Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fool's Views (11/1 – 11/30)


Howdy folks!

Only watched 20 films during the entire month of November, 11 of which were consumed over the course of two separate days over at Kitley’s Krypt. First, there was the relatively impromptu Pete Walker film festival (due to Jon’s upcoming Evilspeak article), followed a mere six days later by the epic annual gobblerfest known as Turkey Day. Come to think of it, another four of the remaining nine movies were seen in a single day, having taken myself to the multiplex. Of the remaining five, two were classic Spielberg comfort food watched with the femalien and one was Another Robert Redford Movie, leaving only Monkey Shines (reviewed for Shout! Factory) and Now You See Me (watched while killing time during a platelet donation that preceded – and almost pre-empted – the Walker-thon). No, there’s no real method to the madness, but I do leave a pretty solid paper trail.

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



Horns (2013) d. Aja, Alexandre (USA) (1st viewing)

I’ve not read the Joe Hill novel that this is sourced from, which generated a lotta love in the community, but this film version, while handsomely mounted and performed, feels inert, overlong, and half-baked at the core. Daniel Radcliffe plays a young fella named Ig who has become his small town’s pariah ever since the mysterious murder of his girlfriend. One morning, he wakes up with a pair of curled ram’s horns growing out of his head and everyone he encounters feels inclined to share their deepest, darkest secret feelings (and occasionally acting on them). A dozen wacky episodes and an equal number of flashbacks later, Ig finally tracks down the real murderer...who ends up being exactly who you thought it was all along. Speaking of devilish goings-on, it’s interesting that Aja became a major Hollywood player at the same moment that he became incapable of making an interesting genre flick. Coincidence? At least this one isn’t a remake.

Jaws (1975) d. Spielberg, Steven (USA) (6th viewing)

From harrowing opening sequence to breathtaking climax, Spielberg’s hugely successful masterpiece of suspense scared audiences out of the water and into theaters in record-breaking numbers. The plot itself is simplicity enough: The locals of the northeastern island town of Amity start turning up as fish food when an enormous great white shark materializes, leaving fear and body parts in its wake. Peter Benchley’s adaptation (with Carl Gottlieb) of his own bestseller charts the wise course of creating vivid characters as memorable as the scenes of teeth-chomping terror. Armed with the top-notch trio of Roy Scheider as the local sheriff with a healthy fear of water, Richard Dreyfuss as a feisty oceanic expert, and Robert Shaw brilliant as the gnarled shark hunter Quint, nary an onscreen moment is wasted. Famously plagued with technical problems during production, Spielberg ratchets up the tension time and again, each thrill more nail-biting than the last, ably assisted by John Williams’ Oscar-winning, instantly iconic musical score. By focusing equally between its engaging, likeable human protagonists and the monster’s mayhem, a modern horror classic emerges that still stands as the high-water mark for aquatic terror four decades on.

Monkey Shines (1988) d. Romero, George A. (USA) (3rd viewing)



Frightmare (1974) d. Walker, Pete (UK) (3rd viewing)

Thanks to a viciously twisted screenplay by frequent collaborator David McGillivray and stellar work from a cast that includes Rupert Davies, Deborah Fairfax, and Kim Butcher, 70s Brit horror icon Walker hits the bullseye with this tale of youth gone wild, dysfunctional families, flawed legal systems, old homicidal habits dying hard, and no good deed going unpunished. Sheila Keith’s unforgettable turn as a deeply disturbed mater takes this one over the top.

House of Mortal Sin (aka The Confessional) (1976) d. Walker, Pete (UK) (2nd viewing)

Having stuck it to the flawed British legal system twice in one year (Frightmare and House of Whipcord), Walker and McGillivray turn their razor gaze on The Catholic Church this time around, with a twisted tale of evil priest Anthony Sharp terrorizing lovely Susan Penhaglion (Patrick, The Land That Time Forgot). Excruciating tension and an array of nasty murders deliver the horror goods, with terrific turns from horror vets Stephanie Beacham (The Nightcomers), Mervyn Johns (Dead of Night), and yet another stellar Sheila Keith performance as Sharp’s housekeeper who matches him perversion for perversion.

Schizo (1976) d. Walker, Pete (UK) (2nd viewing)

Gorgeous ice skating star Lynne Frederick’s well-publicized marriage plans are given a bit of spice when the man she had sent away to prison for murdering her mother decides to pay a visit. In following a giallo-like path, playing up the whodunit element of a recent spate of killings, Walker and McGillivray don’t quite match the dark heart of their previous efforts and the twist ending is fairly easy to figure out, but it’s still a well-produced bit of madness. Plus, Jack Watson, playing our primary suspect, looks distractingly similar to yours truly, right down to the narrow eyes, lined cheeks, and balding, reddish hair. Now I’m just sorry we never got to do that father/son movie we were destined to make.

