Death By Cinema – 25 – House II: The Second Story

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 25 – House II: The Second Story

So, yesterday I watched Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House. Needless to say, it was one of the most batshit insane movies I’ve ever seen and I loved every minute of it. However, it got me thinking of other weird ass films I’ve seen and the first one to pop into my brain was House II: The Second Story. This movie has nothing to do with and is not related at all to the Japanese House. Rather, it was related to an American franchise about a series of haunted houses. There were 4 of these movies according to IMDb. I haven’t seen 3 or 4, but I have seen 1 and 2. The first House is entirely middle of the road, though still somewhat okay. It’s watchable. William Katt and George Wendt are fun in it. But House II: The Second Story… my God, what a fun mess this film is. It has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though I don’t feel that’s deserved. I mean, it’s nutty, but it’s fun. Or it is in my memory… let’s see if it holds up!

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
Watching the credits, I am reminded both Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death’s Bill Maher and Motel Hell’s John Ratzenberger are in this film. Trust me, I’ll be commenting on both of them.
This weird old west ghost appears in this couple’s house looking for a skull, crystal, if my memory serves. When they don’t give it to him, he shoots them. Years later, their son Jesse, who has no knowledge of the event, comes back.
I do like the set designs, even though Jesse’s girlfriend Kate apparently doesn’t.
Jesse looks through old family photos and finds one of him and his parents. He comments how cute he was. Yeah, except the eyes in the picture are friggin’ black vortexes!
Here we see the first signs this might not be the most serious horror film. Jesse approaches a strange noise in a creepy fashion, opens the door, and an ironing board falls on his head.
Jesse’s best friend Charlie shows up at the house and it’s clear he’s the comic relief of the film.
Yeah, now we get some exposition. Jesse’s great-great-grandfather and outlaw, also named Jesse, found a crystal skull back in the day with his partner, Slim. The skull is hidden somewhere that has untold powers and can give people eternal life. Jesse and Charlie decide to dig up Gramps to find the skull. It’s so damn cheesy… and 80s.
This graveyard has no damn security.
They find the skull with Gramps, but Gramps is alive! Gramps tosses Charlie and Jesse in the grave until they convince him Jesse’s his great great grandson.
So, apparently the skull can control time and space in the house, which is a temple. They are gonna have to protect it from evil.
Actual line: Gramps: “I ain’t gonna die if it’s the last thing I do.”
Actual first line of Bill Maher: “Jesse, you old golf bag!”
Actual dialogue: John (Bill Maher): “Who’s your friend? Bozo the Clown?” Charlie: “Bozo the Death Machine.”
So, Maher’s character is a sleazy record exec. He and Kate steal Charlie’s client/girlfriend.
Gramps is flipping through the channels. “Now you take this Ronald Reagan, he sure is a pansy. He wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes in the old days.”
After listening to Gramps tell stories for a few hours, Charlie and Jesse walk upstairs to find themselves in a Halloween party.
I’m waiting for some nutty stuff to happen, because I know some stuff is coming, but it’s taking a while. That being said, a jungle just appeared upstairs and a caveman just took the skull, so hopefully it’s coming soon.
Kate hits Jesse thinking he cheated on her. Really, it’s just a misunderstanding, but whatever, we’re not supposed to like her anyway.
Walking through the jungle, they find they’re in a land of dinosaurs inside the house. They retrieve the skull, but it’s stolen by a pterodactyl. They climb a tree to get the skull. Jesse falls from the top of the tree, sending both him and Charlie through the floor, along with the skull, a baby pterodactyl, and caterpuppy. What’s a caterpuppy? Half caterpillar, half puppy. Yes, that exists in this film.
The caterpuppy is pretty cute. Terrible puppet, but cute. Same thing as the pterodactyl, but that looks more like the monster from The Giant Claw.
Seriously, Bill Maher’s character is just the worst. Luckily, if my memory serves, this is the last time we see him in the rest of the movie. He’s even harder to take here than he is in real life.
Are they ever going to explain the caterpuppy?
A couple Aztecs stole the crystal skull and beat up Gramps. BTW, if a lot of these notes sound like I’m just mentioning the plot, that’s because other than the insanity of a pterodactyl and caterpuppy, not much has really happened that’s noteworthy.
Hey, here John Ratzenberger! As I recall, he’s a great character (an electrician), so hopefully this will save the movie. So far, he’s pretty funny.
Actual line: Bill (John Ratzenberger): “I’ve seen enough tragedy that’ll make you want to upchuck in your shorts.”
Ratzenberger has good patter, if nothing else. He proceeds to tear a hole in the wall, leading to another dimension. “Looks like you’ve got some kind of alternate universe in there or something.”
Bill tells them not to go into the wall. When they do, Bill says they might need the help of an expert, and he’s dealt with this before. He reaches into his toolbox and pulls out a freaking sword! Is it wrong I would rather see a backstory on Bill now?
The group runs across the Aztecs about to sacrifice a girl. When they interrupt them, the Aztecs come a sword fight begins. Bill is a goddamn badass!
The guys save the virgin and the skull, leaving Bill behind, but he’s not worried as it’s his “kid’s little league night.” They run out, only to find Bill’s already beaten them out?!? What? Who the hell is this guy?! Bill hands Jesse a card reading Bill Towner, Electrician/Adventurer. Why has this guy not gotten just a ton of spin-off work?
Jesse and Charlie proceed to have a dinner with Jesse’s mummy Gramps, the pterodactyl, the caterpuppy, and the Aztec virgin. You know, as one does.
They take the lid off the plate and the mummy Slim rises out from under it, facing off with Gramps.
Gramps goes to his deathbed and Jesse straps on a six gun looking for Slim. He breaks through a window into the old west. Slim does have a stop motion skeleton horse which is kinda cool.
Jesse and Slim continue their shoot out, traveling between the house and the old west. The cops show up at the house, someone having heard the gunfire.
Jesse manages to destroy Slim after a few shots and once again retrieves the skull, taking it to Gramps.
Actual line: “Did you blow his head off? That’s a good boy. I thought he’d kick your ass.”
Somehow, Slim’s body comes alive again and shoots the police chief, which leads to a shootout with the cops and the house being set on fire.
Jesse travels back to the old west with Charlie, The Aztec Virgin, the pterodactyl, and the caterpuppy. He buries Gramps leaving the crystal skull to mark his grave. Uh… it’s an object of immense power, are you sure you want to just leave it laying? Also, no payoff with John, Kate, or Charlie’s girlfriend? What happened to Bill? Now that they’re in the old west, can they continue traveling through time or what? What’s up with the cops now that they believe Jesse is a psychopath? Nope, no explanations, the movie just kinda ends.

This movie was not as much fun as I remembered it. This one was bad. It was boring in places and could have been handled a lot better. I remembered this film being a lot more crazy than it actually was. It doesn’t seem to know what tone to take as it either goes from being a minor horror comedy to a straight comedy to a drama to a western. Really, the movie is all about wasted potential.

That being said, it looked nice and polished. The makeup was fairly good, as were some of the effects. The directing was… okay. Overall, it’s a watchable movie, but I can’t really recommend it, unless you want to see a caterpuppy. Honestly though, this would have worked much better as a TV pilot. Heck, it actually broke down like a TV pilot, plus another couple episodes. Had it been properly developed as such, it might have been one of the better cult TV shows of the 80s. It actually reminded me of the Friday the 13th TV show quite a bit. But whatever, it’s still a better crystal skull movie than the Indiana Jones one.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath!

CRITERION COLLECTION REVIEWS – VOL. 4 (Being John Malkovich, House, The Long Good Friday)

BEING JOHN MALKOVICH 1HOUSE 1THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY 1

BEING JOHN MALKOVICH 2

Being John Malkovich (1999/dir. Spike Jonze/USA) – One of the best Criterion Collection purchases I’ve ever made, Being John Malkovich is truly one of the best films ever made. Seriously, I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. It’s absolutely bat-shit crazy premise involves a desperate puppeteer (John Cusack), his animal-obsessed wife (Cameron Diaz) and his sexually manipulative co-worker (Catherine Keener) discovering a portal into actor John Malkovich’s brain. You know, John Malkovich? From that jewel heist movie? It had been five long years since I last saw this masterpiece and it’s even better than I remembered. Completely ridiculous yet surprisingly profound, Being John Malkovich is unlike anything ever committed to celluloid. The amazing Criterion Collection features include an audio commentary track by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry, who remarks in a thick French accent, “Being John Malkovich? What the fuck is this?! I didn’t do this movie!” He talks about he loves but resents Spike Jonze for making such a strong debut feature and randomly talks about actor/director Vincent Gallo (The Brown Bunny, Buffalo ’66) being an arrogant asshole for some reason. Grade: A 

HOUSE 2

House (1977/dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi/Japan) – Speaking of absolutely bat-shit crazy, the comedic (?) horror (?) classic House might have Being John Malkovich beat in the bizarre department. Not an easy feat, but if you’ve seen House, you’ll most likely agree that films don’t get more bananas BANANAS BANANAS BANANAS. I can see how a lot of parochial viewers would see this as indecipherable trash, but I absolutely love this film. It’s one of the most relentlessly fascinating and uncompromising visions I’ve ever seen brought to film. Even if it doesn’t have a point, it’s a hilarious blast to look at for 88 minutes. For best results, sit back, relax and let it completely wash over you. Careful of that goddamn cat! Now Streaming on HuluPlus Grade: A- 

THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY 2

The Long Good Friday (1979/dir. John Mackenzie/UK) – A jarringly 70s grind house music score punctuates John Mackenzie’s glacially-paced but ultimately effective crime drama. The Long Good Friday follows gangster Harry Shands’ (the late great Bob Hoskins) battle with the IRA to stay top dog in London. Unfortunately, the Criterion Collection (printed in 1998) doesn’t come with subtitles, so much of the actors’ thick Cockney got lost on these yankee ears. Even with not completely understanding them (I go the gist of what they were saying), it’s an easy story to follow due in part to Berrie Keefe’s remarkably uncomplicated and basic screenplay. This ends up being one of the film’s biggest downfalls as well as the amateurish direction. Despite these crucial shortcomings, the two lead performances are solid. Helen Mirren is wonderful as Shands’ cunning femme fatale wife and Bob Hoskins delivers one of the best performances of his career (and that’s an amazing career) as the angry bulldog-esque crime boss. Hoskins is absolutely riveting and his work in the final scene is among the finest bits of acting I’ve ever seen. Out of Print. Grade: B

Rank My Ranks – Halloween Edition – 3 – They Don’t Have Names for What They Are

Michael and I continue treading through our respective lists on horror movies with a brief fork in interests, but related enough that we’ll double teaming both lists at yah anyway. As a guy who grew up to really really love the monsters we see in celluloid, literature, and beyond (I think I remember at one point wanting to grow up to be Godzilla), it seemed quite easy to lean on to the idea of taking ten of my favorite movie characters in horror cinema and giving them a toss down the ol’ list treatment describing what exactly about their integration within the story, the design, and overall world of the movie makes me really fond of them so much.

