Monday, October 12, 2015
OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE (10/11)
Challenge Totals to Date:
Movies Watched Today: 5
Total Movies Watched: 41
Total First Time Views: 18
Scare-A-Thon Donations: $719.55
Remember, if you would like to make a pledge toward Scare-A-Thon 2015 (benefiting PLANNED PARENTHOOD and GREENHOUSE SHELTER) at any time, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to say how much you would like to pledge. Your donation is tax deductible and, seriously, even a penny per film helps.
The Sadist (1963) d. Landis, James (USA) (2nd viewing) 92 min
Based loosely on the Charles Starkweather murders, this brilliant exercise in low-budget tension pits two ruthless killers against three road-tripping schoolteachers, with an deserted California service station serving as their arena. For those who only know Arch Hall, Jr. from the devastatingly awful caveman epic Eegah, his twitchy, sleazy turn as Charles Tibbs is a revelation, and writer/director Landis keeps tightening the screws throughout, aided immeasurably by Vilmos Zsigmond’s sharp cinematography and the ominous musical score (credited on IMDb to Paul Sawtell and Burt Shefter). As Charlie’s amoral gal pal Judy, Marilyn Manning is all childlike giggles and gum-smacking menace, while Richard Alden acquits himself ably as the sturdy resourceful everyman trying to placate his nemesis long enough to gain any advantage. Deserves far more recognition than its ubiquitous presence on dozens of public domain box sets would indicate.
White Noise (2005) d. Sax, Geoffrey (UK/Canada) (2nd viewing) 101 min
After making a killing during its initial release (during the January void), I eventually caught up with this beyond-the-grave thriller on video and found it utterly forgettable… such that I literally couldn’t remember anything about it. Seeing it on the library shelves and with the October Challenge in full swing, I figured I’d give it another go; the results were more favorable if still nothing remarkable. Grieving widower Michael Keaton is contacted by an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) expert, saying that he has received contact from the deceased. Keaton grows increasingly obsessed with the static-filled sound bytes and video clips, especially once he starts seeing and hearing images… from people who have not yet died. An interesting, emotionally weighted premise carried out proficiently and believably, but without actually generating any thrills or chills.
Keep My Grave Open (1976) d. Brownrigg, S.F. (USA) (1st viewing) 79 min
Another rough and twisted fray exercise in madness from the director of Don’t Open the Door and Don’t Look in the Basement, this time centering around the fractured psyches of damaged husband/wife team of Camilla Carr and... ah, ah, ah, that would be telling. Whenever passions get a little out of control, someone ends up dead, whether it be the stable boy’s randy girlfriend or the stable boy himself (legendary character actor Stephen Tobolowsky’s screen debut, unrecognizable with his long hair). Tame in both the flesh and blood departments, but heavy on the visceral thesping and bonkers atmosphere. Not sure if we’re supposed to know the “twist” as early as we do – I’m inclined to think so since not much effort is expended in keeping it secret – but watching Carr tear up the joint is a joy unto itself.
The Embalmer (1965) d. Tavella, Dino (Italy) (1st viewing) 77 min
A black-and-white proto-giallo, with a scuba-wetsuit-wearing madman (I guess they were out of trench coats, black gloves, and white cloth face masks) who grabs lovely young women off the streets of Venice, dowses them in the drink, then takes them home and… did you read the title? Okay, then. Luigi Martocci plays a handsome news reporter attempting to suss out the details of the murders. The clumsy English dubbing – especially the ad-libs from a fetching group of touristing young lasses and ham-fisted tough talk from all the male characters – are all part of the charm, and while the deaths are neither elaborate nor all that mysterious, there is the enjoyable motif of the killer spying his next victim and the subsequent freeze frame that follows, as well as the Crimson Ghost mask he dons in the final reel. AKA The Monster of Venice.
Starry Eyes (2014) d. Kolsch, Kevin / Widmyer, Dennis (USA) 94 min
Aspiring actress Sarah (Alexandra Essoe) juggles her soul-killing day job at a spud-centric Hooter’s knock-off (Big Taters) while knocking on doors all over Tinseltown. The deceptively simple plot follows her day-to-day trials until her big break comes in the form of a toilet temper tantrum following a botched audition (this happens a lot in the acting world; trust me on this). The casting director hears something “different” behind those thin walls and invites her back for a second, more involved audition, followed by a meeting with the mysterious producer, each step drawing the young artist deeper into the tar-thick mire of immorality. But sin – and fame – comes at a price, with Sarah’s tender spirit and flesh the currency of the day…. Despite showing up on numerous year-end best-of lists following its world premiere at 2014’s SXSW and subsequent VOD release last November, this scathing condemnation of Hollywood’s seamy, sinister underbelly has largely flown under mainstream fans’ radar. The notion that one of the strongest and strangest horror titles to emerge in years – a high-impact blend of Rosemary’s Baby, Mulholland Dr., and Eric England’s stomach-churning Contracted – is languishing in the shadows is an out-and-out crying shame.
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