Friday, October 7, 2011

October Horror Movie Challenge 10/6

“CREATURE” FEATURES



Perfect Creature (2006)
(1st viewing) d. Standring, Glenn (New Zealand) 88min
There are days when I wish Dougray Scott had ended up playing Wolverine in the X-Men movies, if only so we could have seen what his career might have been instead of seeing him mope around in non-starters like this. To be fair, it’s a mature “vampire crime drama,” one with a lot of style and decent acting, but for crying out loud, does that also mean it has to bore me to undeath? The plotline about genetic engineering creating vampires (dubbed “the Brotherhood”) who work in tandem with mankind, being the benevolent superheroes that they could be, is an interesting one – as is the notion of one of the bloodsuckers going rogue and looking to dominate the weaker species via a rampant plague introduced into society. But everything is done with such solemnity, such joylessness, that the coulda-been cracking adventure yarn of good vamp Scott tracking down his rebellious bro (the Klaus Kinski-looking Leo Gregory) instead lurches and slogs its way through 88 minutes that feel like a whole lot longer.



Terror Creatures from the Grave (1965) (1st viewing) d. Pupillo, Massimo (Italy) 85min
A solicitor is called to a small village to execute a will for a unconventional scientist. Just one problem: the gentleman in question died a year ago. Or did he? Because as the anniversary of his death draws near, the five witnesses to his “accidental” death one by one are meeting up with the grim reaper themselves. Barbara Steele headlines, although hers is decidedly a supporting role, as the not-grieving-very-hard widow who almost certainly harbors a few secrets of her own. While things get off to a slow start, once the supernatural powers start making themselves known and big scaly “plague spreader” hands start finding victims to grab hold of (causing serious “plague face”), the action picks up quite a bit. No classic, but a decent enough Gothic/Steele programmer.





IN THE DARK, DARK WOODS…THERE WAS A DARK, DARK HOUSE…

House of Wax (2005)
(2nd viewing) d. Collet-Serra, Jaume (USA) 113min
Largely ignored upon release by fright fans due to Paris Hilton’s presence and the perceived sacrilege of appropriating the Vincent Price 3D classic’s title. (Truth be told, it’s more a spin on the underrated 1979 flick, Tourist Trap.) Baggage aside, however, this “pretty TV teens in peril” flick rises way above its PG-13 brethren, more gleefully mean-spirited and gorier than one would imagine. Seriously, how many times have you seen our chirpy Final Girl get a finger snipped off and lips Krazy Glued shut? Um, I count zero. Sure, there are clichés aplenty, with a group of co-eds picked off one by one blah blah blah (Hilton ends up on the business end of the best kill), but the impressive literal titular abode – yes, it’s actually made of wax – yields one fiery, melting inferno wingding of a finale. The pretty non-Paris people include a pre-Supernatural Jared Padalecki and a whiny-but-feisty Elisha Cuthbert, while Brian Van Holt delivers equally worthy dual antagonists. Collet-Serra would go on to direct 2009’s surprise killer kid hit, Orphan.



House of the Wolf Man (2009)
(1st viewing) d. McGarr, Eben (USA) 81min
There’s no doubting writer/director McGarr’s affection for the black-and-white Universal monster pics, and the reverence is felt as he emulates the look and feel of those beloved programmers. The less-than-comic, slow-paced acting stylings of his cast, on the other hand, sink this valentine almost from the get-go, as a quintet of disparate travelers arrive at Ron Chaney’s castle residence to discover their true lineage and fates. (Chaney, it should be noted, has inherited none of the family acting chops. None.) Fans of the classics should probably stick to those, or bust out Young Frankenstein. On the upside, the creature makeup for Wolfie and Frankenstein’s Monster isn’t half bad, and their final reel monster mash is a high energy, no-holds-barred, off-the-top-rope knee-slapper. If only the rest of the film had the same kind of energy.



House That Screamed, The (aka La Residencia) (1969) (2nd viewing) d. Serrador, Narcisco Ibanez (Spain) 99min
Gorgeous photography and well-executed art direction help belie the depraved goings-on within headmistress Lilli Palmer’s girls boarding school, allowing director Serrador to lure us in and make emotional connections with his fetching cast before he starts subjecting them – and us – to humiliation, torture and wildly stylish murder sequences. Cruelty between peers, staff and family members abounds throughout, with sexual tensions and perversions barely contained on screen. (Serrador employs some ovation-worthy visual innuendos throughout.) There’s also a marvelous shift of viewer alliance from ingénue heroine Christina Galbo to “bad girl” Mary Maude so skillfully executed it prompts favorable comparisons to Hitchcock. A superbly twisted conclusion caps this terrific feature from the man who would give us Who Would Kill a Child?



House of Whipcord (1974) (2nd viewing) d. Walker, Pete (UK) 102min
Walker, Britain’s bad boy of 70s horror with a great eye for character faces, churned out this cruel, dark, pitch black satire about a covert penal institute independently erected to deal with “girls with loose moral values.” Hammer fans will recognize Vampire Circus’ Count Mitterhouse, Robert Tayman, as the wayward chick magnet “Mark E. Desade,” luring the babes to mother Barbara Markham’s house of correction, while Frightmare aficionados will thrill at the return of mainstay Shelia Keith as the head screw (fittingly named “Walker.”) David McGillivray’s nimble script combines “wrongfully accused” mechanisms with more prurient W.I.P. pleasures, all building to a suspenseful, surprising, artfully composed third act. Trivia: That’s Walker playing the helpful rain-soaked bicyclist giving directions.

RUNNING TOTAL:
First Time Views: 15
Repeats: 13
Total Films: 28

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