The Comeback (1978) d. Walker, Pete (UK) (2nd viewing)

Faded pop star Jack Jones plays a faded pop star who heads to England to produce a new album; unfortunately, he quickly finds himself embroiled in the investigation surrounding his ex-wife’s murder (a nasty bit of business that sets a nice bar of nastiness that the rest of film never approaches). Murray Smith handles screenwriting duties this time, which unfortunately involves a lot of bitching about the recording business and Jones’ sloppy romance with Pamela Stephenson. Sheila Keith is back again as the crooner’s caretaker, mostly to serve as a red herring, but we’ll take her any chance we can. Trivia: Jones sang the theme from TV’s The Love Boat. Double Trivia: Stephenson appeared as a cast member of Saturday Night Live during its 1984-85 season. Triple Trivia: That's David Doyle as Jones' cross-dressing manager, who played Bosley on Charlie's Angels.


The Atomic Submarine (1959) d. Bennett, Spencer Gordon (USA) (1st viewing)

"It's Alive" (1969) d. Buchanan, Larry (USA) (1st viewing)

Amok Train (aka Beyond the Door III) (1989) d. Kwitny, Jeff (Italy/Yugoslavia) (1st viewing)

Bloodstalkers (1978) d. Morgan, Robert W. (USA) (2nd viewing)

Raw Force (1982) d. Murphy, Edward D. (Phillipines/USA) (2nd viewing)

The Brain (1988) d. Hunt, Ed (Canada) (1st viewing)

It Came from Hollywood (1982) d. Leo, Malcolm / Solt, Andrew (USA) (1st viewing)

Celebrated my 10th year of Turkeys with the Kitley’s Krypt Krew. It's been pretty remarkable to watch the day after Thanksgiving evolve from two guys sitting downstairs alone, eating hot dogs and leftovers, into a massive bash that people look forward to all year and sometimes drive hours to attend. Read Jon’s full recap HERE.


All the President's Men (1976) d. Pakula, Alan J. (USA) (3rd viewing)

The Year of Redford continues, and William Goldman’s extraordinary adaptation (of the Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein book about their investigative Watergate reporting that brought down a president) shows the superstar at the peak of his powers. Produced by WildWood Enterprises (Redford’s production company, who had optioned the book) and billed as a “Robert Redford/Alan J. Pakula Film,” he shared billing with co-star Dustin Hoffman by having his name first on the posters and Hoffman’s first in the film, and the two work together as agreeably onscreen. Jason Robards won his first of two Supporting Actor Oscars in as many years, playing Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) d. Iñárritu, Alejandro González (USA) (1st viewing)

Technically astonishing, with its illusion of no cuts, but this film about a manic bunch of shallow, self-absorbed “creatives” ultimately ends up celebrating its own eccentricities a little too enthusiastically for my tastes, with every actor playing right in their comfort zone. Yes, Michael Keaton is 100% invested and carries the film admirably, but is he really doing anything that we haven’t seen him do before? I don’t know, I guess I get tired of handing out accolades and Oscar nods for comeback roles. Welcome back and all, but now go out and actually impress me, please. This is just Keaton at his Keatonnest, just as Edward Norton is playing a thinly disguised version of himself. Plus I didn’t like anyone, even the ever-likeable Emma Stone. Maybe that was the point? I don’t know. I just know that it left me cold, appreciating without enjoying. Plus, I hate hate hate that “or” outside the titular parenthetical. HATE IT.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) d. Spielberg, Steven (USA) (4th viewing)

Pure sci-fi magic that still holds up today. We miss you, Melinda Dillion – someone give her a job!

Gone Girl (2014) d. Fincher, David (USA) (1st viewing)

Oh, it had me right up until the end. And then it lost me. And all who included this among their October Challenge horror offerings...shame on you. Not. Horror. At all.

Nightcrawler (2014) d. Gilroy, Dan (USA) (1st viewing)

Jake Gyllenhaal is frickin’ dynamite as a sociopathic socially awkward loser who turns out to be a news-footage capturing savant, one not to be underestimated intellectually nor expected to hold to accepted moral standards. It’s a showcase performance that consistently surprises – hell, Gyllenhaal doesn’t even look like himself, a magic trick accomplished by employing a whole new set of actor tools without observable effort. I’m glad that the critics and awards entities seem to have taken notice.

Now You See Me (2013) d. Leterrier, Louis (USA) (1st viewing)

Who would make the best bank robbers in the world? Magicians, according to this fanciful but ludicrous thriller starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco. Fun and flashy, but dumb; Dumb, but fun and flashy.

2014 Totals to date: 357 films, 180 1st time views, 232 horror, 47 cinema

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