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23Oct/140

31 Days of Horror, Part 5 : From Creepy to Shitty and Back Again

Howdy. Here are more of the 31+ horror movies I'm watching this October.

21. Witchboard (1986)

After Visiting Hours, I needed to cleanse my palate with something inoffensive, goofy, and ridiculous. Witchboard seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Silly 80s "evil ouija board" movie, starring Tawny Kitaen (of Whitesnake video fame).

It was everything I hoped. Some great laughs, some fantastic character actors, and solid performances from the three leads.

Exactly as expected. "Oui" out of "ja."

22. Tales From the Crypt (1972)

I have a soft spot for the Amicus anthology horror films of the 60s and 70s, but I'd never seen this one before. I'd seen Vault of Horror, Asylum, and From Beyond the Grave. These things are usually a lot of fun-- they get high-profile actors, are filmed in a very pretty way, and usually come from great source material-- Robert Bloch, EC Comics, that kind of thing.

This one draws inspiration directly from EC comics stories-- hence the title. And there are some dazzlers.

This one has pretty big roles for Joan Collins, Ralph Richardson, and Peter Cushing, among many others, and they turn in good performances. About half the horror is fairly bloodless, but it still works, by providing a nice, creepy atmosphere. The special effects vary from story to story, but even when they're bad, they're good.

These stories seem to serve the same purpose as the EC comics they're based on. They're wry, tongue-in-cheek, and manage to be genuinely creepy on occasion.

If you know Amicus Horror, you should know this already. If you don't, this is a pretty good introduction.

23. Grave Encounters (2011)

What's this? Oh, it's another "found footage" film about a reality TV show about ghost hunting set in an abandoned mental hospital? No thanks, I've seen that several times before. What's that you say? Oh, a 6.1 on IMDB? Better than 50% on Rotten Tomatoes? Weird internet cult that loves it? Okay, if you say so.

Ugh.

This movie is a horrible piece of shit.

Just like every other "found footage" movie set in an abandoned hospital / mental institution / et cetera.

The thing that never ceases to amaze me about these things is that, every single time, it looks like the people making these movies have never actually watched a shitty reality ghost hunting TV show. They always film everything-- even the framing segments, where the "host" sets up the concept-- with super-terrible shakycam. Guys, reality TV shows use tripods for those shots. Also, mostly, reality TV shows use steadicams. Or at least a cinderblock attached to a pole. Just because it worked for Blair Witch Project-- a movie which in no way claimed to be done by professionals-- does not mean it will work for you, or the two dozen other found footage / abandoned hospital movies.

I couldn't even muster up the give-a-fuck to take a screenshot. Blegh.

Also, Barb pointed out that the guys who directed this movie are called "The Vicious Brothers." Despite being neither brothers, nor vicious, nor related in any way. "The Vicious Brothers." That is what dudes in rural towns who upload "Jackass" style videos in 2014 call themselves; or fellows who record Insane Clown Posse concert videos from the back third of the venue with their iPhones and upload them, in the mistaken, delusional belief that it will lead to them somehow becoming the band's official videographer. Stop.

24. Tourist Trap (1979)

This movie is just corny as all hell. It's about a tourist trap in rural somewhere, featuring telekinetically controlled murder mannequins and a Leatherface stand-in. It's a little uneven, but there are a lot of things that really work about it. The scene opens on some teenagers whose car has already broken down, forcing one of their number to find a gas station or auto shop.

One of them finds one... and... his... doom.

One of the highlights of this movie is the set dressing and special effects-- the art direction was done by Robert A. Burns, the same dude who worked on Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which goes a long way toward explaining that. The teenagers are beautiful, of course, and the "last girl" is a very capable and effective actor.

The sets and mannequins are effectively creepy.

The actual evil antagonist, who apparently was called "Plasterface" on set but not in the movie itself, is interesting-- the masks are a little creepy, the outfits are interesting, the methods of murder are pretty damn good-- but oh my god, the voicework is terrible. The guy is two octaves short of sounding like a radical laryngectomy patient with a buzzbox.

And he keeps screaming things like "COME BACK, LITTLE GIRL!"

I sent Ed Ringtone an audio SMS and he laughed for a long time.

The score is also pretty hit-or-miss. There are times when the music works with the visuals and literally gave me goosebumps, but there are just as many times when I found myself rolling my eyes at the corniness of the whole thing.

A solid effort, far from the worst movie I watched during the course of this October. One thumb up.

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