Wednesday, October 28, 2015
OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE (10/27)
Challenge Totals to Date:
Movies Watched: 3
Total Movies Watched: 85
Total First Time Views: 34
Scare-A-Thon Donations: $2405.50
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.
Nosferatu (1922) d. Murnau, F. W. (Germany) (4th viewing) 80 min.
When unable to procure the rights to produce the first screen version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, renowned director Murnau proceeded to change the names and locations and released the movie as an original creation. Stoker’s widow instantly recognized Murnau’s “Count Orlok” as her husband’s brainchild and sued, whereupon the film was subsequently ordered pulled from theaters and destroyed. Luckily for the filmgoing public, a few copies survived and Nosferatu is now recognized as a classic of both the silent era and the horror genre. Less romantic than Universal’s 1931 version starring Bela Lugosi, the stark black-and-white cinematography (with blue filters used for the nighttime scenes) provides an unforgiving atmosphere of gloom to the bloodsucker’s Carpathian castle abode. And for sheer terror, few special effects can compete with Max Shreck’s bald, hunchbacked undead with his oversized pointed ears, rodent-like teeth, and long curling claws. The image of Orlok’s hideous shadow creeping along deserted staircases is true nightmare material. Highlights include Hutter’s (the Jonathan Harker character) first meal with the predatory Count, the haunting sea voyage, and the ethereal climax which introduces the concept of a vampire’s demise by sunlight, previously unheard of in cinema or literature.
Pontypool (2008) d. McDonald, Bruce (Canada) (3rd viewing) 93 min
A fiercely intelligent variation on the prevalent “zombie/infected hordes” theme, indelibly anchored by film/TV veteran Stephen McHattie’s charismatic central performance. Exiled to the wastelands of rural Ontario, former shock jock radio personality Grant Mazzy finds himself caught up in increasingly bizarre circumstances as reports pour in of a deadly, murderous virus sweeping the surrounding area. Director McDonald cultivates an increasingly claustrophobic atmosphere within the radio station’s confines, further heightened by the on-air team’s frantic attempts to provide listeners with information (when little is known or forthcoming). Lisa Houle does well as the harried program director, as does Georgina Reilly as our comely, ex-military tech director, but it’s McHattie’s dulcet, whiskey-honed bass voice tearing into screenwriter Tony Burgess’ dialogue with undisguised relish that you’ll remember as the credits roll. (Burgess adapted his novel, Pontypool Changes Everything.) Smart and sharp, cruel and clever, dire and dark and full of surprises. Stay tuned for the head-scratching coda. Highly recommended.
Misery (1990) d. Reiner, Rob (USA) (4th viewing) 107 min
Having completed his most recent novel, successful writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan) gets caught in a blizzard and sends his car careening over a twisting Colorado highway embankment, shattering both his legs in the process. Luckily, former nurse Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) witnesses the accident and rescues him, bringing her unwitting patient to a remote farmhouse to convalesce. Turns out Annie is Paul's "number one fan" and more than a little obsessed with her favorite scribbler's series of "Misery" romance novels, as the living room shrine to him (next to the one for Liberace) attests. The days stretch into weeks, and it becomes increasingly clear that not only is his host a little unbalanced, but has no intention of ever letting him free. With screenwriter William Goldman adapting Stephen King's bestseller, Rob Reiner and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld (his last DP credit before embarking upon a successful directing career himself) serve up the suspense and thrills with imaginative camera angles and skillful editing, while the two actors are well-matched in their dynamic game of cat-and-mouse. Bates' Oscar-winning turn still feels a little over the top at times, but the instantly famous "hobbling" scene retains its, ahem, impact a quarter-century on. Richard Farnsworth and Frances Sternhagen lend marvelous support as the small-town sheriff and his sardonic deputy/wife; ditto Lauren Bacall as Sheldon's posh publisher.