Sunday, October 11, 2015


Challenge Totals to Date:

Movies Watched Today: 5
Total Movies Watched: 36
Total First Time Views: 16
Scare-A-Thon Donations: $622.80

Remember, if you would like to make a pledge toward Scare-A-Thon 2015 (benefiting PLANNED PARENTHOOD and GREENHOUSE SHELTER) at any time, drop me an email at to say how much you would like to pledge. Your donation is tax deductible and, seriously, even a penny per film helps.

Blood Sabbath (1972) d. Murphy, Brianne (USA) (1st viewing) 86 min

An abundance of gratuitous nudity will likely be the main attraction for this low-budget yarn about a handsome drifting Vietnam vet (future General Hospital legend Tony Geary) who falls for a mysterious water nymph (Susan Damante ) and decides to give up his human soul in order to be with her. Not sure if we should chalk this up to PSTD or what. Luckily for him, there just happens to be a coven of clothing-shy female witches hanging out in the woods, led by Queen Alotta (Dyanne Thorne aka Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS), whose stock in trade is the absconding of souls and buck-nekkid dancin’. Character actor Sam Gilman (Doc Holliday from the iconic Star Trek “Spectre of the Gun” episode) shows up from time to time to mutter and shuffle. Silly but diverting enough (did I mention the boobs?), with a twist that foreshadows 1990’s Jacob’s Ladder. Groovy psychedelic soundtrack by Les Baxter.

The House at the End of Time (2013) d. Hildalgo, Alejandro (Venezuela) (1st viewing) 101 min

Having heard positive buzz both from the festival circuit (where it took home the grand prize at Screamfest 2014) and from those in my personal circles, it was with no small degree of expectations that I sat down with this South American cinematic puzzle box. And while it starts off at a decidedly deliberate pace and the old-age makeup on star Ruddy Rodriguez would probably work better from the theater balcony as opposed to the high-def scrutiny of home video, the ultimate rewards of writer/director Hildalgo are enormously satisfying, toying with time and space and parallel narratives. I’m loath to reveal too much, since the story’s gentle unfolding is part of its appeal, but suffice to say that murder, sibling rivalry, deception, and retribution figure heavily into the proceedings. Recommended.


[Rec]3: Genesis (2012) d. Plaza, Paco (Spain) (2nd viewing) 80 min

The most distinctive thing about this third installment of the Spanish zombie franchise is that co-creator Plaza seems as tired of the “found footage” trend as the rest of the horror crowd (this in spite of being partially responsible for two of the strongest handheld entries thus far). And so, after setting up a justifiable premise for recording the mayhem to come – the action takes place at a wedding, with a professional and an amateur cameraman on hand – he abandons the concept shortly after the proverbial excrement hits the fan. Thereby answering the one question that always plagues the milieu, “Why are they still shooting?” with the ballsy reply, “They wouldn’t. I’ll take it from here.” Plaza understands his audience, knows what they will accept, and this proves to be his secret weapon throughout. This prequel is pitched with a frenetic, heightened, bloody, and oft comedic flair, one that is thoroughly refreshing and enjoyable.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) d. Demme, Jonathan (USA) (7th viewing) 118 min

That rare beast that’s both mainstream Oscar-winning success and first-rate horror film. A masterful blend of psychological horror and physical violence, screenwriter Ted Tally’s dynamite script (adapted from Thomas Harris’ novel) examines ambitious young FBI trainee Clarice Starling’s (Jodie Foster) efforts to track down the serial killer Buffalo Bill – the nickname he’s earned by skinning his victims (Ted Levine, whose carefully shaded performance is easy to overlook). Helping her is imprisoned serial murderer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), dubbed “Hannibal the Cannibal” for the unsavory habit of consuming his victims. Demme handles the action with a sure touch, mixing character, complex plotting, and locations that have a feeling of absolute authenticity. Repeated viewings reveal what a careful craftsman he is, and even the most superficial glance reveals how much pop culture’s fascination with serial killers and crime scene pathology has been derived from the film’s popularity. Thanks to Hopkins’ exquisitely modulated performance, walking a tightrope between sneering intellectual superiority and barely restrained animal urges, Lecter arrived as one the of the screen’s most memorable and electrifying fiends. Keep a sharp eye out for directors Roger Corman and George Romero, who appear in cameos.

Hannibal (2001) d. Scott, Ridley (USA) (2nd viewing) 131 min

Ugh. I remembered not thinking much when – after years of negotiating and development – everyone’s favorite screen psychopath returned to the silver screen, but watching immediately following the masterpiece that inspired it, the sequel is pretty embarrassing on all fronts. In one of those classic instances of “be careful what you wish for,” Anthony Hopkins reprised his Oscar-winning role – with a substantial pay raise – but both the actor and the character have less at stake this time around and it shows. (He doesn’t even bother to echo the esteemed doc’s distinctive vocal cadences.) With Lecter free from his shackles and iconic faceguards, he’s infinitely less interesting; more importantly, he’s now the hero instead of the villain, more akin to a well-read Freddy Krueger than genuine threat. Unable to entice Jodie Foster to return for a story where her character of Clarice Starling is now the supporting one, the studios eventually hired Julianne Moore who, despite her talents, never really makes us forget she’s the understudy. Gary Oldman is having a high old time underneath a ton of prosthetics as the infinitely rich Mason Verger, one of Lecter’s former victims, but he’s so grotesque that we can’t really hook into him either. Then there’s producer/director Scott, who again employs his accursed “push ‘n’ blur” slo-mo techniques that recall nothing so much as a 1990s high-end porn flick. (They were off-putting in the previous year’s Gladiator and they’re even more so here.) The very definition of a well-polished turd.

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