I've watched a bunch more horror movies this month. I realized I didn't actually post a list last time, so this time I'll start by listing the ones I talked about last time, and then start fresh with the new ones. So here you go.
1. Leviathan (1989)
2. Eyes Without a Face (1960)
3. Trollhunter (2010)
4. Dracula (1931)
5. Dracula's Daughter (1936)
6. Headhunters (2010)
7. Soultangler (1987)
8. Slime City (1988)
9. Hour of the Wolf (1968)
10. Landscape Suicide (1986)
That brings us to now. I've watched fifteen more horror movies since then. Some of them were great, some of them were not so great, and some of them were pretty terrible. I'll start by listing the order in my list, the title, and then I'll give you a little bitty mini-review. Because I'm a member of the itty-bitty-review-committee. I plan to break this up into smaller collected chunks so you don't go crazy or lose interest. From here on out, I'll probably be alternating between this format, where I discuss lesser movies or give itty-bitty reviews, and a longer format, where I blather on at length about movies that I particularly liked (or maybe disliked). Here are the first six, in a shorter format.
This movie was so weird. Strange Japanese horror, released in the late-1980s in conjunction with an NES video game. Like, literally, that trailer plays right before the movie starts. The tone of this thing was all over the place-- over-the-top, Noh-style Japanese slapstick, and then some of the most horrifying things you can imagine. Then back to the bouncy, goofy-music slapstick. The most unsettling and terrifying part about this movie was that someone thought pairing super-bouncy goofy music with horrible, horrible terror was a good idea. It really heightens the "what the shit" factor.
Also, there's a great face-melting scene.
I'd never seen this one before. It's one of the worst horror movies of all time. I'd seen Best Worst Movie, which is a documentary film all about Troll 2 and how terrible it is, and about how people love it in spite of it being terrible. Honestly, after watching the documentary, I felt like I didn't really need to see Troll 2 itself. But what the hell, right?
It was... it was pretty bad. I enjoyed it thoroughly all the way through.
The acting is atrocious, the dialogue is straight-up laughable most of the way through, the costumes were trash, and the editing is questionable at best. I enjoyed it all the way through.
No screenshots necessary or recommended.
I'd already watched this one, but I'm giving myself a few passes this month to break up the mysterious new horror flicks. This is one of Cronenberg's best, with Jeremy Irons giving one of his best performances in a double role as twin gynecologists, one of who slowly spirals into drug addiction and madness, pulling his brother with him.
I cannot stress how incredible Jeremy Irons is in this movie.
Highly, highly recommended.
I'd heard about this movie for a long time. It's a dramatization of the story of Ed Gein. It's from the 70s. I had always assumed that it came out after "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," as sort of a low-grade effort to cash in on that movie's success.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
This movie came out in 1974, the same year as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it came out first. Also, the movies are trying to accomplish entirely different things. Where Chainsaw is aiming for-- and providing-- balls-out horror and dread for nearly the full running time, Deranged is much slower and creepier. It follows the actual criminal history of Ed Gein much more closely than any other fictionalized account that I've seen, and it does it with style and panache. It was filmed mostly in Canada, and the bleak, snowy filming locations provide a fairly accurate representation of what it's like to experience an upper-Midwestern winter.
Roberts Blossom plays "Ezra Cobb," the Ed Gein stand-in, to perfection. A little slow, a lot creepy, and he even manages a Wisconsin accent fairly well. He plays Ez perfectly, displaying that steely, midwestern work-ethic resolve, except instead of farming, his work-ethic is devoted to taxidermy, grave robbery, and murrrrrrder.
The set design is also spot-on. It seems like they must have scouted locations and just straight-up entered a late-70s rural farmhouse.
And that makeup. Woo, that makeup.
About halfway through the movie, I became so impressed with the makeup that I actually broke out my phone and looked it up. Turns out this was one of Tom Savini's early efforts. You might recognize Savini as the makeup / SFX guy from Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Friday the 13th, Maniac, The Burning... he's famous for a reason, and his talents are on wonderful display here.
I can't recommend this enough. Four out of four hatchets.
There's a subset of horror movies, of which I am a huge fan, devoted to Rock 'n' Roll Horror. I've got about fifty rock horror movies in my collection. Most of them are... not good. There are a few gems. Killer Party is in that collection, but it's on the periphery. This movie is famous for, among other things, a ten-minute fakeout opening sequence, featuring a movie within a movie within a music video. It's pretty hilarious and weird, and I've watched that ten-minute sequence more than once.
