Friday, June 4, 2010

Fool's Views (4/12 – 4/18)

Welcome to the weekend, kids!

This installment, in addition to a couple trips to the cinema, features the results of my Kryptic Army assignment, which this month was “Confession” time, in honor of Easter falling in April. The idea being that you had to watch two films that you hadn’t seen before that, as an upstanding horror fan, you felt guilty about having not seen yet. After a couple of misfires with marginal non-horrors (the Dr. Who and Cronenberg films), I knocked out BARN and RETURN...and felt much better about it. I’m telling you, the Kryptic Army is the place to be! Check it out at

Enjoy the Views! As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Barn of the Naked Dead, The (aka Nightmare Circus) (1974)
(1st viewing) d. Rudolph, Alan
This is a film that the cool horror kids have been talking about for ages, from Mr. Kitley himself to John Bowen of Rue Morgue, but for whatever reason, I had never bumped it up on the priority list. After finally popping it in, I can see why it’s infamous amidst the experienced. Andrew Prine plays a psycho who has taken to kidnapping lovely young women and holding them captive in his barn, where he occasionally releases them from their shackles in order to train them for his “circus” act. About as insane and misogynistic as you can get (which should be nothing new for hardened genre fans), but Prine is entertaining and gets his just comeuppance in the final reel.

Clash of the Titans (2010) (1st viewing) d. Leterrier, Louis
It’s big, it’s loud, it’s in 3-D…and it’s even stupider than the 1981 original. After viewing the slamdunk trailer countless times, I had actually fooled myself into thinking that it might be a decent reimagining of the Harryhausen swan song (which, again, was no masterpiece to begin with). Wrong again. Other than a few whiz-bang computer generated sequences, it’s all sizzle and no steak. Also, Sam Worthington is a capable enough action hero, all clenched teeth and bulging muscles, but he’d better do something to show off his acting chops soon or I expect we’ll be seeing him demoted straight to the same straight-to-video abyss that claimed Dolph Lundgren lo those many moon ago.

Return of the Blind Dead (1973) (1st viewing) d. de Ossorio, Amando
This one has been nagging at me for years. I loved the original Tombs of the Blind Dead, but couldn’t imagine that they would be able to duplicate the atmosphere and novelty factor of the slow-mo Knights Templar on horseback. As a result, I had never bothered to watch the flip side of the disc, i.e. Return. Being the shameless completist that I am, however, I rented the third and fourth installments in the series, The Ghost Galleon and Night of the Seagulls, from Netflix, which I summarily watched and returned in order to keep my queue moving. So, Return has been the missing chapter in the Blind Dead Odyssey for me for a while, but I’m happy to report that of the quartet, it’s probably my favorite right behind the original, with plenty of melodrama, sex, nudity, creepy Templars and a memorable ending.

Session 9 (2001) (4th viewing) d. Anderson, Brad
Highest marks go to director/co-writer Anderson for cultivating this exceedingly tense tale of a five-man asbestos removal team tackling cleanup duty at an inactive mental asylum. When lawyer-in-training Steven Gevedon (who co-wrote the intelligent script) discovers a collection of audio recordings of patient sessions, a haunting dual storyline develops between the events on the tapes and the blue-collar crew’s increasing stress with the job and with each other. In addition, the not-quite-dead building has a few secrets hidden within its dark corners. Part character study, part haunted house tale, the film adroitly fosters an increasingly claustrophobic mood with clues and red herrings thicker than the dust from the moldering ceilings. In addition, the anguished recordings lend an excruciating aural soundscape, settling over the film like a cloud of doom. Skillfully diverting our attentions with sleight-of-hand, Anderson plays his audience like a maestro, delivering one surprising payoff after another. The wonder of it all is that, ultimately, Session 9 is a remarkably slight story. The fact that it works as well as it does is a testament to its fine ensemble, both in front of and behind the camera. Scottish actor Peter Mullan is a simmering kettle of repressed anger as the stressed-out crew boss, ably matched by David Caruso, who does the macho-aggressive stare about as well as anyone. The location shooting (within the abandoned confines of Danvers State Hospital) offers a palpable dread along with the mildew and grime of years of neglect. A rock-solid modern psychological chiller, armed with a knockout denouement

Crimes of the Future (1970)
(1st viewing) d. Cronenberg, David
This represented the only David Cronenberg effort I had not seen to date. And while less satisfying as a narrative feature, it’s still interesting to see the director’s body horror themes being explored in a formative way.

My Son My Son What Have Ye Done (2009) (1st viewing) d. Herzog, Werner
Also known by its alternate title: Oh Werner, Oh Werner, Ye Can Stop Being David Lynch Now.

Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)
(1st viewing) d. Flemyng, Gordon
Daleks Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966) (1st viewing) d. Flemyng, Gordon
Both films, starring Peter Cushing as the good doctor, are undeniably fun sci-fi/fantasy flicks and the Daleks, in their futuristic trash can way, make for creepy little robot villains.

2010 Totals to date: 79 films, 69 1st time views, 40 horrors, 9 cinema

1 comment:

  1. Good to have you back in action, Doc. I just saw SPLICE and, while I'm sure it's already on your radar, I figured I'd put in a good word for it here. Definitely one of the more disturbing films I've seen all year.