but it did serve as a good set up piece for vintage Peter Jackson.

It turns out I might have undersold the degree of gore and generally disgusting bodily fluids in Dead Alive, because despite my warning about the custard sequence, people were still covering their eyes, turning away, or walking halfway out of the basement. Not that I blame them, and we lost a few people (mostly to exhaustion) before the movie was over. And yet, as it always does, the strange charm of the "goriest movie ever made" managed to win over people who'd only heard of it before tonight.

When I got home, Liz came over to watch 1408 as I had promised and delivered upon. Surprise, surprise: it still doesn't really hold up. The movie starts out all right, things kick into high gear when Cusack enters room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel, and then it stumbles.

What I'd forgotten was just how unnecessarily long the dream sequence is, and how patently clear it is he's still in the hotel room the entire time. Worse still is another alternate ending (where he does die but his dream sequence manuscript makes it to agent Tony Shaloub) that makes the "Enslin lives" theatrical ending look almost tolerable.

I take that back, because showing the "Enslin lives" ending reminded me of how much of a cheat it is considering the steps 1408 takes to remind us there is no escaping. Of the three endings I'm still taking the "director's cut", which is at least melancholy, but by that point 1408 isn't so much looking to be redeemed as it is salvaged.

Tomorrow I'll pop something on while I'm setting stuff up, wait for Ad-Rock to get here, and the rest should arrive between 7:30 and 9 for the main attraction.

For anyone not aware, Saturday is daylight savings time, so we get an extra hour of Horror Fest, which none of you are likely to complain about.

Stay scared,

The Cap'n

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Horror Fest III: Ever Heard of These?

Horror Fest is damn near upon us! While the Cap'n has a damn good idea what he wants to show and when, I'm never against the idea of looking around for more goodies, just in case. While unloading some stuff at Ed McKay's, I dug through the horror section, which I do far less than someone like the Cap'n should, in search of titles I didn't recognize.

Watching horror movies can be a hit and miss experience, and shopping for them (particularly used) can be difficult. Odds are the titles you find are movies you have, have seen, or don't want to see (for example: there are multiple copies of The Ninth Gate, Jeepers Creepers 2, and all of the After Dark releases). Occasionally you'll find a missing piece from your collection, like The Fly II, a really not so great sequel to Cronenberg's remake but damn is it gory. Typically your eyes glaze over, but every now and then, tucked in between public domain releases of Night of the Living Dead and Carnival of Souls*, you see something that makes you say "what the hell is this?".

I found four such titles tonight, all with a pretty good chance of either ruling or sucking, but for 5-8 bucks, it's worth a try:

1.House of the Damned - from the synopsis on the back "Architect Scott Campbell and his wife Nancy join another couple, Joseph and Lay Schillar for what promises to be a pleasant stay at an empty castle set on a secluded California hillside. Soon, however, tension mounts as... a group of ghoulish carnival circus performers who once inhabited the castle beome increasingly hostile towards their 'guests'"

Okay, so we have two normal couples, and "abandoned" castle, and circus freaks? I'm down! And lest ye think this is some bargain basement movie, it comes from 20th Century Fox circa 1963. So this is Fox attempting to rival the Corman cheapies. I have no idea who the people in the cast are, so all signs point to "hell yeah!"

2. Prom Night and Ghoulies IV - The Prom Night is exactly the one you think it is: with Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen, but I didn't have a copy and it's the Alliance reissue that's at least widescreen. The more important part is that it's doubled up with Ghoulies IV! Fucking Ghoulies IV!!! I didn't know there was a Ghoulies III, let alone a fourth entry. This is madness.

I fully admit that Ghoulies IV probably sucks sweaty donkey balls, but I have to see it. Ghoulies II played during Horror Fest I and remains a guilty pleasure for the Cap'n. Plus, think of it as buying Prom Night and getting a free shitty sequel in another series.

3. The Unseen - I feel like this title is familiar, but I don't know why. It stars Barbara Bach as a TV reporter who loses her motel room during a remote report and stays at some dude's farmhouse. The farmhouse, of course, has a horrible "something living in the basement", which they of course discover. To quote the back cover "their stay soon becomes a horrific nightmare when they encounter the 'unseen'".

So it kind of sounds like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (appropriate, since it's written by Massacre's Kim Henkel) crossed with that episode of the X-Files about inbred mutants. Throw in a dash of "monster movie of your choosing" and I bet that's The Unseen. And yet, I'm interested. I could be cool, and as I said, it's rare to see a movie you haven't seen a bazillion times.

