The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1776 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Feb 11, 2020 10:12 pm

bottled spider wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:58 pm
Embrace of the Vampire (Goursaud,1995). Alyssa Milano's breasts do the best they can with the material they are given. One instance of comically inept staging made me burst out laughing, but overall this is more cringemaking than unintentionally funny.
The scariest thing I remember about this was trying to predict which checkout person at the video store near my house would let 14-year-old me rent it with my mom's membership card.

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knives
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1777 Post by knives » Tue Feb 11, 2020 10:56 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 9:31 pm
knives wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 8:06 pm
Would it change your feelings If I mentioned McDonald is actually American despite being Canada's greatest filmmaker since fellow expat McLaren.
I assume you're joking?
Yes.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1778 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:26 am

Mr Sausage wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:59 pm
At the risk of inaugurating another thread split, definitely throw in Marina de Van's In My Skin to your pile of troubled-woman-descending-into-mental-breakdown films. It's a more disturbing, body-centric horror film than May, more clinical in its observations, and sees human psychology as at bottom unfathomable. May is firmly in the camp of trying to empathize with disordered thinking and the pain it causes the sufferer.
Wow, you weren't kidding. This was rough, and the blockages to any empathy were firm in place despite the strong full-dive into subjective points of view we see with but cannot feel.
SpoilerShow
The sudden inexplicable addiction to self-harm reminded me in a strange way of Raw, but while that film is more clearly defined as an insightful journey with our protagonist through the naturally straining stages of concurrent sexual and social development, this agenda is murkier. Is Esther's self-mutilation an external expression of her deteriorating mental illness from internal predisposition, or is this a commentary on her relationship with her social world? My best guess is that it's a commentary on addiction itself as a distraction or self-medication from dysphoria, or in this case a sudden apathy from the social world, born from the part of Esther that has always felt disconnected and seems to be taking the reigns when an opportunity presents itself to turn from outward to inward. Could it be a meditation on how we ignore our other parts in favor of constantly moving and looking up instead of engaging in self-care? Her body parts become numb - does this signify a numbness to herself as a symptom of this ignorance? I don't know but the rabbit hole is rapid, the denial and disbarring from responsibility and socially appropriate engagement carries an assurance rather than anxiety, providing us with all of that to sit with ourselves - as opposed to May, which does many different things, but a big one is its more complicated interests in audience engagement.
I respected this film more than I liked it, though I did like parts of it a lot (that loooong dinner conversation as we sit with her constantly escaping into her obsessions and compulsions is masterful), and Marina de Van is a talented director and actress whose work I'm definitely going to look further into. Thanks for the rec, Sausage

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1779 Post by bottled spider » Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:58 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 9:52 pm
I remember seeing The Others in theatres and being irritated that it revolved around a twist that was a complete ripoff even if it was far more successful than the twist it copied.
I can see that. Myself, I haven't watched the movie you're referring to since it came out, and The Others I only saw recently for this project, so that point of similarity didn't bother me. In fact I didn't even guess the twist before it was revealed.

(A letterboxd-er claims that The Others was written before the release of the movie we are strenuously not mentioning, but I haven't Snoped that)

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1780 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:44 am

DarkImbecile wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 10:12 pm
bottled spider wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:58 pm
Embrace of the Vampire (Goursaud,1995). Alyssa Milano's breasts do the best they can with the material they are given. One instance of comically inept staging made me burst out laughing, but overall this is more cringemaking than unintentionally funny.
The scariest thing I remember about this was trying to predict which checkout person at the video store near my house would let 14-year-old me rent it with my mom's membership card.
I'm worried after that comment that bottled spider is going to be hearing from Alyssa Milano's lawyers!. And I feel you there DI, I still smart from my video store back in the day trying to decide whether I was allowed to rent out Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure because it was a PG rating and I was only 12, whilst I blushed bright red as if I was trying to hire out something really adult! (And 12 years old is the best time of life to watch Bill & Ted, so I did not see what the issue was in retrospect!)

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1781 Post by brundlefly » Wed Feb 12, 2020 10:05 am

bottled spider wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 7:58 pm

Begotten (Merhige,1990). The notoriously gruesome content is considerably muted by the distancing effect of "distressed" black-and-white photography, which is so grainy and over-exposed at times as to render the image illegible. Whatever it is that's going on, it's going on at some sort of impersonal, mythopoetickal level: the eviscerations are not, er, visceral. Whether this is a work of staggering genius or a misbegotten pile of pretentious twaddle, it's unlikely to make anyone throw up.
One of my top five theatergoing experiences. I think it weirdly premiered at a revival theater, the old Thalia Soho, in a double feature with Eraserhead . The audience was mostly respectful, if exasperated. Everyone chose their own place to yawn, but when the end credit for "Story Consultant" arrived the room united in laughter. As much as I enjoy the movie's textured tedium -- bought the VHS tape, which was never fuzzy enough -- I've never settled on whether its total lack of release is an accomplishment or just a joke in search of a punchline.

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bottled spider
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1782 Post by bottled spider » Wed Feb 12, 2020 2:38 pm

