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

#1476 Post by domino harvey » Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:13 pm

Interesting background, thanks! What's Jekyll's motivation for his experiment in the book? I think the March version quite rightly understands that generic scientific curiousity is less interesting than sexual repression, but without significant female characters I imagine this is not present at all in the original text

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

#1477 Post by Feego » Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:41 pm

From what I remember, I think his motivation is basically the same. He wants to isolate his baser tendencies (for all vice, not necessarily just sex). But it's a bit murkier since the story is told from an outsider's point of view who is not privy to all of Jekyll's thoughts and desires. That's one reason why the original story is actually not that interesting to me. It reads almost like a blueprint for playwrights and screenwriters (and the readers, I suppose) to fill in the details that are left out.

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

#1478 Post by knives » Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:59 pm

Though there is a very strong indication that the two vices he is primarily thinking of are alcoholism and homosexuality which I'm pretty sure only Alan Moore's played with.

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

#1479 Post by domino harvey » Sun Oct 14, 2018 5:46 pm

Funnily enough, there's a throwaway line in the 1941 version where some classy ladies break a tense dinner table convo by asking, "Have you read that new poem by Oscar Wilde?"

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

#1480 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Oct 14, 2018 6:58 pm

Feego wrote: I don't know if there has ever been a film that took this approach rather than showing the audience that Jekyll and Hyde are one and the same from the get-go.
Amicus' I, Monster uses the structure of the book, with Peter Cushing playing Utterson to Christopher Lee's Jekyll/Hyde. It's rather good.

I share your affection for The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll. One of Hammer's best.

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

#1481 Post by Matt » Sun Oct 14, 2018 7:20 pm

I actually love the novella (one of my favorite works of literature, period), and I encourage you to read it, domino. Though Utterson is the primary narrator, the text also includes, towards the end, a letter from Dr. Lanyon describing Jekyll’s development and use of the serum and another letter from Jekyll, a sort of “final confession.” I think it’s quite thrilling, interestingly structured, and actually somewhat sad at the end.

The use of the serum is intended both to disguise Jekyll so that he may indulge in vice without detection and to liberate/suppress his conscience so that he can indulge without guilt. It’s intended to make physical and separate the “dual nature of man.”

The original stage adaptation (and there were actually a few different stage adaptations around the turn of the century) was engineered to provide a vehicle for a bravura physical performance by the stage star Richard Mansfield. It jettisoned almost everything that makes the book interesting and sensationalized the rest. This has been the standard for just about every adaptation since, though I really like the 1920 Barrymore film and think it’s faithful to the feeling of the book if not to the letter. I wrote a paper in grad school (almost 20 years ago!) about the early stage and film versions. I’ll have to see if I can find it.

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

#1482 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Oct 15, 2018 3:58 am

I'd love to read that if you found it Matt!
knives wrote:
Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:59 pm
Though there is a very strong indication that the two vices he is primarily thinking of are alcoholism and homosexuality which I'm pretty sure only Alan Moore's played with.
Serendipitously I revisited the film adaptation of Alan Moore's From Hell over the weekend, which features the same kind of takes on the frisson of Victorian sexuality, drug use (That Nine Inch Nails music video The Perfect Drug, kind of ventures into the same territory, given that its all about absinthe use!) and hypocrisy, which feels like it is one of Moore's favourite themes with the setting of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which was the subject of one of my favourite ever throwaway Simpsons jokes, with an adult cinema being shown to be screening "The League of Extraordinarily Horny Gentlemen"!), or the legacy of that era with the figures from classic children's literature Alice, Dorothy and Wendy having a fictionalised meet up and telling naughty stories about their previously indescribable antics in Lost Girls.

From Hell also features that Jekyll and Hyde-like duality within almost all of the characters, but especially the Jack The Ripper figure, where they all inhabit certain 'normal' worlds but get regularly forced by the circumstances demanded of them by their work to have to face extreme behaviour, the viscerality of bodily functions and urges that are driven by the body and the aftermath of such acts straight on rather than being able to remain somewhat detached from the gruesome truths of the society. Its fascinating less as a mystery about 'who' Jack The Ripper was, but for the way the material is equating prostitute, police inspector and the Ripper together as characters both defined and exploited by their environment and working conditions.
SpoilerShow
As the identity of Jack The Ripper in this version is the Queen's chief surgeon who has been tasked with murdering those who might be able to reveal a Royal sex scandal and illegitimate child. With this character, working in the highest echelons of society, steadily going more deranged as he has to kill and kill again, until the final complete atrocity of the almost complete dismemberment into unrecognisability of Mary Kelly. It is kind of a masterstroke that Ian Holm plays that character in the film (according to the commentary he was a last minute replacement for Nigel Hawthorne when Hawthorne became ill), as one of the most distinctively recognisable character actors of the time simply could not be able to portray a character behind such actions!
By the way the interview with Stephen Knight, the author of the juicily controversial Jack The Ripper identity theory used for the film (and for 1978's Murder By Decree) Jack The Ripper: The Final Solution is available here. It is available on the Fox DVD but missing the introduction, gets cut up into parts and is intercut with other footage to make it into an 'interactive feature'.