4. The Johnsons - Okay, the cover is what did it for me here.

It's some Dutch take on The Omen or The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby, mixed in with a little bit of A Nightmare on Elm Street, except instead of Satan, it's the Mahxitu Indian God Xangadix. Or something like that. The back of the dvd has some bald kid covered in blood eating what looks like human flesh. It's an Anchor Bay joint, who brought me the remarkably gross Baby Blood, so I figured "why not?"

Have any of you heard of these movies? Know anything about them? Was I very foolish, or do they sound like interesting avenues to go down? I'm always happy to find one movie I know nothing about, but four was crazy!

Finally, this is specifically for the Cranpire, but the rest of you will enjoy it too.

* just buy the criterion. it's worth the price.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Horror Fest III: Whatever Happened to the "Splat Pack"?

Yesterday, The Cap'n got into a nice discussion about what "old school" horror means with the Cranpire and the Rianimator (feel free to jump in with your two cents; it's not like the conversation is over or anything), but I posed a question in the comments that got stuck in my craw:

What exactly is the "new school"?

For those of you allergic to like, scrolling down or something, here's what I said exactly:

How would you qualify the current "school" of American horror; one dominated by horror films, homages (Hatchet, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer), deconstructions (Behind the Mask) and films about home invasion, torture, and the occasional hulking wrestler-turned-monster?

This is actually jumping ahead of where I want to go today, because I'd like to dial it back three years or so and discuss the so-called "Splat Pack", a group of directors referred to as "an emerging and collegial band of horror auteurs". At the time the article in Time appeared, many of them had big hits under their belts, and were popular with fans for bucking the conventional trend of remaking Asian horror movies that was dominating the early 21st century*.

If you don't remember who was part of the "new school" Splat Pack class, allow me to refresh your memory:

Eli Roth, Neil Marshall, Alexandre Aja, Darren Lynn Bousman, Greg McLean, James Wan, Leigh Whannel, and Rob Zombie.

Roth and Zombie you probably remember pretty well. Between them, they were responsible for House of 1000 Corpses, Cabin Fever, The Devil's Rejects, and Hostel.

Neil Marshall made Dog Soldiers and The Descent, Greg McLean directed Wolf Creek, Alexandre Aja brought us High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes, and Bousman, Whannel, and Wan were responsible for the first three Saw films at the time.

We have one outright remake, one two homages to seventies horror, a French film with a seriously gory streak, a Werewolf horror-comedy, a claustrophobic film about spelunking with cave monsters, a wildly inconsistent horror comedy borrowing from The Evil Dead, and the birth of what was called "Torture Porn", both from American and Australian perspectives.

There was some serious buzz around all of these guys; they counted the likes of Takeshi Miike, Quentin Tarantino, and Tobe Hooper as mentors, and their movies were at least inventive, if not always great. Buzz was strong for the followups: Marshall's Doomsday, Roth's Hostel: Part II, Rob Zombie's Halloween, Aja's Mirrors, Wan and Whannel's Dead Silence, and the never ending Saw series.

And then all of that seemed to go away. It wasn't just that the movies were (mostly) underwhelming, but the "torture porn" stigma started getting nasty. Dead Silence was terrible (the Cap'n apologizes for ever trying to defend it), Mirrors was incomprehensible garbage, and Doomsday was less than it promised to be (the progeny of The Road Warrior and Escape from New York).

Hostel: Part II felt like Roth was treading water; yes, it had some interesting moments, but where was the giant leap forward we experienced from Cabin Fever to Hostel? Halloween remains the favorite of many, even though I feel like it fails on so many levels not only as a remake but also as a coherent film in its own right. Don't get me started on the ridiculous path Saw followed to pump out a movie every year.

Rabid fan support only really seems to exist for Zombie these days, mostly residual good will for White Zombie and The Devil's Rejects, which was light years better than House of 1000 Corpses. Despite the fact he admitted to not even having written his script for Tyrannosaurus Rex, fans are gnawing at the bit for this "ultimate badass" film. People are still begging for a Werewolf Women of the SS feature film, even though he could barely keep the premise interesting for two minutes**.