Michael being the thespian that he is (no shit, he’s fucking funny) elected instead to lean on the accomplishments of many actors and actresses throughout horror movie history and how they themselves brought out the best (or sometimes the very worst) of their characters. As such we got two such lists with two different intentions:

Mike’s Top Ten Favorite Horror Movie Performances

and

STinG’s Top Ten Favorite Horror Movie Characters

Same shtick as usual, STinG in blue, Mike in red.

And we’ll start with Mike’s list so heeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!

MIKE’S TOP TEN HORROR PERFORMANCES

SPECIAL MENTION to Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet who would have ranked #1 on the list had I decided on considering Blue Velvet a horror film.

Totes magotes Hopper stole the entire town with his performance and Frank Booth is among my favorite characters in cinema. And I think Naomi Watts’ performance in Mulholland Dr. is remarkably demanding and multi-layered in ways that would put her worth a mention, not to have hijacked your honorable mention.

10. Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978, dir. John Carpenter)

Most people only remember Jamie Lee Curtis in John Carpenter’s classic, but the guilt-ridden Dr. Loomis, played by the late great Donald Pleasance, is the real heart and soul of the film. Despite his less than stellar work in the mostly horrendous sequels, his monologue in the original Halloween about looking into the eyes of a killer delivered to Sheriff Brackett always gives me chills.

9. Jason Miller as Father Damian Karras in The Exorcist (1973, dir. William Friedkin)

In a film filled with wonderful performances, Jason Miller is the stand-out as the young priest tasked with the impossible. Whether he’s humorously bullshitting with Lee J. Cobb or dealing with the guilt of his mother’s death, Miller creates an incredibly sympathetic and relatable character.

Personally I never had much reaction to Miller in The Exorcist, but that’s generally because everything I like and respond to within that movie comes solely from Ellen Burstyn’s Chris MacNeil trying to find out what’s up with her daughter Regan and everything else is just… stuff I watch in the middle of it (it doesn’t help that at points it seems Chris and Karras’ stories get tangled up in the editing of the film – and for a central character Father Merrin is outright out of the picture until the last 15 minutes like the movie forgot about him). I’m totally setting myself up for a lynching by saying I don’t love The Exorcist.

8. Bruce Campbell as Ashley J. Williams in Evil Dead II/Army of Darkness (1987/1993, dir. Sam Raimi)

I think I’ve already spent enough time praising how brilliantly physical he is in Evil Dead II and how charmingly sarcastic he is in Army of Darkness over the past week… but fuck it, lemme do it again! Bruce Campbell is the real MVP!

Perhaps this isn’t the most complex performance, but Bruce Campbell delivers some of the greatest screen charisma I’ve ever seen in the second and third of the Evil Dead series. While Raimi’s effects are wonderfully twisted and entertaining, Campbell’s Ash is the glue that holds it all together. He’s the funny badass every viewer wants to be.

7. Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining (1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick)

You really want to know how great and versatile performances in Kubrick’s films are, just compare the stare shots of all the characters and in Nicholson’s performance you will get icy real quick.

Some say this performance was too over-the-top (look to the goddamn awful Shelley Duvall for that) but I think it’s perfectly in-tune with the tone of the picture. It’s not a particularly realistic and grounded portrait of a man on the edge of a mental breakdown, it’s the type of riveting and exaggerated performance you’d see in some grand opera. Nicholson is so unhinged as Jack Torrance, you have absolutely no idea what he’s going to do next.

The performance Nicholson was born for and the reason why I’m not as crazy of him as an actor anymore is how every single performance I see from him since ‘89 is using beats and notes that he already did better and more effectively in The Shining and Batman. I’ll also note that I love Shelley Duvall’s performance too.

6. Essie Davis as Amelia in The Babadook (2014, dir. Jennifer Kent)

Speaking of grounded and realistic portraits of humans on the edge of a mental breakdown, look no further than the marvelous Essie Davis in Jennifer Kent’s brilliant and unsettling mental illness allegory, The Babadook. If you ever wanted to strangle your misbehaved child, you’ll love or hate The Babadook but will instantly relate to Essie Davis’ wholly empathetic performance.

Never had a child. But the scariest thing about the Babadook is how easily I could get on her side the more and more tyrannical Davis became to his son. It’s totally like a psychological downfall that nevertheless makes sense (which isn’t to say her son isn’t also great at playing somebody just as crazy and shattered as Davis and he is of course wholly innocent and undeserving of what he hears).

The Academy really missed the mark not nominating her in the Leading Actress category last year.

5. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho (1960, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Before Buster and Lucille, there was Norman Bates and his mother. You could make a sound argument that the Arrested Development mama’s boy type situation is creepier than what Alfred Hitchcock crafted in 1960, but you’d not be taking into consideration Perkins’ creepy, incredibly effective and surprisingly minimalist portrayal of a boy incapable of functioning without a parental figure.

You know how easy it is to tell how good Perkins is in this role? Watch the remake alongside the original. Vince Vaughn doesn’t necessarily do anything “wrong” in his performance (I think all I like him in is Swingers and that’s it), but he’s stale potatoes next to Perkins having a jolty, effeminite swing to his posture in this film.

Perkins would later make I’m Dangerous Tonight, and no one would give a shit.

4. Tim Curry as It in It (1990, dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)

Do people even think of the story alone without Tim Curry at this point? He’s totally that movie’s entire effect, it’s all caught in his gleeful monstrous presence.

I’m a huge fan of Stephen King’s Godfather-esque horror epic It so naturally I hate Tommy Lee Wallace’s suitable for primetime celluloid miscarriage. All of the best scenes were omitted and/or changed and focus shifted away from the villain being the town’s sins and prejudices to some giant spider horseshit. Even the acting was cheesy and over-the-top, with the exception of Tim Curry. It’s a tragedy Curry put so much effort into creating such an iconic and beautifully realized monster for such a bullshit movie. In the audio commentary on the TV movie, the actors who played the adults spend the whole time jerking each other off and briefly mention that Curry is a “great…performer.” Fuck those guys, they’re the REAL clowns for not realizing how much better of an actor Curry is than them. All respect to John Ritter, may be the only exception.

3. Sissy Spacek as Carrie White in Carrie (1976, dir. Brian De Palma)

It’s maybe the best sign of anything when I’m kind of not fond of Carrie itself as a movie, but I totally have to hold Sissy Spacek’s performance as one of the all-time finest turns in horror cinema.

If you’ve ever been teased or bullied you instantly identify with Carrie White. This is not necessarily because of how the character is written but because of the earnest intensity Spacek imbues her with. Also, who wouldn’t want the power to pulverize their tormentors?

Part of that is just because she just looks the part of someone who is easily bullied, with her pale complexion and mawkishness to her. But also an internal commentary when Spacek is able to also build an emotional shell all around her, an inability to grow out of the way people mock her, it’s simply because she thinks the world is bigger than her rather than not trying to be a woman like everybody else. And we think it’s bigger than her too. And then she breaks that. Violently. In the end.

Yet for as violently crazy as she becomes, you never stop sympathizing with her even if you can’t exactly root for her. Spacek is one of the best actresses we have left, and if you ask me, she could out-act Meryl Streep any goddamn day of the week.

1 and 2 (respectively). Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling and Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991, dir. Jonathan Demme)

The most iconic movie monster of all time is of course a human being.

You remember how much screentime Hannibal had in the whole movie? 11 minutes. I swear you answered with a larger number, but it was 11 minutes. And those 11 minutes are among the unforgettable moments in the whole movie because Hopkins controls the audience with just his eyeline and controlled manner of speech.

Anthony Hopkins may only get a few minutes of screentime, but he completely owns it. Hopkins create such a complex character that is both detestable and likeable at the same time. This is the work of a seasoned professional. Seasoned, just like Salim’s liver, with a side of fava beans and nice Chianti.

As good as Hopkins was, though, Jodie Foster is the reason that The Silence of the Lambs works. One of the strongest female characters ever to grace the cinema, Clarice Starling doesn’t let her disadvantages being a woman from a lower class background effect her, but at the same time she understands them.

Essentially the movie has to be about Clarice seeing into the spectrum of evil between Hannibal and Buffalo Bill and trying to get out clean as she can (something Thomas Harris ruined in the literary sequel, but I honestly don’t like any of the Hannibal novels anyway). So it’s entirely understandable that a strong lead would have to be given to Clarice before any other character. That Foster takes hold of that given-ability to be the sole humanity in the film from her assignment onward and yet allows Clarice to be quavering and struggling and brave as a hot mess all at once is the proper amount of overtness against Hopkins’ subtlety and anything less would have made this just another cannibal feature.

Her monologues, delivered flawlessly by Foster, about losing her father and the lambs at night always make me tear up.

Nice and clean and so now we move on to my own list and… shit, I could swear I had a liver there, but whatever… now we move on to…

STinG’s Top Ten Horror Movie Characters

It’s not necessarily an honorable mention, but The Mystery Man from Lost Highway was on the shortlist and I haaaaad to give it a mention just because before I got cutting it down to ten, Mike had simply one hilarious thing to say about him:

He did get away with killing his wife.

10. The Phantom Erik as portrayed by Robert Englund in The Phantom of the Opera (1989, dir. Menahem Golan)

Props to Lon Chaney’s turn obviously. It’s superior without even needing to say it.

Chaney was a class act.

But this Phantom gets me a bit happier, even if the movie and performance aren’t worth much, because it is a movie that interrupts the romanticizing of the phantom (thanks for that Webber and eat a dick!) to just transform him into more than just a villain but a slasher outright. A slasher played by Robert Englund himself of all folks. And channeling Freddy Krueger in the most obvious fashion for just a quick buck. So I guess it’s more from the world he lives in than the actual character himself, but hey, for everything else…

9. The Xenomorph Alien (1979, designed by H.R. Giger)

Yeah this thing is the worst thing ever. You’re fucked any way you look at it. So phallic too.

Fucking rape monster is what it is. I can’t say it any better than Ash, so I wont. I’ll just put the scene where he describes the beast.


8. The Thing (1982, dir. John Carpenter)

Less physically terrifying than the Xenomorph, but this might have the edge because it goes by a little more undetected.

When your body is messing with you so much that you don’t know if you’re you anymore, but just a copy of a copy. Making The Thing potentially more paranoid of itself than anyone else on edge in that base and in the name of survival (and invasion too, one insists, since it is an alien monster). The Thing ain’t got no chill.

7. Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992, dir. David Lynch)

It’s one thing to have her mystique present post-humously throughout the actual tv show, but meeting the real thing and finding out how wild and human and, well, alive she was when she was, well… a-… breathing… It’s one of the most refreshing portrayals of sexually open women in film without any judgment at all. At the same time, knowing what we know going in and seeing what happened in her life that put her in a state of mind is all the more atrocious and shocking, causing a lot more sympathy for Laura than she ever seemed to have in Twin Peaks.

Never seen the movie, but I’m a huge fan of the show. She’s the good girl next door but also the bad girl but also the girl that realizes she’s fucked up mentally yet the girl who is stupid enough to get her ass killed and mean enough to demean her boyfriend for crying during sex yet nice enough to want to bed James. Damn girl, make up your mind!

Mike, I was in such a good fucking mood before you mentioned Hurley, fuck you.

The fuck you smiling about, Hurley?

6. Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) in Evil Dead II (1987, dir. Sam Raimi)

Such a great character, I think I enjoy him a tad more in Evil Dead II though.

Army of Darkness is where he gets really cool and badass, but Evil Dead II is where he’s off the walls with his duty to carry the film by himself in a creepy demonic cabin. The same psychological deterioration that comes from murdering his friends now crafts him into a clown, the same physical torments that race to break his soul and his bones at once make him a cartoon and it’s all the better for it.

He’s just a guy so deep in the shithouse he stopped caring.

5. Jack Torrance as portrayed by Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick)

If Nell Lance is a broken victim of ghosts, Jack is bad man trying really hard not be bad and the ghosts are just bringing out the dormant violence in him. There is one hundred percent no doubt that there was always this evil and malice living in Torrance and when he goes full on madman by the end, it’s just liking getting back on a bike. No wonder Stephen King hates this version of a man he originally crafted a story of redemption for in his novel. Kubrick’s Torrance has no chance for redemption, doesn’t care for it, and makes his restraint and sobriety feel more like a obligatory nuisance than anything.

Yeah he’s a real asshole. Narcissistic in a way only an unsuccessful writer can be plus he’s a self-pitying drunk. He gleefully talks about cannibalism with his son and is physically abusive. I hate this character, but from a storytelling perspective this is the best choice for a guy being influenced by murderous spirits.

4. Rosemary Woodhouse as portrayed by Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby (1968, dir. Roman Polanski)

Need to see this, I really dig Polanski but would hate to be dug into by Polanski.

Frighteningly naive to the point that we’re really sorry she’s going through all that she’s going through, domesticated to a regressive point that she’ll listen to each and every person in the movie despite it being almost immediately obvious that nobody is up to no good. Even her husband, the person she puts the most trust in, is maybe the biggest scumbag in Polanski’s entire career (at least Noah Cross KNOWS he’s pure evil). That crashing of her world, which we see through her eyes, that reality that her life is being controlled with friends that have no interest at all in her mental or physical well-being, that manipulation is maybe the worst thing to happen to Rosemary in a movie where she is literally raped by Satan. And then the ending beat of the movie happens and oh my god, this movie ends on a very depressing and chilling note that we should have expected.

3. Nell Lance as portrayed by Julie Harris in The Haunting (1963, dir. Robert Wise)

What makes ghost stories really great is when their victims are psychologically broken and Nell Lance may be the most broken of them all. She’s never had any chance to live a real life and the first chance she has to moving on from her mother’s death, she just willingly lets herself become a deeper part of the madness of Hill House, all while trying and failing to flirt with half of the cast in the most awkward fashion. She’s just perfect for ghosts to take control of.

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen this. Is this the Liam Neeson character from that awesome Zeta-Jones picture?

Different movie. The Liam Neeson movie, which I’ve only seen parts of, is a 1999 remake of this one.

2. Count Orlok as portrayed by Max Shreck in Nosferatu (1922, dir. F.W. Murnau)

Never seen this one either.

Just looking at him, though, what an ugly, offsetting repulsive thing. What a gigantic rat of a creature. His very presence is stiff and gaping, like a moving shadow or abyss, adding dread from his otherworldly demonic appearance that we never feel sorry for. I’d never ever want to be in the same room as him, he’s disgusting. Isn’t it great?

My dad was Nosferatu for Halloween one year though. I remember the makeup irritated his skin.

1. The Monster as portrayed by Boris Karloff in Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein (1931/35, dir. James Whale, designed by Jack Pierce)

The single greatest arc of monster yet, a sympathetic yet menacing mass of existence with his large brow and his sullen eyes… The look alone is iconic for its simplicity, but the fact that the true shading comes in how he struggles to be a person – speech, friendship, love, and all the other things he hunts for and is denied – is exactly the sort of thing that makes us sometimes root for the monsters.

Poor guy just wanted to play flowers. Karloff was one of the greats, and played a gangster in the original Scarface. Imagine that, Don Frankenstein.

Considering how late it is, I won’t bombard you with a lengthy denouement about our discussion, but only invite you guys to join in… what are your favorite horror movie characters? What performances in horror cinema stand out most to you? Mike and I totally wanna know so that we can mock YOUR opinions too, so feel free to comment! Thanks for reading!

Death By Cinema – 24 – House

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 24 – House

What can I say about House? Well, I don’t know much about it, but my personal history with this film begins when I was hosting a pop culture talk show, A Night at the Opera, with my friends Salim Garami and Erickh Norman. We were doing our top 100 favorite films countdown. Salim happened to mention the film House. Now, I did not study film much as an undergrad from an academic perspective, so I admittedly have some big gaps in my knowledge, though I am trying to learn. Plus I have my own wheelhouse when it comes to film studies, so I’m solid. But when Salim mentioned House, I thought he meant the early 80s film starring William Katt. This confused me because that film, apart from a nice supporting role played by George Wendt, is a very forgettable, middle of the road movie. So, Salim and Erickh proceed to tell me about this movie and… it just sounded nuts. Cool, but balls out crazy. Good, I like those kind of films and, after a couple years, I’m finally seeing it. So, how crazy is it?

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
I had no clue this was a Janus Film… and in conjunction with Toho?!? Kick ass!
The credit’s proclaim it “A Movie… HOUSE!” With an announcer saying the name.
We have a weird box in box visual effect to being the action of the film. I don’t get it.
Man, this film’s got some bizarre matte shot effects.
The music is also weird. And so is the editing. We’re 3 1/2 minutes in and I have no clue what’s going on with the visual style of this film… but I kinda like. It’s unique. But I have a feeling I’ll only be able comment on the big stuff when it comes to this, otherwise I’ll be pausing every 15 seconds.
Actual quote: Gorgeous’ Father: “Leone said my music was better than Morricone’s.” Boo! Not possible!
I love this shot through the window to the terrace. The fact that there are so many panes make a very fractured look. Same thing with the camera moving from side to side.
So, basically, the plot begins with a high school girl, Gorgeous, objecting to her father’s marriage. So, instead of going on vacation with them, she asks to stay at her aunt’s House. She takes her six friends the nerdy Prof, foodie Mac, Melody, Fantasy, Kung Fu, and Sweet.
I just realized, this music sounds like it should be featured in an anime where a girl travels to a mystical fairy land and is about to kiss the main boy, but gets interrupted. Oh, well. It’s get a pretty sunset.
Now we have aa weird American pop song that sounds like it would be best suited for a Scooby Doo chase scene. Seriously, so much of the action looks like it belongs in an anime. And sure enough part of the scene is animated!
We keep seeing a cat reappear. It’s almost like they’re foreshadowing something.
God, how am I supposed to comment on anything when I need to comment of everything?!?
There’s a really cheesy special effect of the past Aunt grasping a rose and an animated stream of blood coming from her hand. As I understand, this is only the beginning of cheesy effects.
This film is very enjoyable so far, but my God, this is a gauntlet. It’s an assault on the senses. And I’m only 20 minutes into the film. They aren’t even at the house yet!
They go to buy a watermelon and meet a merchant who reminds me of an Asian Oliver Hardy with no mustache and WAY creepier. Also, that is a big ass watermelon.
The most fake bird I’ve seen this side of Birdemic just swung by.
Why does this same white cat keep showing up? Now it’s eyes glow green causing a camera to fly out of one of the girls’ hands?
Mac went back to buy the watermelon, which she cradles like an infant. Seriously, they are getting a lot of traction out of the “Mac is fat” joke.
Some crystals fall from the chandelier and freakin’ Kung Fu reacts like this is a goddamn episode of Sailor Moon!
Actual line: “Well done! You’re so cool, Kung Fu.” This girl says it as her hat falls comically back on her head.
Ok, here we go with the haunted insanity. Fantasy pulls the watermelon up from the well, but that’s no watermelon… THAT’S MAC’S SEVERED HEAD! It talks to her, then flies around, bites her ass, and vomits blood. All of this happens in front of an obvious blue screen.
Actual dialogue: “A human head!” “Everyone has one!”
The aunt stands from her wheelchair for the first time. I’m guessing the evil house is giving her energy.
The aunt eats the watermelon, opens her mouth and winks at Fantasy, an eyeball in her mouth.
It’s weird that no one besides Fantasy has noticed Mac is gone.
Oh, good, a creepy doll. No way that won’t be a horrible plot device used for death.
Kung Fu is being attacked by a bunch of flying pieces of wood. Dude, I dig her. She’s just the right enough of anime martial arts master that I like.
Fantasy sees the aunt go into the fridge, which causes her friends to continue to think she’s crazy, while the aunt breaks the fourth wall, dances with a skeleton, and eats a human hand. She also feeds it to a goldfish and her cat meows in time to the music, flopping around the piano. What is happening?!?
Gorgeous puts on lipstick, until she sees her reflection has vampire teeth. Then the cat’s eyes make the mirror shatter, which causes her face to shatter, replaced by flames. I swear no acid caused me to write that last sentence.
Now the cat’s eyes are making the piano keys light up in red, white, and blue. ‘MURICA.
Sweet is attacked by killer pillows and mattresses. Dude, are you kidding me? That would be the best poltergeist ever!
Why is no one listening to Fantasy? Weird stuff is going on, but oh, let’s not listen to Fantasy who’s seen some of this spooky shit happening.
Fantasy continues to be worried. But fear not, “Your love, Mr. Togo, is coming soon. He’s a man after all. He can help us.” Uh, ladies, you don’t need a man to save or define you. All you need is Kung Fu. Also, Togo comes riding in on a white horse in a quick fantasy that looks like the opening to Princess Kenny.
I don’t know why in this scene it looks like the removed every 5th frame, but it does.
Finally, we have some classic haunted house stuff to scare the girls, like windows rattling and doors slamming and the fog rolls in.
I like the camera movement, following the girls as they walk in a circle, thinking over their conundrum.
They find a hand (probably the one the aunt was chomping at), and notice that Mac’s ribbon is on it. Oh, no! Their friend is dead! Let’s just go downstairs and listen to Melody play piano. That’ll solve everything!
So far, we have Sweet killed by pillows, Mac decapitated, Gorgeous is missing (only to be found dressed in Japanese bridal attire), and now Melody is attacked by the piano. Rather, the cat’s eyes flash again, cheesy lights engulf her fingers and her fingers get cut off as she’s surrounded by a blue aura. It’s cool, shellacks stoked that her fingers are gone until the goddamn piano eats her as he body parts flail around inside the piano! Jesus Christ! Anyone remember that level in Super Mario 64? The ghost level? Like the piano in that. Oh, also lots of bad blue screen.
The music we hear while Gorgeous is dressed bridal attire sounds like something from a level of The Legend of Zelda.
Ok, now Sweet is stuck in the bleeding clock in the wall as Kung Fu and Prof look on.
Melody’s disembodied fingers still play the piano, striking an off note. The effect is really corny, with the fingers basically hanging from wires.
So, now the only ones still alive and in their right minds are Kung Fu, Prof, and Fantasy, somehow.
A guy randomly appears eating a plate of ramen noodles while he has a giant teddy bear in the background dressed as a Japanese chef.
Various things begin flying around the room including some disembodied lips. Because, why the hell not at this point?
The lips tell why everything is happening. Basically, the aunt died waiting for her love to return from the war. Now she inhabits the house, eating girls, because that’s the only time she can wear her bridal gown.
A lot of quick cuts including Prof reading, Kung Fu kicking the ass of the things flying around, Fantasy being useless, and SON OF A BITCH, the cat becomes a damn monster!
Kung Fu escapes the house to fight the ghost of the aunt, as Togo drives around trying to find the house.
They keep quick cutting to the image of the cat and good lord is it creepy.
Kung Fu is then hit with an overhead lamp and is electrocuted as we see the evil smiling cat, the disembodied body parts of the dead girls float around, but all of a sudden Kung Fu’s disembodied legs, come out and destroy the cat painting, there by the cat, thereby the aunt (who bleeds buckets), and thereby the house… maybe? The cat painting then vomits blood as Prof and Fantasy are left floating on a river of cat blood.
Togo’s still driving around the countryside in his dune buggy looking for the house. He runs across the Oliver Hardy watermelon salesman. The watermelon guy says the girls were eaten and they were delicious. We then get them both trying to overact each other.
Actual dialogue: Watermelon: “Do you like watermelons?” Togo: “NOOOOO!” Watermelon: “What then?” Togo: “Bananas!”
The watermelon salesman then turns into a skeleton as Togo jumps back into the dune buggy shouting Banana over and over again.
Back on the river of cat blood, Prof loses her glasses and is eaten by an earn with teeth. She then swims in the blood naked going “Woo” as women are want to do, I assume.
The aunt then continues to pet the cat, Blanche, as Fantasy continues to roll along the river of blood. A topless Gorgeous then reappears to save Fantasy, maybe… but no it’s the Aunt. But Fantasy chooses to embrace Fantasy and see her as Gorgeous as her eyes glow.
Later on, the stepmother comes to the watermelon stand, posing in slow mo. She then blue screen walks around the house and the landscape. Gorgeous, in the aunt’s kimono, invites the stepmother into the House.
Last cool lines: Stepmother: “Where are your friends? Still sleeping?” Gorgeous: “Yes, but they’ll wake up when they’re hungry. They wake up when they’re hungry.” Her eyes then glow as Blanche the cat runs by and the stepmother’s head catches on fire. We do hear one more little monologue from the aunt, but I like this ending more.