Yeah, kidding aside, I wouldn't want to dismiss the movie outright just because I didn't get much from it. Rather than evaluate it as good or bad, I'll just say it wasn't my wavelength.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1783 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:47 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:26 am
Mr Sausage wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 4:59 pm
At the risk of inaugurating another thread split, definitely throw in Marina de Van's In My Skin to your pile of troubled-woman-descending-into-mental-breakdown films. It's a more disturbing, body-centric horror film than May, more clinical in its observations, and sees human psychology as at bottom unfathomable. May is firmly in the camp of trying to empathize with disordered thinking and the pain it causes the sufferer.
Wow, you weren't kidding. This was rough, and the blockages to any empathy were firm in place despite the strong full-dive into subjective points of view we see with but cannot feel.
SpoilerShow
The sudden inexplicable addiction to self-harm reminded me in a strange way of Raw, but while that film is more clearly defined as an insightful journey with our protagonist through the naturally straining stages of concurrent sexual and social development, this agenda is murkier. Is Esther's self-mutilation an external expression of her deteriorating mental illness from internal predisposition, or is this a commentary on her relationship with her social world? My best guess is that it's a commentary on addiction itself as a distraction or self-medication from dysphoria, or in this case a sudden apathy from the social world, born from the part of Esther that has always felt disconnected and seems to be taking the reigns when an opportunity presents itself to turn from outward to inward. Could it be a meditation on how we ignore our other parts in favor of constantly moving and looking up instead of engaging in self-care? Her body parts become numb - does this signify a numbness to herself as a symptom of this ignorance? I don't know but the rabbit hole is rapid, the denial and disbarring from responsibility and socially appropriate engagement carries an assurance rather than anxiety, providing us with all of that to sit with ourselves - as opposed to May, which does many different things, but a big one is its more complicated interests in audience engagement.
I respected this film more than I liked it, though I did like parts of it a lot (that loooong dinner conversation as we sit with her constantly escaping into her obsessions and compulsions is masterful), and Marina de Van is a talented director and actress whose work I'm definitely going to look further into. Thanks for the rec, Sausage
Your reaction to it is very similar to mine. Here's my rather superficial take on the film from eight years ago:

Mr Sausage wrote:
Fri Dec 28, 2012 11:42 pm
In My Skin (Marina de Van, 2002): I watched this on Matt's suggestion above. One of the things I most like about the horror movie, in terms of its potential anyway, is how it can let itself explore extreme and unusual psychological states without having to let the usual restraints (or even strictly realistic psychology) get in the way. So I liked how this one took its odd idea and really ran with it. But it was a very unpleasant film to watch. Paradoxically so, since the level of violence here, at least in terms of physical damage, is so much more superficial and inconsequential than a good many horror films that I have no trouble watching. But then superficial damage like a paper cut or someone stepping on a nail is always more wince-inducing than a gunshot wound. Plus I think my real concern for the mental well-being of the protagonist was mixed in as well. I was genuinely worried for her. I liked how the movie made a lot of evocative associations--to addiction, to narcissism, to issues of body-image, to fetishism--without fully giving itself to any one of them. Giving in to a convenient explanation like that would've made the story less singular and less inexplicable. The film avoids becoming vulgar, not because it pulls back from the nasty logic of its story and themes, but because it resists becoming a banal allegory for, say, female body-image in society, or something equally facile. The movie is very specific to its character; that's its strength. It's fascinating and expertly made and, I think, admirable. But it's not an enjoyable movie to watch. I'm glad I saw it, tho'. It's not often you find such a placid movie that's so horrific at the same time. I don't know if I want to put it on my list, but I know this'll be a movie that haunts me for a while--in a good way, I think. Thanks for the last minute rec., Matt.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1784 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Feb 12, 2020 4:03 pm

Interesting, I'm also glad it didn't take a turn into the clarity of any singular metaphor. Instead of focusing on diagnostics the film focused on broader symptoms which are commonalities across those associations you describe: namely obsessive or compulsive tendencies that heighten awareness to one area while blocking out the rest. The consequences of all that is ignored are equally important and felt here despite the camera not giving a ton of attention to them (yeah we see her driving people away, but this is a far cry from the self-destructive tale that sheds a tear for the hostages taken by one's addiction/mental illness/self-focused behaviors). Because we are allotted that position as objective observer while remaining intimately close to Esther, we consider our own peripheral position in acknowledging the invisible social consequences of her isolative harm off screen. Its vagueness in essence allows for not only a broader canvas of allegory but a personalized account of harm for the viewer when left to the imagination as outside perspective to a situation most can relate to: that rabbit hole of isolation from awareness that stems from a singular focus of any kind. Some of us have experienced stronger bouts or consequences than others, but I think it's hard not to relate to some extent at engaging in narrow-scoped selfishness if considered across a very wide net.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1785 Post by gorgeousnothings » Thu Feb 13, 2020 12:21 pm

Bringing myself back from the dead:

Head Count (Callahan, 2018): This low budget indie is surprisingly good and tense, though I'm personally biased as it features one my favorite (and little-used) mythological creatures. Here you'll see typical genre problem-areas (large, nameless friend groups with no identifying traits) put to good use. It's somewhat a shame that the end resorts to some unfortunate special effects, as the rest of the film is so good at building tension with none at all. This is Elle Callahan's first film, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she does next, especially if it's horror). Available on Netflix!

Ghostland / Incidents in a Ghostland (Laugier, 2018): Available on Shudder. I was surprised to see how... regressive the villains in this story were. Not as strong as Martyrs but only slightly less gruesome. Everything else was mostly fun, but I'm also a sucker for creepy doll aesthetics and sisterly relationships. Speaking of which...

Annabelle Comes Home (Dauberman, 2019): I love that stupid, lazy doll. She's a true queen of Just Sitting There, looking vaguely creepy while other demons do her dirty work. Anyways, this is a fun Slumber Party / Cabin in the Woods mashup. This seems to be a rare series in which each installment gets progressively better. (No comment on the rest of the Conjuring Universe.)

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1786 Post by bottled spider » Fri Feb 14, 2020 7:00 pm

Le testament du Docteur Cordelier (Renoir, 1959). This is more satirical than I remembered. There's a mild, comical level of satire in the decorum adhered to even in tense or absurd situations. More scathing is the remarkable freedom from scrutiny and censure Dr. Cordelier enjoys simply because of his social position. As opposed to psychoanalytical interpretations, one might say Cordelier/Opale symbolize the wealthy gilding their secret vices with outward propriety. Not that interpretation is necessary, since the main appeal of the movie is, of course, the concrete pleasure of Barrault's very physical performance – a Charlie Chaplin possessed by Jack the Ripper.