Roth was going to direct an adaptation of Stephen King's The Cell, although it looks like that's dead and buried in the wake of a movie like The Signal. His long awaited extension on Grindhouse, Trailer Trash, pops up but never seems to be going anywhere. That's a shame, because if it really is a horror / exploitation riff on The Kentucky Fried Movie, I'd be interested in seeing it. Other than Edgar Wright's Don't, Roth's Thanksgiving trailer had me the most interested to see the man get back to work.

I don't think Doomsday killed Neil Marhsall's career, but even supporters of the film like myself understand that it didn't do well, critically or commercially. When fans are more excited about a sequel to The Descent Marshall has nothing to do with, he's got a steep hill to climb.

Truth be told, I'm perfectly okay with Aja going back to the remake well for Piranha. He's promising a 3-D gorefest along the lines of Dead Alive, and if there's someone capable of delivering on that promise, it's that crazy Frog.

As I've stated openly, I haven't seen a Saw movie since the awful second part, but I do read up on the plots and I've seen enough footage online to know where the series went, and it sounds fucking stupid. Whannel, Wan, and Bousman are all off of the series now, but to be honest with you, Death Sentence didn't look very interesting and I have NO interest in Repo: The Genetic Opera.

You might have noticed that Greg McLean pretty much vanished from the equation, which is sad, because he actually made a pretty good follow up to Wolf Creek called Rogue. Most people never noticed it slide in on dvd, and those who saw the dvd cover likely mistook it for the craptacular Giant Croc movie Primeval that came out earlier this year. That's a shame, because Rogue is a much better movie than almost any of the follow ups I listed above. I'm strongly considering putting it into the Horror Fest III lineup.

I'd be remiss to leave out the negative impact of the botched Masters of Horror series, which did not include any of the directors listed above but did carry their seal of approval. Season one was shaky, with a handful of decent episodes from veterans and relative newcomers (May's Lucky McKee) but equally terrible installments from other legends of the genre and questionable choices as to who qualified as "master".

Season two was, in my opinion, and unmitigated disaster. Other than Joe Dante's shaky "Screwfly Solution" and Stuart Gordon's pretty good "The Black Cat", there's not a good one in the bunch. Contemporaries of the Splat Pack like Rob Marshall (Wrong Turn) got a shot and didn't get far. The otherwise reliable Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist) brought great sound design to a turgid and predictable "Sounds Like". And don't get me started on Peter Medak's "The Washingtonians", or John Carpenter's terrible "Pro-Life" (I didn't think it could get worse than "Cigarette Burns").

The failure of watered down Fear Itself, which I didn't bother watching, pretty much left the experiment dead, and I'm not convinced that's a bad thing. It certainly didn't help the Splat Pack to be supporting such a waste of time, and that coupled with the stillborn Grindhouse experiment, they just don't seem to be the "new school" anymore.

Any thoughts? Did the rise of Platinum Dunes help the fall of the "pack"? Did you think they were overrated to begin with? Have other theories? Join me in the comments below to discuss...

* how fucking pretentious does that sound? still, it's true, so I'm sticking with it.
** gotta give the man props for being a bright spot in Nicholas Cage's filmography for one brief moment in 2007, though...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Horror Fest III Discussion: How old school is "old school"?

hear this a lot, occasionally from my own mouth, so it seems worth investigating:

When people say "it is/isn't like old school horror; it rules/sucks!", where do you draw that line?

For example, is Halloween more old school than Friday the 13th? Or is Psycho old school? Is Dracula too old to be old school, but maybe The Horror of Dracula fits?

Taking the general understanding of "old school", which would be in reference to hip hop (ergo 1970s early 80s) out of the equation, what do you consider personally to be the best decade for horror, and why?

Are you a fan of the "classic" Universal era from the 30s and 40s? Maybe your thing is more the "giant monster" era from the 50s? Do you go all the way back, Caligari-style, or rock out with Nosferatu? Or does the slasher boom of the late 70s and early 80s really scratch your itch?

Cult fan? Camp fan? Dig that stuff from the 60s that no one's seen but you? Roger Corman type? Into the obscure foreign horror films from the 60s? Satanic possession films of the early 70s? Maybe the horror comedies of the mid-to-late 80s? Big into the Carpenter 80s? The Argento 70s? The Polanski era? Down with the Cannibal genre? The Cap'n wants to know, so get your comment on. I'll reply with some picks and we'll keep this going for as long as you're interested, dear reader.