Okay, well that was batshit insane. Seriously, where do I start? There’s not really one aspect of this film I am confident about coming from a sane person. The technical aspects were all over the place. The cinematography was wild. The editing was choppy and almost seizure inducing in its rapidity. Every aspect of the mies-en-scene from the acting to the sets to the lighting were crazy. The special effects were laughable. The writing made not one goddamn bit of sense.

And yet… this movie was awesome! Seriously, the insanity works for this film in every frame. My big thing is, you can make a bad film, just don’t make it boring. This film is absolutely not boring and it’s not bad either. The choices for all those elements were deliberate and made for some amazing art choices. Seriously, I think this was such a good time, if way too much sensory overload. This film is an all out assault you won’t want to stop. Good times.

Tomorrow, I’ll be watching another crazy film… House II: The Second Story! Oh, but this one isn’t a sequel to this House, it’s a sequel to the American one. And it is so random and fun. Good times ahead!

Death By Cinema – 23 – Frankenstein Unbound

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 23 – Frankenstein Unbound

So, I’m not going to talk about Roger Corman too much. I’ve already written quite a bit about him, though not this month. I do think it’s safe to say he’s quite possibly one of the most influential men in filmmaking of the past 60 years or so. He jump started countless Hollywood careers, from many big names, Nicholson, Deniro, Scorsese, Cameron, Towne, Howard, Bogdonovich, being just a handful. He influenced the way independent movies are shot, financed, and marketed. As a producer, he made memorable film and, more importantly, he made profitable films.

However, I don’t really see much about him as a director, though he directed about 56 films, both officially and unofficially. Last year, I did a review of his film X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes. While no modern marvel, it is at least a serviceable film, that is very watchable. The directing is unremarkable, though decent. It tells a good story though and does have some nice visual images. Today, I’ll be looking at the last film he’s directed (so far, though likely ever), 1990’s Frankenstein Unbound. Not only was this the last film he directed, though by no means the last he has produced, it was also his first official return to the director’s chair in 19 years. So, how does he do? Let’s see!

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
I just realized, this is the 3rd Frankenstein film I’ve watched this month, the other’s being Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks and Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. It’s technically the 4th, if you include Dr. Orloff’s Monster from yesterday, which shares some minor plot similarities.
I should mention, by the way, that this movie has a solid cast in John Hurt, Raul Julia (playing Dr. Frankenstein), and Bridget Fonda.
We being in 2031 New Los Angeles, where we see John Hurt as a doctor who makes a machine that creates black holes. This will eventually lead to big time slips.
Hurt’s character, Buchanan, seems to both be horrified and not care that the potential end of the world weapon he’s created. Very uneven writing.
This movie is just fairly bizarre, like this scene where Buchanan helps the neighborhood kids bury a bike and one of Genghis Khan’s warriors plops down from out of the sky in a time slip.
You can say a lot about the futuristic stuff in this film (though we’re now in the past), but Buchanan has a cool car and jacket.
You know, this movie is probably the best looking of Corman’s films. It looks very professional.
The initial interaction between Buchanan and Frankenstein is quite well done and enjoyable. Comes from having two very good actors.
The dream sequence with Buchanan relies WAY too much on that wavy effect common in flashbacks.
I like that, though this film is set in Vienna, the accents are all over the place. Some English, some American, and Julia even tries for a continental accent.
We see Bridget Fonda as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, soon Shelly. She’s pretty, as usual, but like many of her co-actors, doesn’t even attempt an accent.
I’ll tell you, this movie is very cheesy thus far, but it is by no means boring and even somewhat enjoyable. I think this is largely because of Julia and Hurt, plus the polished look of the film
We see the Monster. He’s very cool looking and unique, if a bit cheesy. Plus, he speaks like in the way that was intended by the original Shelly novel.
Actual dialogue: Frankenstein: “You murdered my brother!” Monster: “Mur…dered?”
Damn, that Monster has some big ass hands.
Actual line: Byron: “I thought all American scientists were known as Ben Franklin.” True story.
The guys playing Byron and Shelly actually act sorta like an over the top version of what I think Byron and Shelly were actually like. I wouldn’t call this good writing or acting, but a mere coincidence.
The crowd reactions to the hanging is way too corny. The hanging itself looks kinda neat though.
You know, for a Frankenstein movie, we’ve seen very little of Frankenstein or his Monster. It’s not bad, because Buchanan is fairly interesting, but it is bizarre.
I was about to say, it’s weird that Buchanan can drive his car around without anyone noticing, but he blatantly drives through town just as I write this, plus he tells Mary Shelly about him being from the future. Nice undercover work there, guy.
I just realized, John Hurt became a master of time and space here, years before he became the Doctor.
And, they’re having Buchanan hook up with Mary Shelly? Jesus… for a master of time and space, Buchanan is really screwing with history. Also, I should just point out that John Hurt is 24 years older than Bridget Fonda.
Actual line: Mary Shelly: “Percy and Byron preach free love. I practice it.”
So, Mary Shelly believes that Buchanan is here to stop Frankenstein. Hopefully he does and we don’t see what we see in every Frankenstein film, a scientist become enamored by the story and helps him.
I will say, the Monster’s killing of Elizabeth, Frankenstein’s love, is very gruesome and cool. He literally tears her chest open. It still looks hokey, but it’s about as well done as can be expected.
I hate these dream sequences of Buchanan’s because of all the wavy effects Corman uses. Doesn’t matter that without it the sequences might make for interesting film.
Julia’s Frankenstein is a solid villain, though he grows to accept his Monster way too easily.
So, Frankenstein goes legitimately insane, though Julia’s performance is more subdued in it’s insanity. He and Hurt have great chemistry.
Frankenstein revives Julia as the Bride of Frankenstein… but is it his own bridge or the Monster’s bride? That doesn’t matter because Buchanan uses a laser to transport the time and place and move himself, Frankenstein, the Monster, and the Bride to a frozen tundra.
The Monster goes to Elizabeth’s aid (she’s dressed in bandages, like Elsa Lancaster), but like in the Bride of Frankenstein, she rebukes the Monster and goes to Frankenstein. Though in this one, horrified that she’s a monster, she forces Frankenstein to shoot her.
The Monster than picks Frankenstein up and breaks his back, like he’s a piece of wood. He dies soon after, leaving only Buchanan and the Monster.
The area they are now in is apparently a far flung future, where they are the only two left alive. Soon, it will be only one.
They both enter a subterranean lair, where the machine somehow recognizes Buchanan. The stupid light show looks stupid though.
Really cool actual dialogue: The Monster: “What am I that you must destroy me?” Buchanan: “An abomination, in the eyes of God.” Monster: “Then what are you?” Buchanan: “I am…Frankenstein!” Buchanan the destroys parts of his lab to destroy the Monster, finally using a laser to eradicate it. Though, I’m not sure I get how the lasers work, as he controls them as a conductor would control a symphony.
I’m not sure I get the ending. The Monster says, “You think that you have killed me. But I will be with you forever. I am unbound.” I guess the Monster is now in Buchanan’s machine? Or maybe he represents Buchanan’s machine? Buchanan then walks through the frozen tundra to a nearby city. Does the city contain life? Is there life in this future? Is it life connected to Buchanan and his time experiments? I genuinely don’t know.

Okay, this movie suffers it’s share of problems. The script waivers between very bad and sorta decent, the ending suffers from this especially. The effects of the dream sequences and the final lab scene look bad and really hurt the enjoyability of those scenes. The supporting cast beyond Hurt, Julia, and Nick Brimble (The Monster) are not very good (sorry Bridget Fonda). The film runs into the problem of being horribly campy. Corman’s directing is nothing at all to write home about.

