Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fool's Views (2/8 - 2/28)

Hello all,

Somehow or other, being gainfully employed by a flurry of out of town gigs has played absolute havoc with my movie watching. (Looking back at 2009, I was already at an overall count of 70 films at this point whereas we are barely over half that thus far.) Not that I’m looking for a return to the unemployed days of yesteryear, but I’ll be thankful when my current stint at the Cleveland Auto Show (aka the “Cars on Carpet Extravaganza…with Ferris Wheel”) has ground to a halt and I can spend more nights at home in front of the tube with the snuggly femalien and her homemade super-soup. Stay tuned.

For now, we present tales of a house full of hot bitchy co-eds, a hotel with serious hidden charges, and two early 70s shapeshifting furballs for your reading pleasure. As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back…


Sorority Row (2009)
(1st viewing) d. Hendler, Stewart
Like last year’s My Bloody Valentine remake, the best thing that can be said about this slasher flick is that it actually plays like an old school slasher flick. While skimping on the out-and-out gore doesn’t do it any favors with the bloodhounds out there, there is still a healthy body (and booby) count to be counted in the assets column. When a payback prank goes awry (in these movies, when do they not?) and a sorority sister ends up dead, her housemates decide to cover up the crime. Of course, come graduation day, someone starts bumping off the conspirators wielding the relatively unique weapon of a tricked-out tire iron. Since all the chickies in question are pretty much all awful, hateful beings, there’s never any real sympathy generated, but the acting is solid and besides, any film with Carrie Fisher as a shotgun-toting house mother can’t be all bad. This beats the heck out of bloodless money-grubbing PG-13 nonsense like 2008’s Prom Night redux anyday.

1408 (2007) (1st viewing) d. Hafstrom, Mikael
This adaptation of Stephen King’s short story pits “top ten hauntings” critic John Cusack against the deadliest hotel room in the world, # 1408 in NYC’s fictitious Dolphin Hotel. After manager Samuel L. Jackson (clearly relishing his role as doomsayer) lays the requisite solemnity-soaked warnings, the rest of the film is an escalating litany of CGI-generated nightmare scenarios – something akin to a suite version of The Amityville Horror. Cusack is perfectly cast as the doubtful scribbler, so wrapped up in his invincible cloak of coolsville that even when being buffeted about the room by poltergeists, he never seems genuinely scared. (Granted, some could argue that Cusack never seems genuinely anything, but that’s a subject for another day.) One gets the impression that more was meant to be made emotionally of the writer’s lost child subplot, only managing to emerge as one of many nefarious tools used by the room against Cusack’s assailed psyche. Overall, not a bad little ghost story, but hardly a significant one.

Werewolf of Washington, The (1973)
(1st viewing) d. Ginsberg, Milton Moses
A relatively knowing spoof of both political thrillers and horror flicks, although the filmmakers don’t tip their hand early on, leading one to wonder if perhaps this didn’t start off as one kettle of fish (or kennel of pups, as the case may be) and turn into another. Dean Stockwell stars as a political journalist bitten by a lycanthrope in Budapest, who returns to become the President’s right hand man after unwittingly devouring those who oppose the Commander in Chief’s policies! While the performances are a bit broad at times – ditto the later comic vignettes – there are plenty of (intentional) laughs to be found as well.

Werewolf vs. the Vampire Women, The (aka Werewolf Shadow) (1971) (1st viewing) d. Klimovsky, Leon
The first sequel to Paul Naschy’s original 1968 wolfman outing, La Marca del Hombre Lobo (aka Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror), opens with his tortured lycanthrope Waldemar Daninsky dead on the slab, then revived when some know-it-all mortician decides to debunk the “remove the silver bullet from the corpse and it returns to life” myth. Too bad for the doc, but all good for Spanish wolfman fans as Naschy returns with fur and fangs a’ gnashing. When gorgeous Gaby Fuchs and Barbara Capell go nosing around Daninsky’s castle looking for the tomb of notorious vampiress Patty Shepard, the former finds love in the arms of Naschy while the latter gets a nibble from the bodacious bloodsucker. Klimovsky creates some hypnotic and lovely slow motion scenarios, with his star at his full-blooded and drooling best – well worth your time.