Since I'm starting all of this, it's only fair for the Cap'n to start with his two cents, so for me "old school" ought to be something that you can trace a clear lineage back to, beyond just remakes. Since I'm not really that down with the whole "TP" genre, I'm going to focus on another current trend in horror right now:

The Obscuremake

It doesn't get the kind of outrage that I normally reserve for "classics" like Friday the 13th or The Massacre or Nightmare, but there's seems to be a particular brand of "old school", understood as the early-to-mid-eighties, which is drawing all kinds of strange remakes lately.

We've already seen The Hitcher, Prom Night, Day of the Dead, April Fool's Day, and The Hills have Eyes. In the coming months / year we'll see Night of the Demons, The Stepfather, My Bloody Valentine, Children of the Corn, Maniac, It's Alive, Poltergeist, Child's Play, and Troll.

So what do these movies all have in common? Well, they were all released between 1980 and 1990, done for reasonably low budgets, a few of them have sequels (okay, more than a few), but predominantly they all have the following similarity:

Not everyone knows them. At best, they might remember seeing the title from the olden days of a video store (if someone wants to make a case about "old school" involving the VHS rack at your local video store, I think you've got a good case). They saw a lurid cover and the title, along with movies like Gore Met: Zombie Chef from Hell, Piranha, and Bloodsucking Freaks, and thought "wow, someday I might rent that" or, more likely "that's kind of fucked up and I don't think I should watch it."

This particular brand of "old school" is something I remember from Video Bar and Carbonated video as "the section I'd go look around in but could never rent from" and every single one of those movies is something I remember seeing on the shelf, along with The Toxic Avenger and The Evil Dead (the most recent dvd version has the cover I remember seeing; the one of the woman being dragged into the grave). They were movies I didn't see until much later on, when I was a teenager and no longer freaked out by horror movies*.

Mostly this type of remake puzzles me, because these are the exact sort of movies that snuck under the radar the first time around. With the exception of Child's Play and Poltergeist, I'm not even sure any of them registered with most audiences. Why they would suddenly do so is equally curious; the aficionado, who owns all of those dvds now is probaly not going to see them in theatres, and unless they're all rated PG13, teenagers won't be able to get into them legally.

Still, it's kind of strange to hear those names again associated with new movies. It was probably like what a teenager thought when looking at the listings for his drive-in or local theatre: "awesome, dude! that sounds rad and gory!!!" while he waited for the next Freddy or Jason movie.

It's a weird variation on "old school", but I think it counts. The era produced random movies, many of which we only saw on fuzzy vhs tapes, but hearing them again brings me back...

*EDIT* Now includes original comments from original post:

The Rianimator Said:
It seems to me that the phrase "old school" is being turned not in reference to a period that is well known and foundational to one's tastes, but rather to a period juuust before their memory starts really kicking in. Where old school is used to mean "better than bad, it's good!" people want it to signify something they know only secondarily, and isn't tied whatsoever to any objective timeline of the genre or whathaveyou. Old school will be what your slightly older sibling was into, in whatever instance.
So the period of horror to which you refer would be my old school, in that case.
I think that the referred-to in "old school" has to be pretty similar to one's, uh, current school. In that way it's foundational. But if you remember it too well, it's not cool enough to be old school. Nosferatu has to be, like, Academy of the Ancient Ones.

This is all bullshit. Schneetzah wrote it.

The Cap'n Replied:
It's not bullshit. You have an interesting point; the use of "old school" for me is this curious interest in recycling the names and plots of movies that people just barely remember. On the other hand, I think that the Hammer period also counts as "old school" because it's a transition from the cutesy "teen horror" of the 50s and the now family friendly "classic" horror to what Cranpire is discussing below.

On the other hand, movies like Hatchet proudly proclaims on the cover "Old School American Horror". Does this mean that "old school American horror" is exclusively the domain of slasher movies, as it borrows heavily from Friday the 13th? Or are there different phases of "old school" that really define how someone relates to the genre?

Speaking of which, since you brought it up: how would you qualify the current "school" of American horror; one dominated by horror films, homages (Hatchet, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer), deconstructions (Behind the Mask) and films about home invasion, torture, and the occasional hulking wrestler-turned-monster?

The Cranpire posted a comment which has been removed. The Cap'n replied:
For your sake I hope that's something you don't remember tomorrow. And check the front of the car before anyone else wakes up. I'm just saying is all I'm saying...