The Woman in Black (Watkins, 2012). I watched this out of curiosity to see Radcliffe in a post Harry Potter role. He acquitted himself well. As for the movie itself, the scare techniques seemed familiar, even though I don't watch many horror movies. The movie was effective enough in the moment, but not as memorable as The Others. I watched Kurosawa's Pulse a day or two later, and if it wasn't intensely frightening, it had the virtue of being frightening in more original ways.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1787 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:39 am

Mr. Sardonicus (Castle 1961). (1st viewing) Stephen King praised Russell’s novella but even though the author also wrote the screenplay it’s perhaps telling that the film isn’t among the several Castle films in Danse Macabre’s appendix of the best (1950-80) horror films. I found it quite ordinary. It’s Castle doing a straight Gothic, with a story that owes a bit to the Phantom of the Opera. Perhaps the source is a bit too literary for Castle’s style, as whatever depth the novella had doesn’t really come across, while at the same time he’s sacrificing somewhat the usual shock value he thrives on. The one moment the film really comes alive is in the flashback sequence to when Malek becomes Sardonicus. Not a bad film as such but compared, say, to the Gothics Corman was making with the Poe adaptations during this time, it’s a bit lacking.


Hysteria (Francis 1965). (1st viewing) Another Sangster Hammer thriller, more appropriately called mini-Clouzots than Hitchcocks, with Robert Webber as a man who’s lost his identity after a car crash. Francis tries to inject vitality into this, including several conspicuous audio-to-audio or audio-to-visual match edits, but the material really feels less inspired this time, and when all the twists start happening they really feel a lot more forced than usual. Still a somewhat enjoyable film, especially with a lot more location shots than usual for the studio, but the ending definitely disappoints. Contrary to Taste of Fear and its successors, this also lacks Gothic horror elements and comes out more as a straight thriller.


Strait-Jacket (Castle 1964).
(1st viewing) So the film starts off with Joan Crawford using an ax to decapitate her husband and the young woman he’s cheating on her with, in front of her young daughter no less. Gruesomely surprising for 1964, and the shocks don’t end there. Really a terrific film, played fairly straight even though the over-the-topness by definition brings a note of black comedy. This feels a lot more modern than all of Castle’s preceding films, and even though The Tingler among those is quite good in its own way, this really is in another class. The fact that master horror writer Robert Bloch is behind the screenplay surely is a factor, but Castle directs it with skill too. I was surprised at the quality of Crawford’s performance here, which works as horror, black comedy, and drama all combined – she shows real sensitivity and vulnerability, alongside those other great histrionic moments like the way she strikes a match by running it across a long-playing record, which made me burst out laughing. The very realistic setting on a farm helps too, with those deeply ironic shots of the pigs and chickens reacting. I can’t see this not being considered a horror classic. Definitely recommended.


The Fury (DePalma 1978). (rewatch) On revisiting this, it’s clear that, even though they’re dramatic and gory, the bloody scenes at the end aren’t enough to make this a horror film, even though it gets thrown into the category sometimes. It also drives for suspense and drama throughout rather than fear and dread. It’s a mongrel film in terms of genre (in other ways as well), with the sci-fi and thriller aspects competing with a strong action spy thriller vibe for the first lengthy part, à la North By Northwest. A really flawed film that has its silly moments and weak elements in some of the script-writing and acting, but at the same time has good scenes and also some appealing bravura DePalma formal pieces. The action film that this is with Douglas at the center (who incredibly is already well advanced in his sixties at this point) for the first third or so is really the most entertaining and engaging part for me. When Douglas mostly disappears for a good chunk of it, the film fizzles out a bit and only works in spurts thereafter.


Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (Baker 1971).
(1st viewing) When Dr. Jekyll transforms himself, he turns into a woman. Contrary to what you expect with this premise, there’s no camp here, in a definitely high quality film that’s executed with earnestness and features irreproachable direction, acting and photography. Tone- and style-wise, it’s the complete opposite of Hammer’s first adaptation of the Stevenson novella, which was hysterical, brightly lit, colorful and unrealistic, and it’s equally a stand-out. The films digs a more deeply into Dr. Jekyll’s initial research aims, and his character isn’t as pure as he’s normally made out to be. The gender change also brings a really interesting twist and the actress playing Hyde has an effective resemblance to her “brother”. The film is a fairly murderous proto-slasher and the foggy nocturnal London setting does a good job of establishing the similarities with the universe of Jack the Ripper. If you don’t usually care for Hammer because the films are too camp and the horror in them too mild, you’ll discover something different here.


Burnt Offerings (Curtis 1976). (1st viewing) I’m not too sure I completely buy into Kat Ellinger’s reading of the film as commentary on the American Dream, which seems to overreach from the few morsels of food it actually offers up in that angle, but I did find instructive in her essay in the Arrow booklet when she points out how the film is an instance of the haunted house film (and novel) evolving from scares produced by ghosts to the house itself as a malign force able to possess its inhabitants, or feed on them like a vampire, and points to other examples like the follow-up films The Amityville Horror and, quite obviously and most successfully, The Shining. (She could have also mentioned the earlier The Legend of Hell House.) That trend definitely made the genre sustain into something that could still be frightening for more evolving, sophisticated (or desensitized!) film audiences. This was an interesting film, definitely a little odd, also a little awkward in its transitions and uneven, but it’s got several noteworthy scenes, and it certainly ends on an effective, high note. The actors are definitely a strong point and make more palatable certain weaker points in the writing.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1788 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Feb 16, 2020 2:20 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:
Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:39 am
Burnt Offerings (Curtis 1976). (1st viewing) I’m not too sure I completely buy into Kat Ellinger’s reading of the film as commentary on the American Dream, which seems to overreach from the few morsels of food it actually offers up in that angle, but I did find instructive in her essay in the Arrow booklet when she points out how the film is an instance of the haunted house film (and novel) evolving from scares produced by ghosts to the house itself as a malign force able to possess its inhabitants, or feed on them like a vampire, and points to other examples like the follow-up films The Amityville Horror and, quite obviously and most successfully, The Shining. (She could have also mentioned the earlier The Legend of Hell House.) That trend definitely made the genre sustain into something that could still be frightening for more evolving, sophisticated (or desensitized!) film audiences. This was an interesting film, definitely a little odd, also a little awkward in its transitions and uneven, but it’s got several noteworthy scenes, and it certainly ends on an effective, high note. The actors are definitely a strong point and make more palatable certain weaker points in the writing.
Thinking about this film again, and watching the extras, I have to say that one of its special strengths is that it doesn’t explain everything and really relies on the intelligence of the viewer to interpret what’s going on. The ending finally sheds light on what was occurring, but even then doesn't do any explaining per se, or illuminate everything, and neither does it go back to indicate the various details throughout the film that were clues or indications of what was happening, like for example the house keepers initially rejoicing at the vitality of the young boy that is part of the family, or Karen Black character’s hair slowly greying. So it's the kind of film that also rewards additional viewings.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1789 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Feb 17, 2020 2:43 am

