Challenge Totals to Date:
Movies Watched Today: 12
Total Movies Watched: 25
Total First Time Views: 2
Amount raised: $123.75
Today's showcased SCARE-A-THON Charity:
UNITED WAY OF GREENBRIER VALLEY, sponsored by Sheila Ann Jordan
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A special salute to the Music Box Theatre and their Music Box of Horrors for their annual 24-hour cavalcade of mayhem and madness on the big screen, where fans are surrounded by other folks who GET IT. Congratulations on a decade of debauchery - looking forward to the next!
Phantom Carriage, The (1921) d. Sjostrom, Victor (Sweden) (2nd viewing) 107 min
A gorgeously wrought and beautifully performed silent effort that continues to resonate nearly a century since it was first unveiled. A drunken wastrel (Sjostrom, pulling triple duty as actor, writer, and director) at the hour of his death is forced to recall his pitiful life, as well as the many opportunities for redemption he has rejected throughout, by the titular vehicle’s driver. While there are indeed ghostly spectres drifting throughout the film (the translucent image of the carriage itself is both lovely and haunting), the real horror is of the Christmas Carol ilk – the pain of reliving each of one’s most damning missteps, helpless to change the past.
Man They Could Not Hang, The (1939) d. Grinde, Nick (USA) (2nd viewing) 64 min
Boris Karloff’s Dr. Savaard develops an artificial heart, but is interrupted before he can complete the experiment and sentenced to death. His assistant, however, revives him through Savaard’s own techniques and the wronged doc sets about avenging himself against those that convicted him. The second act’s Ten Little Indians motif provides a fair amount of tension and excitement, along with a few unintentionally hysterical (in all senses of the word) line readings from Ann Doran. Directed with verve by Grinde (who also directed the veteran spookster in The Man with Nine Lives and Before I Hang the following year).
Cat People (1942) d. Tourneur, Jacques (USA) (5th viewing) 73 min
Arguably their most successful collaboration, this first effort by producer Val Lewton and director Tourneur is a stunner that stands the test of time. Simone Simon plays the enigmatic and beautiful Irena, a Serbian woman new to America, who is befriended near the panther cage at the zoo by charming naval architect Oliver Reed (Kent Smith). The two soon grow closer, and eventually marry, but Irena is reluctant to be intimate with her new husband, fearing "something evil inside me.” Namely, she believes she is one of the “cat people,” a strange race of people that transform into killer panthers when their emotions are aroused. After a time, the frustrated Smith begins to show interest in female co-worker Alice (Jane Randolph) - did he forget that jealousy is a strong emotion as well?) Tourneur weaves an incredibly suspenseful tale, emphasizing the unseen and utilizing some astonishing work with shadows and light. The film contains numerous classic moments: the pet shop, Irena’s pursuit of her rival down a shadowy street, the swimming pool scene, the stalking of Oliver and Alice in the office, and on and on. A highly influential masterwork, not to be missed
Curse of the Werewolf, The (1961) d. Fisher, Terence (UK) (4th viewing) 91 min
The first and only lycanthrope movie to come out of Hammer Studios (surprising, considering how many vampire, mad scientist, and mummy efforts were to pass before the venerable studio’s lenses) is one of the finest on record, a handsomely wrought and emotionally resonant tale that continues to hold up a half century on. A mute beggar girl (Yvonne Romain) is sexually assaulted by an imprisoned mad beggar (Richard Wordsworth), eventually giving birth on Christmas day to a young – and cursed – baby. After a troubled childhood marked by attacks on livestock and preventative bars on windows, the adult Leon (Oliver Reed, in his first starring role) heads off to encounter life and love with a fair maiden (Catherine Feller), but dark forces and full moons conspire to destroy any chances of true happiness. Fisher’s direction is strong as usual, with a terrific ensemble of fine performances, highlighted by Clifford Evans grounded, sympathetic turn as Leon’s father. Roy Ashton’s memorable makeup designs meet and occasionally exceed Jack Pierce’s efforts with the yak hair and fangs.
Borrower, The (1991) McNaughton, John (USA) (4th viewing) 92 min
Kevin Yagher’s (Child’s Play, A Nightmare on Elm Street) juicy effects can’t save McNaughton’s muddled and ill-advised follow-up to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. A decent B-premise (alien comes to earth, his head explodes, he has to keep tearing the heads off of other humans to replace it until they in turn explode) is sloppily executed and Rae Dawn Chong does little to help the cause. Granted, it all goes down slightly better in a packed theater of generous genre fans, but the whole thing smacks of a troubled production (it was, according to our intrepid, embittered director, on hand for an after-show Q&A) and a general sense of haphazardness. When the central premise is that the alien’s body remains the same while hosting a repertory of new heads, it might be worth keeping basic body type (or skin color, in the case of Antonio Fargas’ noggin) consistent.