That being said, there is a lot of good here as well. The performance from all 3 of the main actors are absolutely wonderful, particularly Hurt. I was surprised how much I like Brimble, though he’s still got some problems. The story had potential. The production design was marvelous. And finally, while I said Corman’s directing was nothing to write home about, it’s not terrible either, just middle of the road. But then again, as a director, Corman was kind of middle of the road, so this was a good film for him to go out on. I’ll always love Corman the producer, but I can also respect Corman the director. He took a lot of risks with this film. Some really paid off, most didn’t. As I said, this movie had a lot of potential and much of it was wasted, but it’s still a worthwhile film. Very watchable and fun in places. I’m glad I saw it.

Tomorrow, I’ll actually look at one of my friend Salim Garami’s favorite films, the always insane 1977 Nobuhiko Obayashi film, House!

Death By Cinema – 22 – Dr. Orloff’s Monster

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 22 – Dr. Orloff’s Monster

So, last year, I did a review of Jess Franco’s The Awful Dr. Orlof. Franco was a Spanish director who, through the weird production laws that were Generalissimo Fransisco Franco’s Spain, ended up making quite a few films in France (BTW, I am aware that Generalissimo Fransisco Franco is still dead). This was because Franco made exploitation films that exploited sex and violence.

As for The Awful Dr. Orlof, I really enjoyed it. It’s nowhere near a perfect film, but I would say it is at least good. For the second day in a row, I’m going to do the douche-y thing and quote my own review from last year, “The film is creepy, atmospheric, and pays tribute to many masters of cinema. While this is by no means the best film I’ve ever seen, or even the best exploitation film I’ve ever seen, it’s been a very nice surprise. I look forward to watching more by Franco. I don’t know if they’ll be anywhere near as good, but I’m curious. He doesn’t touch the masters in terms of overall quality, but pays enough of a tribute to be extremely pleasant. Like watching an art student’s copy of Monet’s Water Lilies, it doesn’t come close to the touch of the master, nor does it add anything to the original, it still provides a pretty picture.”

That being said, I know Franco (and a couple other directors) continued the Orlof(f) series. I’ll be looking at the second of the Orloff films, Dr. Orloff’s Monster. This one is also directed by Franco and actually does not feature the Awful doctor. Instead, it focuses on his follower, Dr. Jekyll (no relation), building a new monster. Some alternate titles of this film include The Secret of Dr. Orloff and The Mistresses of Dr. Jekyll. I don’t know if I have high hopes for this film, but I do have some hopes, so let’s check it out!

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
This film, like the one last year is in glorious black and white. Good, it leant to the atmosphere of the first one.
We open on a man lying diagonally on a bed, his head facing us, from above. It’s a cool shot, though it leads to a jump-cut. I dig the slow pull in and the shadows of the montage of people’s faces. Very creepy, though I think it goes on a couple shots too long and ends too abruptly.
In the credits, Franco is called Jess Frank. I guess this being a French film, they had to give him a more Franco name and… wait a minute.
We begin by seeing Dr. Orloff on his deathbed leaving Jekyll the Frankenstein-like monster they created. I guess Orloff is in this film, though I don’t know if it’s supposed to be the actual doctor, as in the rest of the films, he is played by Howard Vernon, plus the fact that Orloff is clearly alive through the rest of the films and much younger. So maybe this is supposed to take place at the end of the series? I dunno. BTW, in the French language version, he is just called Professor, so I don’t know that Franco intended this to be apart of the Orloff canon, nor do I think he thought much about the Orloff canon.But… aw, hell. I’ve done introduced him enough.
I’m gonna just watch the French version with subtitles, so I can see it how Franco actually intended it. For instance, the monster in French is called a robot.
I love the extreme close ups on Jekyll and Orloff during this scene. It’s very creepy, especially Orloff.
It’s kinda obscene seeing an old Gothic castle with power lines behind it.
Can I just say any time there’s silence in a film, so much so that we can hear the static of the original film stock, that kinda bugs me?
Here’s the Monster, looking very French in his black turtleneck. Seriously, they did a good job of putting him together. He only has a few scars around the jawline.
Here’s a girl doing a striptease in a French cafe. Jekyll uses a button to control the Monster (I guess he is robotic) to strangle her. Maybe it’s just because of the films I’ve seen this month, but I’ve seen way too many girls take their tops off lately… what am I saying?!? I will say this girl’s better looking then most of the others I’ve seen so far this month.
This tracking shot by the taxi is unusual for an exploitation film in that it’s decent cinematography. Really, there’s a good amount of solid cinematography in this flick thus far.
So this taxi driver, who’s hitting on Jekyll’s niece, offers to drive her to her uncle’s over 100 km away, which is… *has to look up this info on a metric converter, because American public schools suck*… about 62 miles! Who hits on a girl and offers to drive her 62 miles? What girl takes a guy up on that offer? I’m surprised this cab driver’s not pulling a Pepe LePew.
Actual translated quote: “I figured you’d go for a gloomy castle the way I go for Sophia Loren.” I know Sophia Loren is still a beautiful woman, but that really dates this film.
The taxi driver then offers to stay at a hotel in the area so he can call the girl and maybe ask her out. Okay, maybe my radar’s off, but ladies, creepy or romantic?
The low, tracking perspective shot of the castle as Jekyll’s niece is entering looks very nice. It’s quickly followed by a very nice high overhead shot inside the castle.
I looked it up on IMDb, but the niece’s name is Melissa, the taxi driver is Juan Manuel, the Monster is Andros, and Dr. Jekyll’s first name is Conrad. Really, Conrad? Forgive me for thinking it might be Henry.
Additionally, Jekyll has a sickly wife and a mistress. I guess the alternate title is accurate.
Through flashback audio, it’s shown Jekyll’s wife also had an affair, causing Jekyll to go a bit mad. I’m guessing he’s also the reason she’s sickly. The idea to tell that part of the story in audio while we see a shot of Jekyll driving head on is very cool.
I’m not judge of French songs, but this singer in the club ain’t bad.
Now that’s an interesting shot. We see the silhouette of two characters, though it’s just that they are unlit, in front of an image of Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp.
One thing I notice about Franco’s work is that he makes great use of negative space, at least in his early work.
So, it turns out Andros was the former lover of Jekyll’s wife.
Even though all the characters speak French in this, the film is supposed to take place in Austria. Also, on IMDb, it shows most of the actors (and Franco himself) are Spanish. A real European affair.
Great use of light, shadow, camera movement, and space as Melissa first sees Andros. Very reminiscent of a Universal horror film.
Here we see a woman bathing. Andros creeps on in, causing her to… faint?… as he goes down the stairs, hits her boyfriend… killing?… him. I dunno, this scene could have been told better.
The singer’s back and singing a pretty cool song about a woman who’s so sexy she’s horrifying. Unfortunately, the subtitles can’t translate all of it.
Aw, man, Andros just killed the singer! The young die good. I know what I said. The camera movements in following Andros and the singer are pretty decent.
This police inspector is a real douche. He’s insinuating pretty much everyone he talks to is the killer of the singer and being real goddamn pompous about it.
There are so many small aspects of French acting I’d like to mention in some of these performances, but I wouldn’t know how because the are small, subtle, numerous, and some are kinda weird.
The family, except Jekyll, are singing a Christmas carol who’s words seem to only include the words “Happy night, Christmas, Merry Christmas” over and over. No wonder Jekyll just left the room pissed.
I’ll tell you, I feel like I’m losing parts of the plot from time to time and I think it’s because I am watching it in French with subtitles. Plus there are a good amount of characters and subplots, most of which I’m not even commenting on.
So, the one Jekyll’s wife cheated on him with was his own brother, Michelle’s father, who Jekyll then killed with a scalpel. So, I guess Andros is Michelle’s father, who sees the resemblance of her mother in her.
Here’s a weird scene where Jekyll, his mistress, and others are tripping on… I guess opium? Maybe pot? I dunno.
Okay, so apparently all the women Andros is killing for Jekyll are Jekyll’s mistresses. There have been 3 deaths thus far. How much does this guy sleep around?
Andros comes in and scares Jekyll’s wife to death. I knew she was sickly, but dang…
Jekyll tries to kill Michelle, because she knows of the murder of her father. She is saved by Andros, who fights with Jekyll, eventually strangling him to death. Juan Manuel tries to shoot Andros, but gets a strangling for his trouble. Luckily, Michelle saves him.
The cops show up and chase Andros. He gets away and they convince Michelle to act as bait for him. Once again, the cinematography and use of light and shadows are fairly good.
They finally kill Andros by shooting him (it’s weird it hasn’t worked before…) and he dies, asking “Why?”

Overall, I liked this movie. I think I prefer The Awful Dr. Orloff, as it had a better story to it and wasn’t as confusing. However, I could easily have just been confused by the subtitles, which weren’t the best. The plot itself kind falls apart 2/3 of the way through, only picking up again in the last 5 minutes or so. There were also a couple too many subplots for my liking in an exploitation flick. That being said, the acting is pretty decent from Jekyll and Michelle particularly. The singer has a great voice. But once again, the star of this film is Franco himself as the cinematography and lighting are all top notch, at least for an exploitation film. Like I said, he’s not a master, but he knew how to mirror the masters well enough to make a solid film. And this absolutely was solid. Not great, but very watchable. I may try to watch one more Franco film before the month is out, likely one of his later films to see if he kept up the quality of his films.

Tomorrow, I’ll review Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound.

Death By Cinema – 21 – Mondo Cane

“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…

Britt

Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart

Day 21 – Mondo Cane

I know it’s not good form to quote one’s self, but I’m going to borrow what I said about Mondo films last year from my review of Mondo Balordo. “Let me talk about Mondo films really quick. A Mondo (Italian for world) is a type of exploitation documentary which depicts random, sensational, over the top scenes of perversity, whether it be nudity, racism, death, etc. all in documentary form. It first came to prominence in the film Mondo Cane, which was actually nominated for an Oscar for Best Song.” So, yes, the film I’ll watch today is the only film I’ll be reviewing this month that was up for any Oscars… Come to think of it, are there any other actual exploitation films with Oscars or Oscar nominations? Other than Roger Corman’s honorary Oscar, I mean. I’m blanking on this… Anyway, here’s Mondo Cane.

Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
I just ran Mondo Cane through a translation thing… It’s A Dog’s World.
Speaking of dogs we open on a kennel, where a dog is being forcefully dragged along. I feel really bad for this dog. It’s being dragged in a very cruel way. The dog is then thrown into the kennel, apparently to be killed by a large group of other dogs.
We then go a memorial service to Rudolph Valantino… What is this 1926? No, this film came out in the inverse of the last two numbers 1962. All of the Italians in this look really angry as opposed to being sad or whatnot… Some of the cinematography and framing is really weird.
Wait… that’s Rossano Brazzi! How has he shown up twice this month’s reviews?!? A bunch of women mob him for autographs and eventually tear off his clothes like he’s Don Lockwood in Singin’ in the Rain.
We now cut to a group of natives in Papua New Guinea swimming in the ocean. The ladies look for men, and their chirping sound a lot like those of their American counterparts.
Now we cut to a group of Navy men lusting after some girls on a motorboat.
Back in New Guinea, we see a woman breastfeeding a wild pig whose mother has died. The tribe then dances as they prepare to slaughter the pigs for a feast and- Oh, Jesus! They’re literally beating the pigs to death with clubs! Dude, that’s harsh!
The narrator is not kind the the New Guinea people, calling them savages. While they did just butcher a pig, cook it, and toss the entrails to the kids (which they in turn made into footballs), but still, that’s not cool to say about people.
The tribesmen are then showed with their dogs and for a second I was worried they’d kill them, but nope, they love ‘em like we do. And speaking of how we love dogs, we then move to a Pasadena pet cemetery (or semetary). Some of these dogs are peeing on other dogs graves. Kinda messed up, but also pretty funny.
Oh, God, now we’re in the Asian country of Formosa and they’re cooking dogs. We see people eating them and we see them dead, but hopefully we don’t see them killed. Come on they’re dogs!
In Rome, we see baby chicks dipped in colored liquid and shoved into an oven to dry. They’re then put into Easter eggs. According to the narration, about 70/100 “meet with unpleasant accidents.”
In Strasbourg, we see guess being overly fed to be made into foie gras. We see them abused in small cages and the narrator brags they are not treated into a more “humane” method. BS.
In Japan, we see people massaging cows and force fed beer to prepare to be good beef. The cost of the beef was $5 a pound, but that’s in ’62 dollars. According to an online calculator, that’s about $39!
Next, we see women put in cages to be sold off as wives to a reigning dictator in some South Sea island. There is so much wrong here.
Now we go to the US where we see rotund women trying to lose weight through aerobics.
Now we see people eating in Hong Kong… once again the animals are mistreated and… aw, that’s a Chinese Raccoon Dog, which I think is one of the cutest dog species. It’s in a cage and likely to be eaten. Boo!
In New York, we see a high end restaurant serving “fried ants, stuffed beetles, butterfly eggs, worms, rattlesnake, muskrat, and so forth.” Jeez, the only one I’d like eat would be rattlesnake. According to the narration, the meal costs $20, which is $157.58. Damn, son. Also, the food looks terrible.
Next, a Malaysian woman prepares to eat snake, which is killed brutally (surprise, surprise). Can we stop with the animal torture already?
After a scene where people follow a saint statue through the streets carrying snakes, we see a scene in Calabria, Italy, where the people severely wound their legs to walk the streets where a Christ statue while later pass by. It’s pretty bloody and messed up. Superstitions can be gross, kids.
Here’s a scene in the US featuring majorettes marching through the streets. Eventually, they get to the beach, now dressed in swimsuits where they reenact drownings, with males faking drowning and the lady lifeguards save them… what?
Now we see nuclear contamination on Bikini Atoll. Specifically, a sea turtle lays her eggs, then can’t find her way back to the sea, where she’ll die. Huge bummer.
In a Malaysian archipelago, we see a graveyard at sea filled with the bones of the dead, filling their own reef. We also see the sharks in these waters, which supposedly have become man-eaters, due to their diet of dead people. The fishermen are shown, both with an abundance of shark fins and missing limbs. It’s extremely shocking, like the rest of this film.
The fishermen catch a shark and let it go, but with a sea urchin in it’s throat, so it will suffer before dying. They justify it because a shark supposedly at a 12 year old kid that day. This is all kinds of harsh.
We see burial rights of various old Christian sects, some of whom lovingly take care of the bones. The kids even seem to play with them, which is freaky.
After some scenes of people around the world doing random things and acting weird, we go to Japan to see their citizens try to see better with those weird, vibrating exercise machines grandmas used to use back in the day. They then have a hangover cure of spraying them with hoses and some hardcore back walking.
Now we see corpses in China getting makeup putting on, as well as their families throwing money on the fire so the dead can take it with them. The narrator points out is kind weird, the dead being Buddhist.
And we just get a string of racism and false information about the Chinese in Singapore. “Untiring in the endless studies of ways of making money, they are also, at the same time known for their physical laziness.” “There is nowhere else on this earth that so much is eaten as in Chinatown, the Chinese quarter of Singapore. Just as there is no race as politic as the yellow race. Between one snack and another, the Chinese find time to fill their houses with dozens of legitimate and illegitimate children, thus assuring themselves a great number of birthdays to celebrate with heavy dinners.” Wow.
We then see a “house of death” in Singapore, where people literally go to die, as their families wait below, eating while their family dies alone. Very sad.
After some scenes of cars being crushed in a wrecking yard, then being displayed as modern art in Paris.
Well, here’s a painter conducting an orchestra (doing the theme to the film), as he has women dip themselves fully in paint, and he then uses the paint on the girls to make art.
Here are Hawaiians doing a hula and passing out leis.
Now we see a Nepalese soldier dressed as a woman for a celebration. He is joined by numerous friends. And now… Damn! They’re decapitating cows! With swords! In one swing! At least the bulls don’t suffer.
Now we see a Running of the Bulls style event in Portugal. Talk about a dangerous event. They actually wrestle the bulls to the ground!
We see the “last cavemen” which is really just an uncontested tribe in New Guinea. The narrator is really very intolerant. In New Guinea, we also see a tribe converting to Catholicism, which the narrator insists is the only thing that will civilize them. We finish on a tribe that basically worships airplanes.

Ok, so this film is a real mixed bag. This is a film that emphases it’s use of mies-en-scene. Scenery is important to every scene, as are the human and animal figures. These are far more important than the cinematography or editing, which ranges from decent to bizarre. Then again, they had a different film crew in each area they went to, so it’s understandable. The film mixes it’s music well, particularly it’s theme song “More”, which was nominated for an Oscar. I can see why, it’s a very good instrumental.

As to the content of the film, I am conflicted here. I firmly believe a lot of this needed to be exposed, but animal abuse and mistreatment is always hard to watch. Honestly, some of the individual short scenes that lead into others that could easily make their full movies. I know many scenes were actually set up ahead of time, which ruins the purity of a true documentary, but it’s still revealing real problems. However, this film falls under the problem of most Mondo films; it’s other content is unnecessary and awkward. Many scenes could have been removed and the film would likely have been better. This film also suffers from several cultural misunderstandings, innuendo, and blatant racism. That being said, this is the best Mondo film I’ve seen to date, so I’ll give it a recommendation, just to see it’s lunacy, history, and the vital message of several scenes.

Tomorrow, I’ll watch the second film in Jess Franco’s Dr. Orlof series, Dr. Orlof’s Monster. See ya then!

CRITERION COLLECTION REVIEWS – VOL. 3 (Cronos, The Killer, Topsy-Turvy)

CRONOS CRITERIONTHE KILLER CRITERIONTOPSY TURVY CRITERION

CRONOS 1

Cronos (1993/dir. Guillermo Del Toro/Mexico) – Guillermo Del Toro’s sentimental vampire film is the kind of debut feature that perfectly encapsulates the strengths and weaknesses of the filmmaker. Del Toro excels with imaginative visual images and likable characters but his downfall is often striking a good balance between serious and campy elements of his pictures. He also has problems with pacing. Cronos might be awkward at times, but it’s consistently compelling thanks tot he strong relationship between the protagonist and his granddaughter. The film also marks the beginning of Ron Perelman’s long-standing relationship with Del Tore. Here, Perelman plays a delightfully sinister villain. In a fantastic interview on the Criterion DVD, Perelman reveals he was the only English-speaker on set and that Guillermo Del Toro tried to solve every problem with food. Available for streaming on HuluPlus. Grade: B

THE KILLER 1

The Killer (1989/dir. John Woo/Hong Kong) – Before the incredible Cage-gasm that was Face/Off, John Woo directed this ultra-violent, ultra-cheesy and relentlessly entertaining shoot-em-up about a double-crossed assassin (the delightful Chow Yun-Fat) teaming up with a down-on-his-luck police man (Danny Lee) to fuck up some Triad boss. They should have titled this The Over-Killer, because each victim gets shot a minimum of ten times with handguns that magically hold a hundred bullets per clip. It’s anything but believable, but plenty of aggressively unsubtle Catholic imagery, poor green screen shots, the same awful longue song played a million times and random freeze frames that punctuate the friendship of the two leads make this upbeat bullet buffet absolutely unforgettable. OUT OF PRINT. Grade: B+ 

TOPSY-TURVY, Timothy Spall, 1999. ©October Films

TOPSY-TURVY, Timothy Spall, 1999. ©October Films

Topsy-Turvy (1999/dir. Mike Leigh/UK) – Arthur Sullivan (Allen Cordurner) hates the musicals he and librettist W.S. Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) write. Sullivan sees them as “ridiculous topsy-turvydom” having no weight or substance to them. He dreams of writing a grand opera and threatens to break his contract with the theater company producing his and Gilbert’s work. Sullivan’s threat and awful reviews force Gilbert to come up with The Mikado, an opera about Japanese culture (essentially a yellow-face Minstrel show) that still remains popular today. Gorgeous costume and set decoration, along with fantastic looking musical numbers make this one of Mike Leigh’s most technically impressive films. However, there are several pacing problems and musical numbers go on far too long. Jim Broadbent and Allen Cordurner are excellent in their roles, but the real stand-out is Leigh favorite Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Harry Potter) as on the theater’s most popular actors. Grade: B+ 

Rank My Ranks – Halloween Edition – 2 – Not Another Horror Movie

In continuing with this test piloting of the Rank My Ranks collaboration between Mike and I, the next group of lists one of the things I recognized in my overglut of horror movie lists was movies that I constantly see considered a horror film and am truly fond of enough to consider them at least for my personal canon, but I personally just can’t register or categorize as horror films myself. After all, most categories of genre are less aesthetic-based than realized and more on the reaction we’re given for each type of film – comedies are usually meant to make us laugh rather than look a certain way, horror films are meant to shock or scare us (although they do usually have a consensus look to them), romantic comedies are meant to provoke group suicide, and so on.

Mike gamed on by providing his own modest list as well of not-horror movies in his eyes that he saw as scary and full of craftsmanship enough to earn Ghost’s Mention. And so we lead into our own discussion of our lists in chronological order of film, with the usual order of things:

STinG’s comments are in blue. Mike’s are in red.

God bless your eyes, especially if you’re looking at this in 3-D Glasses, as I am while arranging this.

