Monday, October 31, 2011

October Horror Movie Challenge 10/31


Vampyr (1932)
(2nd viewing) d. Dreyer, Carl Theodor (Germany) 74min
With Hollywood having discovered the vein of horror gold that was Dracula and Frankenstein the year before, pioneering German filmmaker Dreyer unveiled this remarkable tale of vampirism and the occult. Following young traveler Julian West, we arrive at a quiet village that has come under an attack from the undead and the strange adventure unfolds with the feel and tempo of a waking dream. Bold roving camerawork combine with exquisitely crafted visuals (a shadow that leaves its owner, a grave being dug in reverse, characters that materialize from thin air) make this a revelatory cinematic experience especially when held alongside its more traditional, narrative-bound Tinseltown counterparts.

Blood and Roses (1960) (2nd viewing) d. Vadim, Roger (France) 74min
The closest adaptation of the three, Vadim and co-screenwriters Claude Martin and Roger Vailland mount a modest yet gorgeous costume drama version of Le Fanu’s novella. The luminous Annette Vadim (the director’s then-wife) stars as Carmilla Karnstein, secretly pining for her cousin Mel Ferrer, himself recently engaged to the equally stunning Elsa Martinelli. However, when an ancestor’s grave is disturbed by an errant fireworks explosion, the undead spirit of Mircalla Karnstein inhabits Vadim’s lovely form. As the ever-growing circle of blood-drained victims draws ever closer to Martinelli, we are treated to some lovely visual stunts, peaking with a shuttered window that opens onto the watery surface of another dimension (complete with one of Vadim’s victims floating and beckoning for company). While not as faithful as Hammer’s The Vampire Lovers, this is certainly one of the worthier versions of the Carmilla story and well worth seeking out.

Alucarda (aka Sisters of Satan) (1978) (2nd viewing) d. Moctezuma, Juan Lopez (Mexico) 85min
From the faithful to the unhinged, we travel down Mexico way for this trippy spin on the feminist bloodsucker. Upon her arrival at a convent, newly orphaned Susana Kamini befriends exotic Tina Romero and before long, the two are rebelling against their constrictive religious bonds by declaring allegiance to the devil and his dark ways. If your appetites lean toward female nudity, blasphemous Christian imagery, and a truckload of hysterical shrieking, then you’ve come to the right place. Moctezuma revels in wild imagery and wanton emoting, the results being a highly theatrical religious horror piece along the lines of Ken Russell’s The Devils.


Phantom of Soho, The (1964)
(1st viewing) d. Gottlieb, Franz Josef (Germany) 92min
Phantom of Soho, The (1964) (1st viewing) d. Gottlieb, Franz Josef (Germany) 92min
A golden glitter-gloved serial killer stalks the London streets, carving a bloody path through numerous members of polite society. A reasonably engaging crime thriller whodunit notable for employing the killer’s POV, putting the audience in the driver’s seat of ripping and rending the shocked victims while looking them square in the eye.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974) (2nd viewing) d. De Palma, Brian (USA) 92min
Two years before he emerged as a star filmmaker with Carrie, De Palma concocted this comedy/horror re-working of Phantom of the Opera. When enigmatic studio magnate Swan (Paul Williams, in a stroke of inspired casting) steals aspiring composer William Finley’s rock opera version of Faust, the spurned tunesmith swears vengeance. As he attempts to sabotage the Death Records offices, Finley’s face and vocal cords are destroyed in a horrific record pressing accident, transforming him into a masked freak haunting Swan’s new rock opera house, the Paradise. Walking a fine satirical line between horror and farce, the movie explodes out of the gates with fierce comic bravado, riding the energy of its rollicking musical numbers (penned by Williams). Jessica Harper makes her film debut as the unlikeliest rock starlet ever, Gerrit Graham gives a fine fruity performance as Beef, Swan’s newest protégé, and you gotta love those Juicy Fruits! Rated PG, despite numerous pointed allusions to the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll lifestyle (not to mention a few bloody bits).

Phantasm (1979) (5th viewing) d. Coscarelli, Don (USA) 88min
Writer/director Coscarelli (who would also serve up the Beastmaster series three years later) delivers one of the most daring U.S. horror efforts of the 70s, eschewing traditional narrative devices while embracing nightmare visuals and logic. Aided immeasurably by his extremely likeable and relatable cast of Bill Thornbury, Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister and the inimitable Angus Scrimm (as the instantly iconic Tall Man), we dive headlong into the goings-on of a mysterious mausoleum which may serve as the entryway to another dimension. The skull-drilling, brain-sucking flying chrome orbs of death that serve as the Morningside sentries are the most memorable of Coscarelli’s flights of fancy, but there’s never a dull moment as alternate realities, dream sequences and diminutive dwarf assailants lurk around every corner. A true low-budget modern horror classic, followed by three, increasingly confusing sequels.

First Time Views: 56
Repeats: 59
Total Films: 115


  1. I've been tryin to find "Blood and Roses" for a while.

    Oh man, what a blast is "Phantom of Paradise". And the poster you posted just rocks.

  2. I got an old VHS of B&R off Amazon about 6-7 years ago, which is what I watched it from yesterday. Would love to see a nice widescreen print, but I somehow don't see that happening anytime soon.

    I've been meaning to get back to the Paradise for a while now - so wild and fun. I think it would have probably freaked me out as a kid, so I'm glad I came to it later in life!