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) d. Herzog, Werner (Germany) (3rd viewing) 107 min
A brooding and deliberately paced telling of Dracula that prioritizes nightmare atmosphere over all else, resulting in an unforgettable and disturbing masterpiece. Klaus Kinski’s bald and diseased bloodsucker is pure monster, but one marinated in melancholy, and Popol Vuh’s haunting and oppressive musical score matches him all the way, mournful drones rising and ebbing like the lonely tides. The scenes of plague-riddled, rat-infested tableaus evoke visceral responses both emotional and intellectual (seriously, where did they get them all?) and while there aren’t many true scares, the scales are balanced by on overwhelming sense of dread from the opening credits to the final frames. With Bruno Ganz as Jonathan Harker, Isabelle Adjani as Lucy, Walter Ladengast as Van Helsing, and The Tenant novelist Roland Topor as Renfield.
Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead (2014) d. Wirkola, Tommy (Norway) (2nd viewing) 100 min
Better going this time with expectations in check, but the complaints lodged in my original viewing still hold true. Bigger, gorier, and dumber than its derivative but spirited predecessor.
***CLICK HERE FOR FULL REVIEW***
Nightmare (aka Nightmare in a Damaged Brain) (1981) d. Scavolini, Romano (Italy) (2nd viewing) 97 min
Released following a series of experimental recuperative drugs trials, mental patient George Tatum (Baird Stafford) is deemed cured, although the second he hits the streets, we can tell that a second opinion might be in order. By carving a neurotic southerly path to Florida to reunite Tatum with his estranged wife and family, this Video Nasty earned its rep thanks to some vicious scenes of bloodletting, the credit for which were a matter of controversy for years. The marketing department created posters trumpeting the gory effects came courtesy of Tom Savini, but the master of splatter hotly denied any involvement in the production whatsoever. When production stills surfaced, showing him on set, he ultimately acknowledged being called in as a technical advisor. However, it was Ed French, a skilled technician whose estimable genre resume boasts C.H.U.D., Creepshow 2, The Stuff, Sleepaway Camp, Amityville II, and Terminator 2, who actually ran the show, and the red stuff flows freely, particularly during an oft-repeated flashback sequence.
Shakma (1990) d. Parks, Hugh / Logan, Tom (USA) (2nd viewing) 100 min
This killer monkey flick starring Christopher Atkins (The Blue Lagoon), Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare on Elm Street), and genre vet Roddy McDowall and one seriously pissed-off baboon deserves a greater legacy than its relative obscurity might indicate. A scientifically anger-enhanced simian (played by “Typhoon”) hunts down medical students in a locked-in hospital, unleashing unbridled fury on any number of unfortunate doors that stand between he and his prey. The human stars are likeable but bland, and at 100 minutes, things start to feel a little padded out and repetitious, but when Shakma is on the warpath, it’s a pretty raucous and rowdy good time. Not a classic, but worth checking out.
Don't Look in the Basement (1973) d. Browrigg, S.F. (USA) (2nd viewing) 89 min
A very low budget sanitarium shocker from that features two memorable murders before the opening credits roll! A young nurse (Playboy model Rosie Holotik) takes a job at a secluded mental hospital, where she discovers that her prospective employer has been killed and the asylum is now run by strict disciplinarian Anne MacAdams. With a wildly eccentric cast of crazies, the film rides on a fever-dream energy that continually surprises with its unpredictability. Not an easy film to sit through, as the ultra-low production values will either draw the audience into its mad world of distorted sound, bad lighting, and stilted acting or it will lose them early on. For those who stick with it, there are several rewarding twists, claustrophobic encounters with all varieties of madmen, and a powerful bloodbath finale. Granted, there is probably a bit much in the screaming, crying, and wailing departments, but a palpable atmosphere of madness exists as a result. Nightmarish and jarring at times, tedious and frustrating at others, this is one basement worth looking into.
Just Before Dawn (1981) d. Lieberman, Jeff (USA) (2nd viewing) 90 min
Yes, it’s another “young folks in the woods pursued by a homicidal maniac” slasher, but like The Final Terror, writer/director Lieberman (Squirm, Blue Sunshine) and co-writer Mark Arywitz elevate the material by giving us characters and situations with which we can identify, played out by a worthy cast and young (Chris Lemmon, Gregg Henry, Ralph Seymour, Deborah Benson, Jamie Rose) and veteran talent (George Kennedy, Sleepaway Camp’s Mike Kellin). Not heavy on gore, but amply suspenseful and capped by one of the most distinctive and memorable ending kills EVER.
Audition (1999) d. Miike, Takaski (Japan) (2nd viewing) 115 min
At his teenage son’s behest, widower Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) entertains the idea of remarrying and takes his film producer friend up on the idea to manufacture a fake series of film auditions in order to meet his future bride. Immediately smitten by former ballerina Asami (Eihi Shiina), the older man begins a tentative courting dance outside the studio confines, only to discover his new love comes with a certain degree of … baggage. To say more is to say too much, but Miike’s Stateside breakout film announced a subversive force to be reckoned with, an artist of great technical skill and fearless knack for audience manipulation.