Photo on 10-22-15 at 11.32 PM

I’m in the middle of a masochistic-yet-annual-obligation-as-a-horror-fan Friday the 13th marathon (God save my soul) and I’m on the 3-D film of the series (There is no God).

Before I begin I want to give the most undead of mentions to Charles Laughton’s 1955 The Night of the Hunter, which absolutely always finds itself on every horror movie list I’ve ever seen worth a damn and has enough rustic fantasia qualities in its cinematography to warrant being called the best type of any fucking movie. Mike has not seen it yet (thank Odin he agreed to do Criterion reviews *wink wink*) and I simply out-and-out refuse to call it horror, period. I don’t even entertain the idea of it being a horror film. Nearly every element of it – narrative and aesthetic – puts it firmly into the noir territory and while the argument that shadows are scary can be made (and that Robert Mitchum in shadows is scarier), I plug my hands on my ears and go “lalala!” at that.

Call me a philistine. Let’s get to the list already.

Faust (1926/dir. F.W. Murnau/Germany) – On STinG‘s list

Never seen the full movie but had to watch part of it in some theater history class or some shit. Compelling imagery.

Compelling imagery and larger-than-life mythologizing. The tale of Faust has always been one I’ve been immensely fond of and this is the one film adaptation (albeit a loose one) of Faust I love most (it probably helps that it is a silent movie for one and one by no less than F.W. Murnau – my pick for the best filmmaker who ever lived). Emil Jannings plays Mephisto exactly the way you’d expect such a role to be performed in a Gothic Opera and the limited resources of 1926 never once prevent this from feeling like a globe-trotting adventure. Of course, it’s also melodramatic to a point that in spite of being a tale of a deal with the devil, it’s not nearly as creepy in its atmosphere – beyond Faust’s first summoning scene – in the same manner as Murnau’s Nosferatu.

As a bonus, I like watching it to a soundtrack of Kamelot songs – namely from the albums Epica and The Black Halo. Which are also based on the tale of Faust.

King Kong (1933/dir. Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack/ani. Willis O’Brien/USA) – on STinG’s list

Never seen it. Is it better than the Jessica Lange one?

Bruh, the Jessica Lange film is better than Citizen fucking Kane, it’s so good. When RKO’s Kong died, nobody fucking gives a shit, but when Dino de Laurentiis’ Kong dies… we all bawling like babies, dude.

No, I’m just kidding, gonorrhea was better than the Lange/de Laurentiis picture. Anybody with even the slightest enthusiasm for Ray Harryhausen’s work (which I like to think is every guy into movies) should see the film that inspired him and it’s my favorite monster movie, but by this point it’s diluted enough into an adventure that I think it’s very easy not to categorize it as horror anymore.

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943/dir. Maya Deren/USA) – On STinG’s list

Never even heard of this one.

It’s a 13 minute short film from 1943 and a damn good ‘un at that. Sits in my top ten movies and completely engrossing as a repeated nightmare to the point that I recently learned David Lynch has NOT seen this movie which just stopped me in my tracks. It feels like the biggest spiritual predecessor to Mulholland Dr. But of course, the real scare doesn’t happen until, well, the end. Before that, it’s all surrealism of the highest order. Like most short films not produced by Disney, you could probably find it in a quick internet search – though try to find it with the “original” soundtrack (original insofar as it was added after the fact with Deren’s involvement) by Ito Teiji, cyclical and sharp that it is.

Godzilla (1954/dir. Honda Ishiro/Japan) – on STinG’s list

What’s a Godzilla?

A Blue Oyster Cult song.

Persona (1966/dir. Ingmar Bergman/Sweden) – on STinG’s list

Haven’t seen this Criterion Collection yet, but a friend of mine requested I review it because she couldn’t understand what the hell was going on and needed another opinion on it.

I promise you once you watch it, you will give me the exact same incredulous reaction to putting it on a horror film list as Barton Fink – maybe even moreso. I should probably note that the only reason it is one here is that fulfills two criteria – 1) It’s one of my favorite movies 2) Wikipedia says it gets categorized under horror by some (same as Barton Fink). So I’m not nearly as committed to putting on this list as everything else, though I’d think any movie that inspires Mulholland Dr. should be given some acknowledgement of how unsettling and broken it is as an experience.

Jaws (1975/dir. Steven Spielberg/USA) – on Mike and STinG’s lists

One of the best action/adventure/thriller but definitely not horror blockbusters ever made. Spielberg brilliantly builds tension by barely showing the shark (a technique that Ridley Scott would later adapt for Alien) and he also lets the characters breath. Jaws isn’t just about a shark, but about three wildly different people hunting a shark all for different reasons. Richard Dreyfuss and Roy “Fosse” Scheider are great, but the real standout is Robert Shaw who delivers a flawless monologue penned by Hollywood legend John Milius.

Every time I don’t put Jaws in a horror category (I agree on calling it an adventure film), I get thrown at least one objection to that. This is a pleasant first to see somebody on my side about not putting it in that box, but I see why people think it is such a horror film. The first half has all the makings of a slasher (except with an aquatic predator rather than an edge-wielding madman), the second half is obviously where it delves into adventure, yet there’s still a manic psychological threat in Robert Shaw’s performance once they’re isolated – they’re stuck with this clearly broken and violent man (that monologue is so obviously John Milius in all the right ways) to worry about inside the ship, while outside, an incredibly large and aggressive maneating monster is waiting for them to fail. And both halves got at least one effective untelegraphed jump scare.

For what it’s worth, Jaws was the one time eight-year-old Salim would have rather done homework instead of watched the movie and did so. Also, it’s my favorite Spielberg (I LOVE MY SPIELBERG, fuk wit me) and if I had put it in my favorite horror movies list, Jaws would go straight to the top. It’s a top five movie for me. As much as it’s a happy accident, the restraint Spielberg and Bill Butler have from showing the violence in usual grindhouse fare, and Verna Fields’ creative runaround with what she can’t show to spread around some tension every time we go in the water, it’s brilliant, it’s exactly the sort of sophisticated and intelligent craftsmanship you ought to expect from the best era of American cinema, even if it’s also the movie that allegedly killed New Hollywood by being such a success.

One last thing and I’m done gushing the fuck out, I’ve seen the movie a million times (I always catch it when a theater close by is showing it no matter what)…

… in the final moments of the film as Brody or the shark going toe to toe and Brody’s sinking into the water with the rest of the ship and trying to shoot the shark… my heart never stops racing. No matter how many times I watch that scene. It’s fucking zooming.

Eraserhead (1977/dir. David Lynch/USA) – on STinG‘s list (Mike’s review)

Really good Lynch, but definitely not up there with his best work. Claymation is off the charts and is it weird I find that mutant baby kinda cute?

Considering that you’re supposed to feel bad for the mutant baby, I don’t think that should hurt that you find it cute at all. Of course, then there’s the fact that you’re supposed to be repulsed by its appearance like Henry is and I don’t think that’s happening with something you find cute. In any case, Lynch has enough top-notch work that Eraserhead has always just about been my THIRD favorite work of his – the other two showing up later in this very list (as well as my fourth favorite). It’s just as avant-garde and ambiguous as Under the Skin and Meshes of the Afternoon, but unlike those, it’s something it’s very easily to apply your own personal emotional narrative to since Henry is such a blank space (the most popular being of course fear of fatherhood and being the head of a household).

House (1977/dir. Obayashi Nobuhiko/Japan) – on STinG‘s list

House is everything and nothing. It is one of a kind, unable to be even slightly copied, a gigantic toybox of moods and thrills for the imagination of Obayashi Nobuhiko and Chigumi to take anywhere they wanna make it. It’s really tough to figure if the girl’s screams are of fear and joy, considering how fun it is while still remaining firmly in haunted house territory.

I definitely consider this one a horror picture and it’s even in my top 10 horror films of all time list. It has creepy imagery in the second half and takes place in a haunted house. That’s how I figured it was a horror film.

One of the most original and hilarious films I’ve ever seen.

House is the fucking shit!

That darn cat!

Ghostbusters (1984/dir. Harold Ramis/USA) – on Mike’s list

This is hands down my favorite 80s comedy. I mean, who the hell doesn’t like Ghostbusters?

In a previous post about Back to the Future Part II, I described Back to the Future as a movie that only assholes hate. That also totally applies to Ghostbusters.

It’s brilliantly combines action/adventure elements with comedy thanks to the incomparable Bill Murray and the incredible writing skills of Dan Aykroyd and the late great Harold Ramis. Supposedly the original script was around three-hundred pages because Aykroyd added Kubrick-level detail to everything. What we get on screen is about a third of that, but that insane level of detail still shines through the wild creativity of events in the film like a giant marshmallow man attacking New York City or Aykroyd receiving a blowjob from a horny ghost.

I don’t think it’s close to perfect, but it’s so feel good and a whole lot of that is simply from the chemistry of the irreplaceable cast – John Belushi could have easily been Peter Venkman and Eddie Murphy as Zeddmore and that would have been a disaster if that happened. Instead, we get a very well-structured and distinctive main cast, some worthy enough effects work to at once match the smokey presence of poltergeists and menace without dipping its hand into horror territory and best of all, while Aykroyd (especially Aykroyd) and Ramis have enough energy within their project to make it all exciting and fun, Murray might not have thought the script was bullshit (I hope he didn’t because I’d disagree), but he acts like it’s bullshit and so gives the perfect central foil of sarcasm to every single motherfucker on-screen.

Movies just don’t get more fun than Ghostbusters.

Like I’m saying, only assholes hate Ghostbusters. Assholes with no dick.

Blue Velvet (1986/dir. David Lynch/USA) – on Mike’s list (STinG’s review)

Mulholland Drive is great, but Lynch’s magnum opus will always be Blue Velvet about the gritty underbelly of good old fashioned clean society. Isabella Rossellini is heartbreaking but Dennis Hopper steals the film by creating a boogeyman far more frightening than any xenomorph or masked killer. Hopper and Dean Stockwell share an awkward sort-of duet of Roy Orbison’s In Dreams (or CANDY-COLORED CLOWN!) in one of the film’s most hauntingly strange and iconically Lynch moments.

And behold my fourth favorite Lynch! And just because I rank it below Inland, Mulholland, and Eraserhead does not mean I’m giving Blue Velvet anywhere near faint praise. Twin Peaks may have expanded on the idea that an idyllic community doesn’t mean there isn’t some real shit underneath it, but Blue Velvet is the one where it’s at the very core of it (which would of course be necessary since we know damn well that it’s a noir). It’s full of icky grit that makes us not want to go outside (well, I mean, assuming we stop in the middle of the movie, since it IS a happy ending) but Lynch is still just as willing to turn the fields and town into black fantasy before our very eyes (it is surprising the tonal differences we get between daytime naivete to nighttime evil) and that all starts with – as you mentioned – Hopper’s unhinged performance as the motherfucking motherfucker Frank Booth himself. I haven’t seen such an nihilistic energy exuded in any creation without a hint of camp to it in any other performance save for Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Here’s to your FUCK!

