Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Challenge Totals to Date:

Movies Watched Today: 4
Total Movies Watched: 21
Total First Time Views: 8
Scare-A-Thon Donations: $330.75

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 drach101@gmail.com to say how much you would like to pledge. Your donation is tax deductible and, seriously, even a penny per film helps.

Crucible of Horror (aka The Corpse) (1971) d. Ritelis, Viktors (UK) (2nd viewing) 91 min

Brit genre stalwart (and later Batman butler) Michael Gough plays a tyrannical pater who lords over his family with an iron fist, concealing an illicit lust for his randy teenage daughter (Death Line’s Sharon Gurney) with strict morals and the occasional whipping. When the underage lassie and her emotionally fragile mum (Yvonne Mitchell, Demons of the Mind) decide to take matters into their own hands, a Diabolique-like murder plot emerges, complete with missing corpses, nosey neighbors, and dream sequences spiced through. There’s so much skillfully crafted tension throughout that one can (hopefully) forgive the abrupt final scene, which throws into question all that went before. Trivia: Gough’s onscreen son is played by his actual son Simon, who was married to Gurney in real life.

Carnival of Souls (1962) d. Harvey, Herk (1962) (4th viewing) 83 min

Put on your low-budget boogie shoes, we’re going dancing at the Saltair, the ghostly centerpiece of director/producer Harvey’s deeply unsettling little chiller. After a frivolous drag race results a near-fatal plunge into the river, lone survivor Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) pulls herself from the murky waters and curiously leaves town to pursue an employment opportunity as a church organist in Utah. En route, she encounters a ghostly white-faced figure floating alongside her car, just a taste of the bizarre events to follow. Upon her arrival in town, she encounters a myriad of unusual characters, including her lust-ridden neighbor (Sidney Berger), whose wince-inducing flirtations will conjure up every girl’s worst date. Her days are filled with strange, dreamlike episodes, while her nights are plagued by visions of the abandoned lakeside carnival where white-faced figures dance and beckon to her.

Filmed in three weeks on a mere $30,000 budget, the acting is awkward and John Clifford’s dialogue a mite stilted, but Harvey manages to cultivate a illusory world where the ordinary and the mundane exude danger, with a thick atmosphere of gloom pervading the banality of the small, sleepy town. The film’s hypnotic, documentary-like feel, effectively using real-life locations and non-actors, would prove highly influential to future horror projects, notably 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. The enigmatic Hilligoss, while not the most refined thespian, possesses a brittle, haunted quality that suits the material perfectly. Nearly forgotten following its minimal initial distribution, Carnival fell into public domain and began to regularly pop up on late night television, eventually inspiring a major re-release in 1989.

Double Exposure (1983) d. Hillman, William Byron (UK) (1st viewing) 94 min

Gregarious freelance photographer Adrian Wilde (Michael Callan), sporting his perpetually unbuttoned shirts and chatting up anyone who comes into his sphere, starts to suspect that he might be a serial killer. A remake of their little-seen 1974 flick called The Photographer, this is the very definition of “vanity project” for Callan and writer/director Hillman, with the Cat Ballou star finding himself in close quarters with dozens of scantily clad ladies, snapping off “clever” dialogue, freaking out/dying during countless dream sequences, and showboating all over the place. Joanna Pettet is appealing as Wilde’s latest flame - both in and out of her clothes, there’s plenty of nudity, and several familiar faces populate the supporting cast, including Seymour Cassel, Cleavon Little, frequent Burt Reynolds co-star Robert Tessier, and Sally Kirkland. None of which actually adds up to being an enjoyable movie; it’s neither scary nor thrilling, and Callan’s self-love is near-stifling. But there is that mud wrestling match around the one-hour mark.

Identity (2003) d. Mangold, James (USA) (2nd viewing) 90 min

A dandy little psychological thriller with enough twists and turns that even if you guess where it’s headed, the ride is worth the while. The night before a convicted killer (Pruitt Taylor Vince) is put to death, a torrential rainstorm strands 10 different individuals at an out-of-the-way Nevada motel: a limo driver (John Cusack), a has-been actress (Rebecca DeMornay, a cop (Ray Liotta) transporting a prisoner (Jake Busey), a call girl (Amanda Peet), a pair of Vegas-minted newlyweds (Clea DuVall, William Lee Scott), and a nervous family (John C. McGinly, Leila Kenzle, Bret Loehr). As the clock ticks down, the relief at having found shelter is replaced by the terror of being mysteriously bumped off one by one, with a corresponding hotel room key found on each successive victim (10, 9, 8, 7…) All the players live squarely in their comfort zones (Cusack is his detached cool, Liotta the live wire, McGinley the tittering coward, etc.), but they serve the turn and their deaths – while not graphic – are splattery in their after-effect. A worthy revisit.

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