Julie and Julia (2009)
(1st viewing) d. Ephron, Nora
Meryl Streep is an utter delight as Julia Child, and her Oscar nomination is richly deserved (at some point, guys, we’re actually going to have to give her another statuette. This “it’s an honor just to be nominated” can only go on so long…) while Stanley Tucci (nominated this year for his role in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones) is equally sublime as her adoring and supportive husband Paul. However, the film’s biggest problem lies in its modern-day half focusing on Amy Adams’ Julie Powell, a whiny, self-absorbed thirtysomething who decides to recreate all of Child’s recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and then blog about her experiences. On the one hand, we have a woman who worked tirelessly for over a decade to learn French, then to cook, then toiling away on the construction of her book, all at a time when such things were unheard of for a woman. On the other, we have a flaky malcontent who cooks said recipes, blogs about it on her laptop and becomes rich and famous in under a year. One did it for love of food and cooking and wanting to spread the joy; the other because she was sad that her high society friends were more accomplished than she and wanted to be known for something. I would have been much happier with a screen version of Paul & Julia: A Delicious Love Story.

2010 Totals to date: 38 films, 35 1st time views, 15 horrors, 6 cinema

TV: None

Books: None, but I've been reading a bunch of Fangoria back issues from 1996 - 1998. Fascinating stuff, with profiles on ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, THE CRAFT, THE FRIGHTENERS, SCREAM, and THE RELIC among others. Funny how few "classics" were turned out in the 90s, eh?


  1. I like your "Getting Hairy in February" theme, but I'm surprised that you haven't gotten out to see The Wolfman yet. I've seen it twice now and while I wouldn't say it got any better the second time around, I was more willing to accept its faults for what they were.

    In addition to The Wolfman, my other genre picks last month included Chan-wook Park's Thirst, The Handmaid's Tale and Nightbreed (both of which turned 20 last month), a weak Canadian slasher wannabe called Funeral Home, and The House of the Devil, which I've been wanting to see since last fall.

    And I started the month of March off with Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face, which is hauntingly beautiful and grotesquely horrifying in equal measure. I'm sure you've seen it before, but if you haven't it comes highly recommended.

  2. Hey Craig,

    Funny thing is, I really wanted to get to WOLFMAN, but I was working at the Chicago Auto Show from morning to night every day since the film opened, and then only had three days to get all my affairs in order before leaving town to work the Cleveland Auto Show. Bleah. The day that I was planning to see WOLFMAN (and SHUTTER ISLAND), I had to visit my accountant to get our taxes squared away before I left the premises. The good news is that I haven't heard much in the way of buzz, positive or negative and haven't read any reviews, so my palate should be fairly clean when I get back in town and get to see it. Also want to see THE CRAZIES (missed out on a sneak preview of that as well - DAMN IT).

    Have you seen either of the Wolfie flicks that I trotted out this past month? It was for Kitley's Krypt's monthly mission - March is going to be anthology films. If you're not already on the mailing list, you should - think it'd be right up your alley. http://www.kitleyskrypt.com

    I've seen your three genre picks, liked all of them quite a bit and have only seen each of them once. I really liked the book of HANDMAID'S, so the movie couldn't quite measure up. Still, solid enough and I love Natasha Richardson and Victoria Tennant. What did you think of HOUSE OF THE DEVIL?

    Oh, and I've definitely seen EYES WITHOUT A FACE. Check your copy of H101... ;-]

  3. I saw Werewolf of Washington some months back thanks to Netflix, which had the version hosted by Elvira. And I own a copy of Werewolf Shadow from Anchor Bay which I plan to reacquaint myself with in the near future. (The last time was so long ago that I remember very little of it.)

    As for The House of the Devil, I can't say enough good things about it. It's another that I got from Netflix, but I'm seriously considering purchasing it for my personal collection.

    And it's been some time since I consulted my copy of Horror 101 (which, incidentally, I saw for sale at the Samuel French bookstore on Sunset Blvd. this past weekend). Perhaps I'm overdue for a refresher...