Does anyone plan on classifying The House That Jack Built as a horror for this project. Sure it’s about a serial killer, and rather horrific for exploiting an intimate commentary on the rationalization of a narcissistic killer, especially one who uses art and other seemingly interesting ideas and acceptable skills of logic, science, and history to describe insane and disturbing positions. But it’s also not frightening, nor is it trying to be. There’s more deadpan and situational comedy than anything, as well as self-reflexive psychology, and more compelling than the filmic identification for von Trier is the self-destruction piece which feels like the suicide note aspect and in a strange way rather empathetic if only viewed from an objective space as von Trier’s definition of his pain (the shadows between the lampposts metaphor is wonderful, as is Verge’s response). I’m on the fence on classifying it here, as I’d love to include the film on as many lists as possible (though I can’t in good conscience place it higher than Antichrist even if I love this film more, because that’s just about the perfect horror movie). I know it hasn’t emerged as a resounding favorite on this board (yet) despite a few members championing it, but I’m curious as to how others feel about its categorization.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1790 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 18, 2020 7:42 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Fri Apr 20, 2012 6:32 pm
Anguish (Bigas Luna 1987) This horror film hinges on an insanely high concept that the picture does not immediately reveal, so I'm spoilering the majority of my comments. In short, Anguish is an audacious commentary on how audiences received the slasher cycle of the seventies and eighties and is highly recommended (especially for fans of the "Can Anything Be Justified" thread), even to people who don't usually agree with my tastes.
SpoilerShow
Anguish at first appears to be a (not bad, actually) normal eighties slasher film starring bit player Michael Lerner as a momma's boy nurse whose mother hypnotizes him into cutting out the eyes of those she feel have wronged her son. Then twenty minutes or so in the print quality changes and the camera pans out and we see an audience on-screen watching the same film we the audience have been experiencing. There's a fantastic sequence (this is by far the best-edited horror film I've ever seen and I've mentally noted for future reference to teach the audience hypnotism scene) showing the assorted reactions of teenagers and couples on dates to the on-screen gore-- some are delighted, others horrified, a few bored, etc. If the film just stopped here it'd be interesting enough, but Luna is preoccupied in how we (the actual audience) receive on-screen horrors versus "real life" horrors, and so one of the audience members is revealed to be a repeat viewer of the film who has co-opted the depicted storyline for himself, substituting a .38 for Lerner's scalpel. As the film cuts back and forth between the slasher on screen and the other slasher (shooter?), the pictures takes its time and builds several sequences of unbearable tension, the best concerning a teen girl hiding in the same bathroom the shooter is using to store his corpses. In doing so, Luna arrives at some basic actualities of the mechanics of slashers. This isn't safe fun, because this killer has a gun and doesn't need to sneak up behind you or jump from behind a corner. The film presents real and false horrors but then blends them as the film wears on. With the film within a film's finale taking place inside a movie theatre, the line is blurred (leading to masterful shots like the one below) and Anguish eventually begs my favorite discussion question: is any cinematic violence "justified"?

Though the film bears more than a passing resemblance to Bogdanovich's Targets, Anguish has different concerns and critical commentary more explicitly relevant to the horror genre. It is a film with ideas to match its style- and what ideas and what style!
Haha what the actual fuck. I don’t think I need to see any more slashers after this, or any 80s serial killer movies. I started writing down some thoughts before I found domino’s writeup which is better than anything I could bring to the analyst’s table. Not only is this film a mindfuck that destabilizes us with a fusion of unpredictability bending the laws of cinema without order, but it’s an aggressive commentary that makes us complicit and targeted in ways we couldn’t possibly have been expecting or prepared to engage with when throwing this on, so we’re repeatedly stimulated with intelligence and discomfort as we try to grasp what we’re being presented. Even the first section is extra disturbing not for the violence but the creepy fantastical elements and family dynamics, which just made me feel sick (I should not have eaten dinner while watching this). How would this be to watch in a theatre? Jesus Christ. Nice find, domino, not surprising that you love this as in a similar reflexive and batshit way it reminded me as a disturbing version of Detention while staying relatively focused on one mood at least. This might make my list if only for being a horror movie that through a twist on conventions is actually successful in its assaultive violence, though fully on the viewer.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1791 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:36 pm

Dracula a Go-Go



Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992)
Not quite Bram Stoker’s Dracula, tho’ it has some surface-level fidelity most adaptations don’t bother with. The style, tone, and acting are so overblown the movie becomes ludicrous. An overripe romance. Funny to think that a movie with a cast, budget, and director of this calibre is outdone at its own game by something like The Lost Boys. Never thought I’d find myself giving the nod to Joel Schumacher over Francis Ford Coppola, but here we are.