I figured that's close enough to "never watched" to count.
Killer Party is a pretty straightforward 80s sorority slasher flick. It does some things really well.
Fun enough, when you're in the mood for an 80s slasher flick.
Eric Bana, Joel McHale, Edgar Ramirez. All dudes I like. This movie came out and sank like a stone. I wanted to see it in the theater, but I somehow missed the brief run, which is unfortunate. I'm glad I got a chance to see it on VOD.
This is a pretty well-directed possession / exorcism movie. Everything's staged and shot beautifully. Some of the acting is hit-or-miss, however; Eric Bana drips authenticity until he opens his mouth and uses a Brooklyn accent. About every fourth time, I got flashes of Doug Hutchison as "Loony Bin Jim" in Punisher War Zone, which is to say extremely campy. I don't think Bana's playing it for laughs, and it's fairly easy to suspend disbelief, but it is a definite factor to keep in mind when watching this movie. Joel McHale is incredible as his partner, a smartass cop who prefers knifeplay. That said, I like Joel McHale in just about anything, and I think he was underused in this movie.
I watched this late at night, which helped in terms of enjoyment, and lowered the eye-rolling quotient. The plot is fairly by-the-numbers, as possession / exorcism movies go, and the fun is the same as watching ballet or a complicated dance routine, just being able to see where individuals add flair, how well they execute particular moves, and where they fall down flat. Maybe I'm just inured to horror movies of this type at this point in my life-- I am an old man-- but there weren't many scares in this movie. I did enjoy the execution, however.
Solid six out of ten. I didn't bother taking screenshots.
And that brings this edition of "31 Nights of Horror" to a close. Please join us tomorrow, when I'll spend twelve hundred words discussing titties, the paintings of the old Dutch masters, and the painful existential horror of being alive.
So I totally forgot how to do this. This whole "blogging" thing. It's been kind of a ridiculously long time. I'm not going to pretend that this harkens some return to form, or that I remember how to string words together to create sentences in a manner that is "interesting" or "entertaining," or any other such horseshit. I'll probably just hammer a few of these out this month and then just go back to ignoring this and trying to forget that I blogged for more than a decade and then deleted it all and then did a half-assed job for a few more years.
And so but anyway. A few people I know are doing this #31DaysOfHorror or #31HorrorMoviesIn31Days or whatever, and it's something that I've always thought about doing but haven't ever had the free time or wherewithal or motivation to do. But this year it seems like I might actually do it. What I'll do is fall behind during the week, and then binge like crazy during the weekends to catch up. Just plow through it. I'm making a serious effort to only watch horror movies that I've never watched before, and I've been largely successful there, too. Just plowing through 'em.
My list so far. One of these, I'd seen before, but I won't tell you which one, because then you'll just judge me for it.
01. Leviathan (1989)
02. Eyes Without a Face (1960)
03. Trollhunter (2010)
04. Dracula (1931)
05. Dracula's Daughter (1936)
06. Headhunters (2011)
07. Soultangler (1987)
08. Slime City (1988)
09. Hour of the Wolf (1968)
10. Landscape Suicide (1986)
What actually made me think about writing about these horror movies this year, instead of just sort of half-assedly, crappily instagramming it, is that in the course of this endeavor I've watched a few horror movies that I have really, really loved. So I wanted to share them, or share my thoughts about them, or maybe recommend them to... well, nobody, I guess. Does anybody read non-tumblr personal blogs anymore? I guess I read a couple, but I'm thirty-five. I'm an old man. It's been nearly two decades since I first "blogged." Just doing this now feels like I'm the tin man slowly skreeking towards an oil can. Or like pulling teeth. Or pulling off my own face.
So anyway, most of these movies were pretty good or even great (except Leviathan, which was... not great. But it had its moments. Plus it stars RoboCop, Winston Zeddemore, and one of the wet bandits. No way could that be all bad). None of the movies have been truly terrible-- except for the ones that I knew going in would be terrible. I'm looking at you, Soultangler. Also you, Slime City. I watched those two in particular because I wanted to watch some hilarious b-grade schlock from the 80s. They fit that bill perfectly.
Some of these have absolutely impressed the hell out of me. The movies that have blown me away have been, in the order I watched them, Eyes Without a Face, Headhunters, Hour of the Wolf, and Landscape Suicide. I'm planning to write a blog about Eyes Without a Face, which will entail watching it again, and I'm actually kind of excited about that. Headhunters is more of a thriller, but it's a fairly straightforward thriller. You should just watch it. It's on Netflix. Landscape Suicide is a masterpiece, but it's a weird mid-80s arthouse masterpiece. If you go for weird arthouse movies where ten minutes go by and you've watched three things happen with zero dialogue, you'll probably like it. I liked it.