If you like, Mike. To your fuck.

Barton Fink (1991/dir. the Coen brothers/USA) – on STinG’s list

Salim, I think you’re the only person in the entire goddamn universe that would consider Barton Fink maybe being a horror film.

You may very well be right on that. Barton Fink though has so many creepy otherworldly elements about its primary setting – the Hotel he’s staying in with all its walls falling apart, the noises surrounding Barton with no visual anchor, all with the characters inhabiting it being so damn lax except for Barton, the murder later on in the film that occurs, this place is literally Hell with its fiery climax – and John Goodman is such an outstandingly arms-length menace even when he smiles in that warm John Goodman-cuddly smile – sickly fluid oozing out of his ear – that I never couldn’t see it as a horror movie.

That being said, this is one of the best Coen Brothers pictures I’ve seen with amazing performances all around. John Goodman screaming with a shotgun down a burning apartment hallway is permanently etched in my mind.

If I’m going to be straight up, it is my favorite Coen brothers film. An acclaim that applies to filmmakers who not in want of films of theirs that I consider masterpieces, and yet at the same time, extremely easy for me to commit to.

Barton Fink is again another film that defies the fuck out of category. It’s not exactly drama, it’s certainly comedy but not to the point that it is its defining feature, enough of the film is dedicated to the film sets that I don’t think we can call it certainly horror either. It’s a real bitch of a puzzle of a film.

Mulholland Dr. (2001/dir. David Lynch/USA) – on Mike and STinG’s list

David Lynch’s rejected ABC drama series morphed into a two-and-a-half hour crazy masterpiece about crushed dreams and unrealistic expectations. Naomi Watts delivers the performance of her career as Diane or Betty or are they in fucking hell or maybe purgatory or what the fuck is going on this movie.

Ahhh!!! My second favorite Lynch! By this point, it seems like the consensus has rested on two readings of the film, neither of which I wanna say since I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but its a puzzle box that goes down so smoothly it can hardly be considered an outright frustration. At the same time, imagery and moments are so arresting for various reasons – the Winkie’s scene is most remembered for lifting people out of their skin, the “no hay banda” moment at once blatantly demolishing our notion of the film as we know it in a manner we also see in (hey hey hey! Inland Empire and Persona) and allowing it to reboot itself in a manner that we would never have got if ABC didn’t say no to Lynch, Adam Kesher’s subplot for delving outright into farce (I mean, when you have actors as bad as Laura Harring and Billy Ray Cyrus, you better know how to use their anti-talent the way Lynch does here).

Also, you basically said it about Naomi Watts. She’s perfect, she’s game, she’s versatile, all in this one project that demands she stretch out her characters far away from each other before our eyes.

It is essential viewing for anyone with even a cursory interest of film. GO! GO WATCH IT NOW!

War of the Worlds (2005/dir. Steven Spielberg/USA) – on STinG’s list

Are you pulling my leg, Salim? This blew dick for me.

I’m totally not pulling your leg. It’s definitely not a favorite movie of mine like, pretty much all the other movies so far shown on this list (except for Godzilla which is still in my personal canon anyway). And by god it has its flaws – namely the ending of course, which even while it commits to H.G. Wells’ solution in the source material is so very deus ex machina that I didn’t even forgive the original book when I read it; Dakota Fanning’s shrill and painful screaming, although I do not think it’s out of place. She’s a little girl in the middle of Armageddon as far she’s concerned; the contrived manner of which the Ferriers encounter EVERY. SINGLE. ASPECT. of the invasion, though I forgive it since it’s also the only manner that we’d be able to experience such ungodly and cold setpieces such as the ships’ cages or the initial chase.

But I do love this movie just the same. It’s maybe the finest usage of visual language Spielberg, Janusz Kaminski’s dusty and tired cinematography, and Michael Kahn’s use of pacing between long takes to span out the destruction while we stand in it and short takes to let Tom Cruise tell us just how fucked we oughtta feel to provide a bone-chilling sense of dislocation and an atmosphere of fear to  (the story of the Ferrier’s relationship to each other is another thing, but I don’t hate that either). Maybe I’m just still too attached to late Spielberg (kinda, I mean, I still don’t like War Horse or The Terminal) to be quick to hate it.

So why is it not being considered a horror film if I think it’s pretty easily shocking (Ray looking in the mirror to see himself covered in his friends and Ray and Ogilvie witnessing a man’s blood being drained come to mind)?

Even if I think it’s scary, it’s a sci-fi. It’s a solid sci-fi. It’s always been considered a sci-fi. Nobody has any illusions about it otherwise.

Photo on 10-23-15 at 12.45 AM

Dear Lord McFuck, I didn’t mean for that to turn into a mini-essay.

Inland Empire (2006/dir. David Lynch/USA) – on STinG’s list

Haven’t seen this since high school, but I remember not loving it. Maybe it’s time to revisit it. I remember the sitcom family of Donnie Darko rabbits. That was pretty awesome.

Behold, my number one favorite Lynch film. Although truth be told, I wouldn’t even know where on Earth to talk about it or how (Odin help me when I get to it in my Lynch retrospective). All I can say is that for three hours, it threw my idea of what movies and people are made of around and around so much that in the end, I don’t think I was sitting in the same seat of the cinema as I was when I started. In a career so very dedicated to crafting a nightmare experience so real you feel yourself leave your body, Inland Empire feels like the one where Lynch accomplishes that the most.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012/dir. Drew Goddard/wri. Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon/USA) – on STinG’s list

I definitely consider this a horror film and it’s in my top 25. It’s also a comedic dissection of horror films. I love it.

I totally fucking love this movie too. I think it’s not as intelligent as people say it is, but it IS witty and engaging enough to take me along the way as it gives the middle finger to both what horror has become and what horror audiences have brought us. And I see that others do see it as a horror film (hell it’s trailer SCREAMS horror movie more than comedy). But the moment I watched it, I never once got the sense that we were supposed to be scared or shocked or fear for the characters or anything which… kind of what defines horror more than any aesthetic decisions (as opposed to Scream where Wes Craven’s horror muscles are so involuntary that he can’t even make a parody scene not feel like a tense slasher scenario). Although I’d be kidding myself hardcore if I didn’t say they didn’t get the aesthetic down to a T so they could at least be in a position to break it and say “ain’t dis shit so damn ridiculous” without being winking at all (again unlike Scream, which winks so desperately it’s practically blinking).

Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are about 70% of why I love it, though.

FUCKING RIGHT?! I kind of want to see Whitford in more Joss Whedon projects, he just spits that shit so naturally, he doesn’t even need to think. Like I’m not even sure it’s Sorkin or Whedon’s effect anymore, Whitford is just the best actor to ever happen to anyone’s dialogue.

Under the Skin (2013/dir. Jonathan Glazer/UK) – on STinG’s list

This is one I admired much more than I loved. It looks gorgeous, but because Scarlett Johannson is an alien I can’t find anything to latch onto with her character. This one impressed me, but left me feeling colder than that liquid stuff in the movie with the floating skin.

Funny enough, I totally see and buy that the movie itself is cold (it tells even less than we can piece a narrative together with – the whole storytelling process is withdrawn – though not insoluble – and bare instead of full and emotive like we’re used to), but Johannsson was the one source of humanity I found, even in spite of her being literally an alien lacking in identity. Dare I say, because of that, in fact. The latter half of the film has her sympathizing with victims in a manner she didn’t expect, trying (and failing) to copy mundane human activities like meals and sex, and finally neglecting her duties (albeit duties as an alien murderer) to try to see more of the world. It’s kind of easy to see her as just another person who doesn’t have her life straight.

The obtuseness of its presentation, though, makes it hard to classify as anything more than sci-fi. The horror of it all is apparent, but hard to communicate.

Needless to say now that we’re at the end, movies that defy category but have some frightening elements will definitely be a constant here in my list.

And here’s to you guys’ fuck for sitting through maybe the longest Motorbreath post since it began as we talked through it. You ought to have a word in… any of these movies you agree on? Any you disagree on? What are some movies in the horror canon that don’t exactly fit there? Send us a love letter (read: a bullet) in the comments below!

On this day of 21 October 2015…

For as long back as I can remember in internet years, people have been excited to see the future as visualized by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II, sequel to the classic Back to the Future – a movie which only assholes hate. People have counted the years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds up until the date Doc Emmett Brown prescribed as the place where we don’t need roads… the 21 October 2015.

And how does it fare?

It’s kind of tough to really commit to calling a prediction made by a very ridiculous science-fiction comedy disappointing, but it is. A lot of the movie’s claims towards what would exist by the time I was at this age excited me and now we’re here and it’s just another thing to add to my ever-growing cynicism…

So I’m using this post to count all the fucking things we don’t have in the world now that it’s the future according to Back to the Future

  • There’s no such thing as a perfect Pepsi, so Pepsi Perfect is a misnomer, no matter how much they want to milk this marketing. That bottle’s ok, though.
  • Also no soda so good we pay fifty bucks for it. We still have debt anyway, so that’s ok.

  • Not only do we still have roads, but they’re really bad roads. I guess that’s part of living in Miami, but I’m sure other areas are not that better off. Dammit, Doc, you promised we wouldn’t need them!

  • Speaking of not needing roads, since I’m not a millionaire (nor are most people), there is not an industry in flying cars. My car does not fly. My car doesn’t do much shit. My car is in the shop right now. Boy am I disillusioned.
  • My muscles aren’t bionic. They don’t exist at all.

  • Elijah Wood will never be that small again. He played a Hobbit and he still wasn’t that small again!
  • No self-tying laces. I still need to tie my own shoes. And can’t.

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  • We’re still on Jaws 5 instead of 19 and Max Spielberg has not a single directorial credit to his name. Actually, given the quality of all those Jaws sequels, you can keep it that. They’re so retroactive even the future predicted how shitty the effects would look.

OH HAI GUIZE!!!

  • No hologram marketing. Tupac isn’t telling me to go see Straight Outta Compton. And man, that joke I just made is two months too late.

  • I can not say anything about the absence of the hoverboard that had not already been said.

  • People aren’t wearing their pants pockets inside out, but given today’s style, that would easily be the least stupid thing one could do with their look.

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  • No suspended animation kennel for my pets to continue annoying me with.

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 Is there no one to save how we saw the future for me?

Wait… what’s this?!

… I think Doc just brightened what may come… The idea that just because the future isn’t what doesn’t mean there’s no time to make it. As long as a brighter day is promised by the rising of the sun, there is always a future!!!!

Ah fuck it…

… I’m gonna go to bed.

This list of things that haven’t happened in 2015 would probably be possible if my friend Marianna Elvira wasn’t watching the movie and texting me every reaction she has about it, but it wouldn’t be nearly as quick and easy it was to do.