Dracula (John Badham, 1979)
A handsome production. Langella underplays his performance, but gives his Count a sexual magnetism mainly communicated by a penetrating stare. He plays off a preternatural stillness with restless eyes. Certainly better than Coppola’s hysterical version. If there is a weakness here, it lies in the source material. The best part of any Dracula adaptation is also the most successful part of the book: the gothic opening in Dracula’s castle. Things inevitably drop off when we move to the various drawing rooms and dinner tables that occupy the rest of the story. You see why it translated so well to the theatre: the bulk of the story observes the restrictions of the stage. But what makes the story work so well under the proscenium also works against it when put to film: the action is constrained and talky, the monster content to prey quietly on a pair of upper-class maidens. Badham does his best to open things up, with plenty of chilly exteriors, some gothic set design, and a beautiful, abstract representation of a blood drinking/seduction. And yet the majority of the film remains confined to the drawing room where people talk and exchange glances. This isn’t helped by the decision to excise all scenes set in Dracula’s castle, beginning instead on the Demeter moments before it runs aground and lets Dracula loose in Britain (a decision straight out of the Hamilton Deane play it’s adapting). However handsome the production and assured the acting, there’s no hiding that the movie has confined itself to adapting the least interesting part of Stoker’s novel.

Blood for Dracula (Paul Morrissey, 1974)
Aging queen Count Dracula travels to Italy to find virgin’s blood because he’s told the Catholic church keeps Italians virginal. Surprise, there are few virgins to be found. Not quite a farce or a satire, though it makes some half-hearted overtures at both. It is a comedy, though it prefers to get laughs from being trashy and arch rather than through jokes. I found it mostly amateurish. Dracula’s goofy demise was entertaining, though.

Blacula (William Crain, 1972)
African prince Mamuwalde, in Transylvania on a mission to end the slave trade, is turned into a vampire by Dracula and sealed in a coffin for centuries, only to be unleashed in 70s America. Nothing is done with the premise. Despite being centuries out of date, Mamuwalde never so much as bats an eye at his new environment. Contemporary culture washes right over him. It’s a typical vampire story with the now cliched Dracula-seeks-resurrected-lover plot. About on the level of Hammer’s Dracula A.D., 1972, only without Lee and Cushing to brighten things. William Marshall does make for a commanding Dracula, tho’.

Scream, Blacula, Scream (Bob Kelljan, 1973)
Contra its reputation, the first film wasn’t blaxploitation--it wasn’t exploitation at all, actually. It was an old-fashioned, straight-forward vampire film that happened to star mainly black people. Its sequel on the other hand begins almost immediately with voodoo rituals, so you know what it aspires to be. Mamuwalde is resurrected by the bitter son of a recently dead witch doctor who wants revenge on the congregation for not recognizing him as successor. Blacula bites him right away and off we are on a tepid vampire story. Blacula spends far too much time attending house parties. William Marshall is again a commanding presence. Would that he were given more to do than wander through this creaky film.

Count Dracula (Jess Franco, 1970)
Christopher Lee’s non-Hammer Dracula film. Lee was making Taste the Blood of Dracula and Scars of Dracula for Hammer around the same time and reportedly much preferred what he was doing with Franco. I see the attraction for Lee: the movie hews closely to the book, more closely than any Hammer film, and allows Lee to be more than an imposing but wordless presence. He’s given many of Dracula’s speeches from the book to intone. Indeed, his Dracula is less bestial than the Hammer incarnation, carrying instead a proud, lonely majesty. If I linger on Lee, it’s because he’s the only bright spot in this dreary and boring film. A higher budget and more talent behind the camera might’ve given us something terrific and Lee a Dracula film to rival his first. Instead, here’s one more creaky Euro production to be endured.

Cuadecuc, vampir (Pere Portabella, 1971)
An experimental retelling of Franco’s film, combining black and white footage from the film as well as behind the scenes footage. Works as both a making-of and a narrative in its own right. Strange and worth experiencing.

The Horror of Dracula (Terence Fisher, 1958)
At first Lee’s Dracula seems almost colourless, an austere British aristocrat with an upper-class accent who utters clipped pleasantries and commonplaces and who never seems menacing, not overtly (tho’ there’s something to how he clenches his jaw repeatedly and stares whenever Harker turns away). That is, until 15 minutes in, when Lee comes crashing into the room, eyes ablaze, fangs dripping blood, in that glorious close-up that marks my presence on the forum. Tho’ he doesn’t speak another word, his presence dominates the remaining film. To any boy or girl who grew up on Universal Draculas, with the lack of fangs and tasteful fades to black just as the vampire leers in, the boldness and ferocity of Lee’s portrayal coupled with the bright colours was delightful beyond words. And to those of us who’d read and re-read the novel and seen the Lugosi film and Murnau’s Nosferatu ad nauseum, how thrilling to see Hammer upend our expectations out the gate and reveal Jonathan Harker’s true purpose at the castle. After that, who knew what would happen next! That’s something Hammer could do better than anyone at the time: take the old classics, lead you on for a moment thinking you’d get the same old thing, then rip out the carpet. They weren’t radical, but they knew how to surprise their audience. And they were efficient story tellers, too. Here, every bit of fat is cut out; the movie zips along. Its speed in part helps keep it from falling prey to the drawing room tedium that’s plagued this story since it was published, but otherwise it’s the commanding performance of Peter Cushing that anchors the second act. A stuffy professor in other adaptations, he’s a man of action here, as much at home vaulting railings and barrelling down tables as he is sitting quietly in his library. You are as happy to watch Cushing as you are Lee. The most entertaining Dracula film ever made.

Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary (Guy Maddin, 2002)
Combines the now familiar sexual and racial interpretations of the novel into a more overt fear of miscegenation. Even though silent film pastiches are Madden’s thing, it’s so organic a choice to capture the wordless but music-dominated state of a ballet. Another film that manages to overturn the drawing room tedium of the middle stages of the novel, here by capturing the beauty and energy of ballet with a ceaseless filmic energy. A rich and textured film. It also does two unique things: despite being both intensely cinematic and theatrical, it also finds a way to work in the epistolary theme of Stoker’s novel, and this theme allows it to tell Harker’s story at castle Dracula not at the beginning, but 40 minutes in, just after the dispatching of the vampire Lucy. So we’re given the pleasure of the best scenes of the novel at precisely a point structurally where a pause is most effective. One of the very best Dracula films ever made. It’s available to watch legally and for free on youtube. Please give it a watch.

Count Dracula (Philip Saville, 1977)
A faithful BBC adaptation. Perhaps fearing slavishness, the film punctuates things with ill-considered, hokey stylizations: negative stock, overlays, freeze frames, shock shots of fire and red eyes, earlier dialogue echoing around the sound track. It’s quite 70s television. Hammer and Badham had Dracula crawling down the castle walls on his fingers, like a cat or a spider. Saville has him flopping down the walls like a bat. Flump, pause, flump, pause. I get the logic, but did no one actually see what they were getting? This couples poorly with its decision to make Dracula’s bat form an adorable flying fox. It’s far from the only adaptation with this particular misstep, and I do see the practical necessity, but, again, did no one actually see what they were getting? Louis Jourdan plays Dracula as a gothic villain, all politeness and charm on the surface, but taunting and manipulative underneath with a barely masked smirk of superiority. This works especially during Harker’s captivity in the castle, which is like a cat-and-mouse between hero and villain in an old gothic novel. The movie plays up the sex rather grossly: whenever Dracula preys on Lucy, they both moan like it’s a German porno. How often this adaptation strains for effect and fails! The blandness of the rest throws this straining into such relief that you want to laugh. The movie bounces between the staid and the ridiculous. And yet the opening act in Dracula’s castle is rather good, and the carriage ride through the Carpathians is among the best of the adaptations, building a genuine and chilling atmosphere of dread and expectation. The production’s a difficult thing to recommend because so much is merely competent, and what stands out is the missteps. But it does have a strong opening act, so there’s that.

Legacy of Dracula: the Vampire Doll (Michio Yamamoto, 1970)
This one’s very much a western vampire film that happens to take place in the east. The setting is even an old western-style house so the film can better ape the gothic horrors that’d been coming out of Britain and America. It’s structured like a mystery, with a sister and her boyfriend trying to discover why her brother went missing and what secret the family in the big gothic house is hiding. Except we already know the answer from the opening scene: the daughter’s a vampire. The elaborations on this answer are unnecessary and pretty trashy.

Lake of Dracula (Michio Yamamoto, 1971)
From the story, to the colours, to the gothic set design, this one feels more like an old school Hammer film. Only the location shooting violates the sensibility. It’s more visually interesting than its predecessor, too. The lighting is more varied and textured, and the compositions often have more life to them. Japanese Dracula (Jacula?) shows up in this one, arriving in a coffin mysteriously delivered by an ominous driver. The actor plays his Dracula like Lee, but physically more resembles John Carradine (himself a decent Dracula). The film is in large part about the recovering of traumatic memories. Not that this is given much thematic development. It’s mostly there to anchor the narrative and lend the heroine some dramatic heft. A movie for those who like their vampire films with lots of mood and atmosphere and a minimum of blood and sex.

Evil of Dracula (Michio Yamamoto, 1974)
More nudity, more blood, more 70s hair cuts. This one ups the trash quotient and adds a bit of datedness to the mix. The movie is now aping later Hammer: half Gothic classiness, half Euro sleaze. It’s about on par with Hammer’s decent mid-range films from the period, like Twins of Evil or Vampire Circus. The trouble with watching these three films in a row is they’re all of a piece. It gets wearisome. I keep comparing them to Hammer because there seems little point comparing them to each other. This one even full on copies a sequence from the previous film.

Count Dracula’s Great Love (Javier Aguirre, 1973)
Legendary Spanish horror icon, Paul Naschy, assays the title role. Thought to’ve been destroyed by van Helsing, Dracula actually survived and has taken on the identity of one Dr. Marlowe, head of a newly opened sanitarium. A carriage loses its wheel and five travelers (four of whom are wearing impossibly plunging necklines) have to spend the week with Dracula. Naschy’s often called the Spanish Lon Chaney, but he’s more like Chaney Jr.: appropriate in his trademark werewolf character, but unsuited to the other flagship monsters he found himself playing. Just physically he’s inappropriate for Dracula: short, squat, and pudgy, with a soft, round face and large almond eyes. He’d make a better Renfield, but then there’s no Renfield in the movie. There’s barely a Dracula. I mean, he has tender, gauze-filtered sex with women, talks of regretting casual sex because love is “more than a game”, and gets in two different fist fights with vampire underlings that sees him thrown into walls, knocked down by punches, and choked unconscious with a fire poker. He even sheds a tear at one point. There’s something about the love of a pure woman making him take on his mortal form again, but it’s not terribly coherent and comes so long after these bewildering moments that you spend much of the movie watching in confusion as the Prince of Darkness is manhandled by underlings and engages in Eurotrash sex scenes.

Nosferatu (Werner Herzog, 1979)
Suffused with death and decay, with hopeless longing and a despair at existence. No Dracula film has had such an overwhelming texture of death to it. From the mummies, to the rats, to the coffin processions and plague revellers, mortality as a physical, tangible reality surrounds the story. And yet, for all the morbidity, Herzog builds something radiant. The movie proceeds like a dream, flowing trance-like through moments of astonishing natural beauty and gothic splendour. Herzog easily outdoes Rollin at this kind of atmosphere, and does so while still succeeding at a conventional narrative. Herzog even manages to outdo Murnau, whose Romantic imagery, beautiful as it is, cannot compete with Herzog’s eye for the grandeur and madness of nature. Outside the set-pieces, the Murnau plods. Herzog pulls you into a dream. He liberates the film from the drawing-room stultification, using the second act to explore the dissolution of society from the plague, done all through the eyes of Lucy, a character who has never had so much agency, not even in the Murnau. The most beautiful Dracula film ever made.