I agree with you to a degree, if only because that era does signify the explosion of American exploitation of nudity and gore. As I mentioned briefly in The Rianimator's comment, I think that Hammer was already doing that in the late sixties and well into the seventies (the studio ended right around To the Devil... A Daughter, released in 1976). Jess Franco was beginning to explore similar violence and nudity, and Argento was heading in that direction as well. Tombs of the Blind Dead, which I mentioned the other day, is not only gory, but also features scenes of rape and hints at a lesbian relationship early in the film. But then again, this is easily understood to be different because it's "European".

But as American films go, I think you're on the right track. Roger Corman and Hammer were easing the mores of American horror, so that you could make the leap from something like The Blob to Blood Feast. You didn't mention it, but that period also covers movies like The Thing, Videodrome, and An American Werewolf in London. I feel like they helped push horror in other directions while the series were building or going strong.

Speaking of The Thing, I must admit a preference for the period between 1950 and 1968, where independents mingled with movies like The Thing. Carnival of Souls, Night of the Living Dead, The Blob, and even horror-comedies like A Bucket of Blood. Not to mention all of the Vincent Price activity going on...

* yes, the cap'n is admitting in front of all of you that he once could not watch horror movies because they scared him. mock on.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Blogorium Review: Mother of Tears

The Cap'n is starting to think he's going to scratch Mother of Tears off of that list for next week... See, the thing about it is that while Mother of Tears is not as cheap looking and flagrantly awful as recent Dario Argento films (Do You Like Hitchcock, The Card Player), it's still not very good.

I have a hard time actually considering the film to be tied to Suspiria or Inferno, even though it makes a direct connection to the former and indirect ones to the latter. The Mother of Tears (sometimes subtitled The Third Mother) is about the final witch in Argento's triptych of stories about modern day witchcraft, following the two defeated in Suspiria and Inferno. Apparently, Sarah Mandy's (Asia Argento) parents left the Mother of Sighs (Mater Suspiriorum) weak enough for Suzy to kill her in Suspiria.

Other than the plot trying to tie everything together, Mother of Tears has nothing in common with the first two films. Other than graphic violence, there's nothing visually to indicate these films are alike, and worst of all Mother of Tears lacks any dreamlike imagery. The strength of Suspiria (and perhaps the weakness of Inferno) is the bizarre, logically twisty stories of the film, coupled with strong primary colors and dark, fuzzy imagery. They're great for watching late at night in the dark when you're starting to get tired, because the operate on the same kind of dream logic your mind goes to in rem sleep.

Mother of Tears is pretty straight forward. The monsters are never less than 100% real, the plot moves along pretty coherently (Sarah meets someone who can help her, the Mater Lachrimarum kills them, she moves on), and there's nothing bizarre or unusual about Argento's camerawork or cinematography. It's very workmanlike, right down to the truly gratuitous nude shot of his daughter in the shower.

If you're wondering "well, is it better than most of his recent output?", the answer is a tentative yes, but it's still not the Dario Argento you would expect for a story directly linked to his classics. Mother of Tears is middle of the road: somewhere between Two Evil Eyes and Phenomena, which is to say not great but better than the bottom of the pile. For die hard fans only, and definitely not up to ______ ____ standards.

*EDIT* Additional Thoughts:

1. I can't believe I forgot to mention this, but the music in Mother of Tears isn't by Goblin, but rather one of its former members, and whatever he did, it sorely lacks the "Goblin" touch. Laugh if you will, but a big reason that Dawn of the Dead and Suspiria work as well as they do are those out of left field Goblin synthesizer soundtracks. The Suspiria one is so effective with Argento's imagery that if I catch myself humming the theme, scenes like the plaza sequence will pop up in my head (remember that one? the dog?). Mother of Tears has a rather generic orchestral score with some chanting and garbage, and if I hadn't checked first, I would've sworn it had nothing to do with Goblin.

2. The ending is... I want to say ridiculous, but before we can get that far, you have to understand how rushed it is. Mother of Tears is something like 99 minutes long, including the credits. Sarah (Asia Argento) doesn't enter the coven until the 94 minute mark, and half of that scene is devoted to torturing the cop who goes in first. The film builds up some ridiculous notion that only Sarah has the "power" to defeat the mother of tears, but I'm going to go ahead and spoil this for you. Someone has to:

Sarah defeats the Mother of Tears, the most powerful witch of the three mothers, by pulling her robe off with a spear and dropping it into a fire. Then an earthquake causes the house to collapse, and somehow a spire from the roof falls all the way underground and kills the witch. Sarah leaves, but not before having a minor freak out in some muddy water filled with corpses.

