Friday, October 28, 2016
OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE (10/24-10/27)
Challenge Totals to Date:
Movies Watched: 5
Total Movies Watched: 27
Total First Time Views: 13
Scare-A-Thon Pledges: $910.71
Remember, if you would like to make a pledge toward Scare-A-Thon 2016 (benefiting THE GREATER CHICAGO FOOD DEPOSITORY) 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.
Slugs (1988) d. Simon, J.P. (Spain) (3rd viewing) 89 min
Simon, the maestro behind the gut-busting splatter flick Pieces, delivers another heaping helping of the red sauce, this time with toxic waste-fed gastropods doing the honors. While the line readings and WTF moments are not as abundantly plentiful, there’s enough head-shaking banana boat wackiness to keep guts chuckling and gruesome sequences to keep lunches buckling. When several members of a quiet upstate NY community start turning up munchified, it’s up to public health inspector Michael Garfield (as a character named – snicker – Mike Brady) and his public works buddy (Philip MacHale) to save the day. The freewheeling and illogical means by which they manage this are questionable, but whenever Simon serves up the supremely slimy slithery screeching showstoppers, you probably won’t care much. Ah, Spain in the 80s, when you could have no-name no-talents doff their duds and roll around on the gore floor with about a zillion slugs, no questions asked. For the record, slugs were most definitely harmed during the making of this movie. But, hey, they’re slugs.
The new Arrow Blu-ray has two commentary tracks, the first with Michael Felsher sharing the mike with Brit author Shaun Hutson (who wrote the novel on which the film is based) and it’s quite a hoot, listening to the animated scribbler take the piss out of himself, his literary efforts, and this particular screen adaptation. (Looking forward to checking out the second with former Fangoria editor-in-chief Chris Alexander.) Also, we are treated to interviews with Emilio Linder, special effects artist Carlo De Marchis, art director Gonzalo Gonzalo, and production manager Larry Ann Evans. Well worth picking up!
Crimson Peak (2015) d. del Toro, Guillermo (USA) (1st viewing) 119 min
As our heroine Emily Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) says regarding a piece of fiction she’s written, “It’s not a ghost story – it’s a story with a ghost in it.” So it is also with this handsomely mounted melodrama about a young American woman seduced by a charming mechanical inventor (Tom Hiddleston) seeking capital for his latest creation. Following the suspicious murder of her rich father – leaving her the sole heir – Emily travels to England with her new husband and sister-in-law (Jessica Chastain) where the three take up residence in the expansive family mansion with as many rooms as it has dark secrets.
Toro, who co-wrote the screenplay with his Mimic collaborator Matthew Robbins, manages to keep the story flowing, only occasionally indulging in glorious production design for its own sake, and while there aren’t many moments of pure horror, the offing of Pater Cushing (see what I did there?) is a particularly gruesome set-piece that recalls Pan’s Labyrinth’s most vicious sequence. The weakest element, unfortunately, is of the ectoplasmic variety, causing me to mutter aloud, “Guillermo and his damned CGI ghosts,” recalling the substandard spooks of Mama and how much more effectively he conjured the other side 15 years prior with The Devil’s Backbone. This minor quibble aside, this is a dark and delicious fairy tale and I’m glad I finally caught up with it.
The Thing (1982) d. Carpenter, John (USA) (7th viewing) 109 min
This is easily my favorite John Carpenter film and it’s the one time I actually bought Kurt Russell as a badass. (Heresy, I know, but I always see him as someone playing at being a badass without actually being one. Kind of like how Michael Douglas plays at being a sex symbol without actually being sexy.) As such, it was with great pleasure that I learned this summer that Shout! Factory would be releasing a deluxe two-disc edition of everyone’s favorite rebuttal (along with David Cronenberg’s The Fly and Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers) to anyone bitching about horror/sci-fi remakes. And, boy howdy, have they delivered the groceries on this one.
In addition to the ample goodies that had already been compiled from the DVD release (such as the Carpenter/Russell commentary track and the feature-length making-of doc Terror Takes Shape), the good folks at S!F have graced us with two new commentaries (DP Dean Cundey and co-producer Stuart Cohen), no less than 8 new featurettes of interviews with various cast and crew members, and the 92-minute network television broadcast version of the film, which apparently has a few significant tweaks. This is one of those Collector’s Editions that truly lives up to its name, and one that belongs on your shelf at home.
Left Bank (2008) d. Van Hees, Pieter (Belgium) (2nd viewing) 102 min
Olympic-caliber track runner Marie (Eline Kuppens, in her screen debut) is sidelined due to a case of severe anemia, causing her to spiral into a deep depression until she begins a fiery affair with champion archer Bobby (Matthias Schoenaerts, Rust and Bone, The Danish Girl). Upon moving in with her new paramour, she gradually becomes aware of his apartment building’s mysterious and sinister past, as well as being increasingly haunted by surreal nightmare visions. Though its pace is decidedly leisurely and it co-ops themes used in numerous other genre films (Blood on Satan’s Claw, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Wicker Man), this Belgian horror effort is so well shot and the two lead performances are so compelling and naked (literally and figuratively) that one hardly cares. It's a decidedly slow burn with a head-scratcher ending, but those looking for something outside the usual realm of cult-culture are in for a treat.
Vampyres (1974) d. Larraz, Jose Ramon (UK/Spain) (3rd viewing) 82 min
Having viewed both the recent (generic and inferior) remake and the director’s other notable horror offering, Symptoms, it seemed like a perfect time to revisit the original. At a time when throwing extensive vampiric nudity on screen would have been enough, Larraz (and his wife Diane Daubeney, who lent her name to the writing credit to meet the UK union quota) went the extra mile and conjured up this deceptively simple, highly satisfying tale of two bisexual bloodsuckers. The Sapphic duo, played with charged sensuality by Marianne Morris (the darker, mysterious Fran) and Anulka (blonde, fresh-faced Miriam) take up residence in a remote English countryside estate, flagging down unsuspecting male drivers to take home for an evening snack. In addition to their daily iron intake, these vampires enjoy all pleasures of the flesh, and Larraz delivers the goods in numerous well-shot, sexy interludes between the lovers and their victims.
Some may be put off by the leisurely pace in getting around to any actual bloodletting, but when their inevitable feeding time comes, the sheer ferocity with which these naughty nymphs indulge their appetites is appropriately shocking and gory. (Purists be warned: the couple moves about in rather bright shades of twilight and uses sharp implements rather than fangs to get their victims’ blood flowing). The fine ensemble performances, handsomely nuanced photography, and James Clark’s light tinkling piano/flute score contribute immeasurably to a realistic atmosphere of gloom.
Trivia: We learn on the Blue Underground DVD commentary track, with Larraz and producer Brian Smedley-Aston, that both actresses' vocal performances were re-dubbed by others, but it's done so expertly you'd never know it.