Dracula (Tod Browning, 1931)
Lugosi is the ur-Dracula. No other worthy has managed to outdo him for sheer appropriateness. He anchors a flawed movie. One wonders if there was anyone actually directing the thing. Freund’s camerawork is beautiful, its movements so smooth and appropriate that you almost don’t register you’re seeing them from 1931. But the blocking is so bad. The film’s origin as a stage production can’t explain it as the blocking isn’t even terribly good stage blocking: characters cramped around each other, half the time with their backs to the audience/camera. And then there’s the weird production errors, like light blockers left attached to lamps, as though the camera position were changed at the last minute without anyone bothering to change anything else. Why mention all this? Samuel Johnson had it that “[a]ll censure of a man’s self is oblique praise. It is in order to show how much he can spare.” Well, consider the above how much the movie can spare. For gothic splendour, for iconography, and for having the Dracula, the movie is unmatched. The battle of wills between Dracula and Van Helsing are electric. Those performances by Sloan and especially Lugosi are why the Spanish version, for all its technical superiority and uncut narrative, will never be the preferable option (really, who can stand Carlos Villarias bug-eyed performance?). The English-language 1931 Dracula remains a terrific version with an immortal performance.

Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)
I enjoyed myself more this time than previously. It’s still a bit of a tough sit--I think I liked it more when it was 60 minutes on a sped up VHS--but Murnau has a great eye for visuals. Lucy sitting in the sea-side graveyard is one of cinema’s most beautifully composed shots. And what is there left to say about Schreck’s demon of a vampire? Time hasn’t robbed it of its power, and yet it’s not the best Dracula film, nor the best Murnau film, nor even the best Nosferatu film. Bit of an awkward position.

Brides of Dracula (Terence Fisher, 1960)
Follows Cushing’s van Helsing rather than Dracula himself. No complaints from me; Cushing is always a delight, so much so it hardly matters that the lead vampire has no presence, being a weasily wastrel from a rich family, more punchable than frightening. Terence Fisher, always a dependable talent, keeps the story brisk and the visuals classy and atmospheric. He’s underrated as an action director, but his talents in that area are well in display for the climax. A solid Hammer.

Dracula Prince of Darkness (Terence Fisher, 1966)
A slower film than the previous two; takes its time building an unsettling gothic atmosphere before unleashing its brightly coloured horrors. An effective film, I’ve always thought. A solid example of Hammer’s craft in its golden era. If not quite as good as the very best of the company, it’s a top shelf example of the mid-rank and always a worthy revisit.

Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (Freddie Francis, 1968)
Dracula, revived by a fortuitous trickle of blood, sets out to avenge himself on the monsignor and his family for having hung a cross on his castle doors. Freddie Francis, a fine cinematographer, makes a decent director. He is especially good when photographing Lee, who has never looked so grand and menacing. Indeed, this contains my favourite Lee Dracula moments outside the original. Francis doesn’t quite have Fischer’s sense of briskness, so while the film never drags, it lacks the propulsion of the first two. The young lead also looks distractingly like Rob Brydon. While the Frankenstein films have the reputation of getting stronger as they went along, and rightly so, the Dracula films are largely thought to’ve gone almost immediately downhill. The final four deserve their low reputation, but this one is a solid vampire film, entertaining, wonderfully gothic, well-acted, with a nice sense for visuals. In no measure does it deserve the dismissal it’s commonly given. Its chief sin, I suppose, is being not so different from what went before.

Taste the Blood of Dracula (Peter Sasdy, 1970)
Somewhere around the start of the 70s, Hammer got a strange idea into their heads. They decided to replenish their dwindling audience by replacing Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing with an actor that skewed younger, and for whatever reason felt the perfect person to replace them was…Ralph Bates. Now, I don’t mean to insult Ralph Bates—I rather like him—but I can’t imagine what anyone saw in him that made them think he could fill either of those shoes, let alone both. Seems at least someone agreed, since, while he was allowed to take over as Frankenstein in the poorly received Horror of Frankenstein, he was nixed as the new Dracula some time into production. Originally, tasting the blood of Dracula was to turn Bates’ young seeker of dangerous pleasures into the new incarnation of Dracula. The movie would’ve worked better, admittedly, if things had been allowed to go as planned—but then we’d’ve had Bates as Dracula and, really, who wants that? So Lee was brought back, thankfully, as he was by this point one of the few reasons to keep watching the series. When Bates drinks the fatal blood, Lee appears and somewhat confusingly sets out on revenge against the three libertines who’d callously left Bates in extremis when the blood-drinking ceremony had gone badly. There is a level on which the film doesn’t quite work, admittedly; yet it’s just different enough, and led with a sure enough hand, that the movie comes off nevertheless. Its puncturing of Victorian hypocrisy, while dated even by the end of the Edwardian era, let alone 1970, does lend the revenge story some nice dramatic stakes and an appropriate sense of the perverse.

Dracula (Bill Eagles, 2006)
A more recent BBC production. It goes the opposite way of its predecessor, reimagining the story and adding dollops of vulgar detail. For example, before we’re given even a glimpse of Dracula, Arthur Holmwood learns he had contracted syphilis at birth and is destined to end up a deformed madman like his father. There follows a long, brooding shot where he gazes at a carbuncle and screams to the sky: “Why hast thou forsaken me!”. He’ll be the dour antihero of the thing, clearly. The movie piles complications on the story, involving a Dracula cult and Arthur having funded Dracula’s move to England to guarantee a cure for himself. Van Helsing is a prisoner of the cult, kept in a dirty basement because he “knows too much”. Dracula, Marc Warren here, shows up as a wheezing, decrepit zombie with an aging metalhead’s hairdo. Warren rasps, grunts, and shuffles his way through the Transylvania scenes in a manner supposed to be ancient, I think, but mostly makes Dracula seem in need of a gargle with salt water and a good nap. He drinks Harker’s blood and goes from asthmatic metalhead to sad goth Ramsay Bolton. He’s much shorter than all the other actors, which the movie does little to hide. It’s a performance neither intimidating nor sexy. The least effective Dracula this side of Paul Naschy. Beyond that, the movie’s ugly to look at, with lots of fuzzy CGI and harsh, digital photography not helped by rotten colour grading (most night scenes are in an unvarying washed-out green). Perhaps the worst direct adaptation of the novel.