This is all punctuated with dodgy cgi (like large chunks of the film) and a wholly fake looking final shot of Sarah and the somehow not dead cop laughing. I mean, okay, the way Suspiria ends is kind of sudden, but not that laughably. So do understand you're getting a lot of buildup for no reason and a sudden ending. There's a sex joke in there somewhere, but I'll let you write it yourself.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Five Movies: Inaugural Edition

The Cap'n realizes he's sounded a bit grouchy in the last few days, which is not what the Cap'n wants readers to think he is all the kind: cantankerous, grouchy, and ill at ease with the current state of movies.

It is true that movies the new Friday the 13th, Watchmen, and Saw V are not my thing. But that doesn't mean many of you might not enjoy them, so I'll lay off for at least one day and try to share with you five movies that I think you might enjoy. Five movies that maybe weren't on your radar, or maybe that you'd never considered seeing before. If I'm recommending them, I think they're worth your time, and unless you see the word "Ironic" in the subject, it's not because they're actually terrible.

Since we're only a week away from Halloween, it's only fair to start with five horror movies. Horror is a vast genre that covers all kinds of films, and everybody's had the chance to see something others haven't, so it seems fair to share the wealth every now and then. I hope to turn you on to at least one movie, even the most die hard aficionado.

5. The Hitcher (1986) - Forget what you've seen on dvd shelves everywhere: this is The Hitcher to watch! No one this side of Gary Busey can play unhinged like Rutger Hauer, and this is the man at his maddest. Even if you saw the remake, do yourself a favor and watch Hauer terrorize C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh on the open highway. I promise you the ending to this one is better!

4. Prince of Darkness - The often forgotten chapter of John Carpenter's "End of the World" trilogy (along with The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness), Prince of Darkness has the bad luck of falling between Big Trouble in Little China and They Live, two cult favorites. That's too bad, because Prince of Darkness is every bit as good as those two, and scarier than either. To explain the story, about something sinister buried beneath a church, would undersell the movie. It's not the plot synopsis so much as the way Carpenter unfolds the story, alternating between a straight-forward narrative and cryptic flash forwards in the form of video from an unspecified time. If you rent this, don't watch the trailer; it gives away part of the ending!

3. Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed - I frequently recommend Ginger Snaps to people, but rarely do I take the opportunity to recommend its sequel, which is in many ways as good if not better. What Unleashed does that is so rare in a sequel is to take the premise of the original, twist it, and come up with a novel alternate narrative. Instead of lycanthropy as a metaphor for puberty, now it becomes a metaphor for addiction, as Bridget tries to suppress the urge to transform (like her sister). The ending, quite out of left field, is akin to something like Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves, and sets up the fairytale bookend that is the third film.

2. Tombs of the Blind Dead - If you think Dario Argento has the market cornered on dreamlike atmospheres and nightmarish imagery, you might want to check out Amando de Ossorio's Spanish entry into Gothic Horror. Made six years before Suspiria, Tombs of the Blind Dead (La Noche del terror ciego) delivers the Knights Templar as monsters, decaying and blind. Every time the Knights appear, the film takes on a hallucinatory quality, and coupled with the ambiguity what they want or why they exist, the film is perfect for the middle of the night when your mind begins to drift.

1. The Black Cat (1934) - Of all the team-ups between Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, this is my favorite. Neither of them play conventional monsters, but are more horrifying as victimizer and victim of war set on destroying the other. In the middle is a couple who had the dumb luck to share a train car with Dr. Vitus Vedergast (Lugosi). When the young bride is injured, they are forced to join Vedergast in the home of Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff), an architect, war hero, and something much more to Vedergast. To say much more would be spoiling the ending, which was so harsh by 1930s standards no uncut version of the film is known to exist. If you're a fan of either legend, you owe it to yourself to see The Black Cat.

In the future I hope to bring you more of Five Movies, as well as future installments of Four Reasons, and maybe even Three Guilty Pleasures (I just made that up, but it sounds like fun). If this was helpful to you, or you have some suggestions for horror movies (or any other) unseen, feel free to share it with the others.


The Cap'n