Thursday, October 13, 2011

October Horror Movie Challenge 10/11


Undertaker and His Pals, The (1966)
(1st viewing) d. Swicegood, T.L.P. (USA) 63min
Taking a page from H.G. Lewis’ Blood Feast, writer/director Swicegood dishes up a juicy black-and-blood-red comedy featuring a trio of mysterious motorcycle thugs who choose their random murder victims from the phone book. After the deaths, friendly undertaker Ray Dannis extorts the grieving mourners with exorbitant burial fees whilst two café owners serve up daily specials, such as “leg of Lamb” after dear Sally Lamb meets her untimely end or “breast of chicken” following Ms. Poultry’s demise. Lots of pretty girls meeting their demise at the hands and knives of the three hard working stiffs, although even for a comedy, things get a little grotesque at times (such as the gore-strewn lovely whipped to death with a chain to the face). Even so, there’s little doubt about the harmless intent of Swicegood and his pals and a valuable lesson is learned via this cozy 63-minute fable: There’s no honor among thieves – or psychopaths.

Uninvited, The (1944)
(3rd viewing) d. Allen, Lewis (USA) 99min
While acknowledged as one of the first films to deal with ghosts and hauntings in a serious manner, those expecting to be truly frightened may be disappointed by this tale of a spirit haunting the coastal English residence newly inhabited by siblings Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey. While the picture certainly has some fine moments of suspense and supernatural goings-on, viewers would do well to place it within its historical context to fully appreciate its reputation. In addition, Victor Young’s whimsical score and Milland’s light-comic approach often undo any sense of real dread or horror. That said, the acting is commendable, the characterizations are interesting and believable, and the mimosa-scented atmosphere turns appropriately darker as the story deepens. Several haunted house precedents are set here: Ghostly moanings, a terrific séance scene, and a family history that must be unraveled by the living in order to let the dead rest at peace. Perhaps not a nail-biter for the Poltergeist generation, but a well-told tale that does the job with good old-fashioned storytelling and character work.

Unearthed (2007) (1st viewing) d. Leutwyler, Matthew (USA) 93min
After establishing a laudable sense of place and community – in this case a dusty distant satellite of Salt Lake City, Utah populated by Native Americans and cattle ranchers – writer/director Leutwyler introduces a few “outsider” characters (including a surprisingly effective Charlie Murphy) by blocking off the only road in/out of town. The device allows for easy exposition, and an intriguing mix of personalities, with focus given to deep-in-the-bottle sheriff Emmanuelle Vaugier. When cattle and townsfolk start turning up mutilated, all must band together to survive a revived prehistoric menace. Thanks to Leutwyler’s intelligent script, superbly executed action scenes (bartender’s demise) and a capable cast looking refreshingly like everyday people, the film is firing on all cylinders...until the jaw-droppingly craptastic, poorly rendered CGI menace comes onscreen and spoils the whole show. Latex master Steve Johnson’s company, Edge FX, is credited with the “monster special effects,” so I’m assuming the blame for the grand-scale CG fail lies at his/their feet. (TyRuben Ellingson and Greg Smith, who provided the worthy creature design, can’t have been happy with the final results either.) As the laughable cartoon prominently hops to and fro, what could have been an excellent, small-town monster movie (a la Tremors) is ultimately undone, which is a damn shame.

Undead (2003)
(2nd viewing) d. Spierig, Michael/Spierig, Peter (Australia) 97min
High spirited, intelligent and inspired take on the zombie flick, with the down under Spierig Bros. stretching their $1 million budget to its fullest extent. Great performances from everyone, splatter for the gorehounds, and a lot of funny quirky moments add up to one big win for horror fans.

First Time Views: 23
Repeats: 26
Total Films: 49

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