Dracula (Dan Curtis, 1973)
Advertised on the cover as Dan Curtis’ Dracula, who google tells me is the guy who did Dark Shadows, though it was originally titled Bram Stoker’s Dracula before Coppola decided he wanted that marketing for himself. Coppola also took several of this television film’s conceits, like Dracula being an undead Vlad the Impaler and Lucy his lost love’s doppelganger. This is the kind of film to introduce its bad guy with a severe canted angle. Jack Palance plays Jack Palance playing Dracula. He attempts a Hungarian accent for his first few lines in the movie, rather successfully, and then drops it entirely the very next scene. It reappears here and there, in a word or two, but mostly Palance sticks to over-enunciating his syllables and speaking in a monotone. On paper, you’d see how an actor who specializes in menacing villains would be an ideal choice for Dracula, but Palance is too mannered and peculiar and too much the red blooded American to suit the role. At times he accesses that incredible menace he can convey with only a soft-spoken word or small gesture, and you glimpse something of what the filmmakers envisioned when they hired him. But then he goes back to his facial tics, weird, quivering manner of speaking, and wholly American verbal presence, and you’re back to watching Jack Palance with fangs.

Dracula Untold (Gary Shore, 2014)
What if the prologue for Bram Stoker’s Dracula were a whole movie? Vlad Tepes, Transylvanian hero and guardian against the Turks, good family man and all around decent lad, finds it necessary to accept the power of the devil to help him in his battles. Less a horror than an epic fantasy. That Dracula can defeat entire Turkish armies singlehanded makes his later death at the hands of a band of society men rather embarrassing. A big, grand adventure like this just makes Stoker’s novel bathetic instead of imbued with grandeur. One of the world’s greatest villains rendered a vulnerable underachiever in the end. Charles Dance plays the ancient Roman vampire that gives Dracula his powers. It made me wish to see him play Dracula himself. I bet he’d be grand.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1792 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:38 pm

Anguish was one of the three horror movies I showed my students during an elective horror movie mini course. I was very proud that their first reaction in discussion afterwards was that "No one in the movie was practicing proper Movie Watching Etiquette"

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1793 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:42 pm

That's even more impressive for being an actual thought rather than a mixture of groaning sounds and false starts. What were the other two?

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1794 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:52 pm

My students were amazing and we watched a lot of movies over the years-- we'd watch a whole film, break for bathroom/water, and then jump right into an hour-long discussion (our school allowed for these three hour blocks daily). My high school classes provided far, far better discussions of movies than I ever experienced in college. It's also how, say, when we did Noir, my students walked out of that course as actual noir experts, with ~35 noirs seen in full in class and additional dozen or so seen on their own time of their own choosing, meaning every student at minimum saw nearly fifty noirs over the span of a month and a half

The other two horror films were Halloween and Triangle, and we additionally did the Night of the Hunter the next year on Halloween

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1795 Post by knives » Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:53 pm

Brides is actually the only Hammer Dracula I like though that might have to do with my general preference for Cushing to Lee more than anything else. As to your question about the Lugosi version the answer is indeed no. Browning and Freund would each day do the bare minimum of camera set up (compare how point and shoot this is in contrast to other films by them from this era) before taking a lengthy lunch break. Outside of a few of the opening scenes there was no investment by them whatsoever.

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Re:

#1796 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:57 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:36 pm
Dracula a Go-Go
Image

Image

M Sausage, you might enjoy this after all of these: (90s-era) TLC's Great Books episode on the Bram Stoker novel, narrated by Donald Sutherland. I always LOVED these as a kid

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1797 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 18, 2020 11:03 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:52 pm
My students were amazing and we watched a lot of movies over the years-- we'd watch a whole film, break for bathroom/water, and then jump right into an hour-long discussion (our school allowed for these three hour blocks daily). My high school classes provided far, far better discussions of movies than I ever experienced in college. It's also how, say, when we did Noir, my students walked out of that course as actual noir experts, with ~35 noirs seen in full in class and additional dozen or so seen on their own time of their own choosing, meaning every student at minimum saw nearly fifty noirs over the span of a month and a half
That's heartening to hear, also my comment wasn't meant to be pejorative to students but to emphasize the only reaction I can imagine having within a half hour after seeing Anguish to be struggling to overcome a variety of sensations in order to squeak out a coherent thought

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1798 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Feb 18, 2020 11:12 pm

knives wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:53 pm
Brides is actually the only Hammer Dracula I like
BANNED!

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#1799 Post by knives » Tue Feb 18, 2020 11:20 pm

That's fair.

I really should have said loved since I do like the Freddie Francis directed one and AD has some silly fun to it. The rest mostly blur together for me while the first kind of just bores me. I much prefer the Frankenstein films, but that again might just be chalked up to finding Cushing a more effective performer. To be fair he actually was allowed to play a character in those films while most of the time Lee just had to say boo.

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Re:

#1800 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Feb 18, 2020 11:34 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:36 pm
Dracula a Go-Go
I very much agree with your enthusiastic appreciation of the Browning, which will be on my list, and I also found the Coppola disappointing the last time around. I actually liked the intention to create a lush, tortured Romantic love story, and Oldman's megalomaniac take, but the film lacks a tight script and it's too Hollywood in its feel. Then Keanu Reeves is inept, and Ryder lifeless. Lots of interesting-sounding films in your list I'd like to get to at some point.

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