This blog is about Hour of the Wolf.
Hour of the Wolf was directed by Ingmar Bergman and came out in 1968. I like Bergman a whole lot-- I went on a little binge earlier this year and re-watched a bunch of my favorites-- but I'd never seen this one. It's been referred to as Bergman's only horror movie, which piqued my interest, but it was always hard to find. I'm glad I went to the effort (where "effort" here means "halfheartedly searching about a half dozen places on the internet"). This movie is everything that I love about Bergman. Deliberate pacing, beautiful lonely Swedish countryside scenes, shitloads of angst, incredible shot framing, and great acting. But you guys. You guys. This movie has something else completely new and awesome.
You guys, I discovered where David Lynch's entire worldview came from. It came from this movie.
This movie was clearly a huge influence on Mr. Lynch. It's got all the hallmarks of a great Lynch flick. Super-awkward dinner parties where the protagonist feels out of place amongst assholes. Tortured artists struggling in a world that feels just a little bit off. Sexual partners taunting the protagonist mid-coitus. Deep dark secrets tucked away in idyllic scenes of relaxed everyday life. Uncomfortably forward old women. Slow pans into disgusting meat products. Also: murder, deep-seated longing saudade-style, strange perversions, bizarre happenings that may or may not be hallucinatory in nature, the unreliable framing device, and truly strange supporting characters.
All of the images in this post were taken from Hour of the Wolf. Hell, most of them were taken from two ten-minute sequences. This movie is great.
I found myself alternately laughing, sitting stock-still with dread, reeling with disgust, wrinkling my nose with shame and embarrassment, and rewinding a few seconds to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. The end of this movie made me cry for no apparent reason.
This movie is pretty damn great.
I'm very conscious of "spoilers" and I really want to impress upon you, the potential reader of this blog, that you should just watch the fucking thing already, so I'm not even going to get into any of the plot points or characters. It's not like it even matters all that much, really. If you've seen three or more David Lynch movies, you know what you're getting yourself into.
Now I find myself having written something a lot longer than I intended.
That's pretty good, I guess. I could use the practice writing non-technical things. And it's not like anyone's going to notice. Any readership I may have had when this thing was at its height are long gone, and any that I may gain back will hopefully come by after I've gotten a few more of these things under my belt.
And so but anyway. Watch Ingmar Bergman's Hour of the Wolf. Let me know what you thought.
I just got back from seeing Godspeed You! Black Emperor live.
They've been one of my favorite bands forever.
Seeing them is a spiritual experience.
Last week I watched the live streaming video feed of the burning of Zozobra, an annual festival in Santa Fe. Every year, the city of Santa Fe constructs a fifty-foot tall marionette of Zozobra, "Old Man Gloom," and burns it to the ground in effigy. Zozobra flails around on fire, his eyes rolling and flashing, his mouth opening and closing, his arms waving and sweeping (at least until the strings burn through). When Old Man Gloom goes up in smoke, he takes with him all the anxieties, depression, fears and troubles of the previous year.
It's surprisingly cathartic, even through a computer screen from hundreds of miles away.
When I was a kid, we'd make the trip up to Santa Fe every year to see it in person. Surrounded by massive crowds, with hot fry-bread in my hands and Zozobra looming ridiculously huge in real life, it was a magical and wondrous experience. There's just something about watching the larger-than-life embodiment of misery writhe and scream on fire that's liberating and empowering.
Of course, it's also fun to just watch stuff on fire. No matter the time of year, little-kid me would build mini-Zozobras out of toilet paper tubes stuffed with napkins. I'd laboriously decorate them with magic markers, trying to get the furrow of the massive brows, the grumpy grimace, the bow-tie, just right-- before setting it gloriously alight with a book of matches and watching it burn to ash. I'd make little whispery grumbling and howling sounds to accompany the blaze, and it would always make me feel better for a while.
The older I get, the more thankful I am to my parents for giving me these things. Introducing me to Zozobra, going to see the Balloon Fiesta, the cross-country road trips and vacations. The Petrified Forest. The Ozarks. Even the garish and ridiculous spectacle of Branson, MO.
Thank you for that, Mom and Dad.
And especially thank you for taking me to see Old Man Gloom bite the dust, year after year.