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

#1483 Post by Matt » Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:27 pm

Matt wrote:
Sun Oct 14, 2018 7:20 pm
I wrote a paper in grad school (almost 20 years ago!) about the early stage and film versions. I’ll have to see if I can find it.
colinr0380 wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 3:58 am
I'd love to read that if you found it Matt!
Found it! It's not a bad paper, just stiff and academic and aimless: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the Early Cinema: Serial Adaptation from Book to Theatre to Cinema

I'll only leave this link active for 30 days, so grab your thrills now.

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

#1484 Post by domino harvey » Tue Oct 16, 2018 3:11 am


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

#1485 Post by domino harvey » Fri Oct 19, 2018 1:14 am

Image

A Day of Judgment (CDH Reynolds 1981)
What happens when the producers of a Christian witnessing film decide they could make more money if it were a slasher and add in maybe a minute’s worth of killings into a clean, church youth group-ready Depression-era Christmas Carol-type story about small town sinners going to Hell for their misdeeds? Well, this, obviously— why else would I bring it up? A strange Frankenstein creature as a result, the film puts God into the role of slasher villain, an affront that presumably no actual Christian audience member would find inoffensive. And slasher fans would surely be disappointed by the notable lack of nudity, violence (beyond two brief inserts near the end), and even swearing. The result is a film for nobody, and it seemingly has disappeared even more rapidly than its immediate slasher brethren as a result. Not really worth seeing, but watching it was an unusual experience, and a good reference point when thinking about the extremes of the genre.

Down a Dark Hall (Rodrigo Cortés 2018)
A quintet of teen girls are admitted to an exclusive boardinghouse for troubled youth that promises to unlock their hidden artistic potential. Headmistress Uma Thurman, vamping it up with a bad French accent, neglects to tell the girls that she’s a medium and they’ll be vessels for the spirits of great artists eager to complete their works through these new bodies. A decent premise, I guess, but I think the film settles for a pretty mediocre YA plot right out of a Goosebumps book when it misses what could be a more compelling story: four of the five girls find clear “inspiration,” but the fifth remains on the outside and the film really falters by not having her be the protagonist. Not because this character as presented is interesting— she’s an underwritten collection of cliches, like all the others— but because then we could at least have some more interesting dramatic stakes than what we get here. Eventually the outsider amongst outsiders comes around and things get even less interesting, as the movie (and presumably the source novel) has no curiosity in anything but cheap, dumb ghost story thrills.

Edge of the Axe (Joseph Braunstein 1988)
Two computer-loving teens fall in love, but the girl is worried about her cousin whom she injured as a kid and who has since grown up and escaped the mental institution. Their romance must also compete with all those pesky axe murders happening in the background. This movie admirably tries to set-up a decent twist, only the red herring is so obvious that anyone who’s ever seen a movie before will be able to figure out who really dunnit long before the “reveal.” The film gives its supporting players character motivations that don’t factor into the story at all, but as the meme goes, an attempt was made. Minor points also awarded for anticipating current text trends by having the two teens chat back and forth on their computers, with all of their conversations not so helpfully spoken out-loud by a dude imitating an automated computer voice.

555 (Wally Koz 1988)
While the horrors of trying to call Klondike-5 on your phone will have to be told in another film, this cheapie policier sets itself apart from the other shot-on-video slashers of the era by having a strong script and enthusiastic (if not quite ready for prime time) actors. I could easily see this screenplay being a major Hollywood movie with Charles Bronson as the hothead police sergeant hellbent on finding the serial killer with a bad habit of killing and raping topless women. However, I don’t think I’d much like that movie either. I can recognize that this film tries really hard, but the movie it’s trying to be wouldn’t be good no matter how it was made. In the pantheons of slasher villains, though, a long-haired hippie in a floral print shirt and giant bushy beard is up there.

Mad Love (Karl Freund 1935)
Peter Lorre’s brilliant surgeon lashes out at the unobtainable object of his affection via various weird ways in this unusual studio film. The plot of the transplanted hands of a killer is absurd, but the film rises all of the other action up to its level of grandiose excess, so it works. I enjoyed this, but even with all the strangeness there wasn’t a single plot beat I couldn’t see coming a mile away, and I don’t think it merits the vaunted status some here and elsewhere grant it. It is, nevertheless, better than anything else I watched this round!

Månguden / the Moon God (Jonas Cornell 1988)
A serial killer wearing a tribal mask is slaughtering entire families gone camping in this Swedish TV movie that apparently scarred a generation of kids who tuned in. As a slasher variation focused more on the detective work to catch the killer, it is mildly entertaining, and the night vision footage the murderer sends the cops of one of the mass killings anticipates the more contemporary found footage trend in horror films— it’s an effectively creepy scene. Like any mystery movie, there are red herrings galore, but the twist ending did manage to surprise me. Not much better or worse than any other TV movie from any country, but watchable.

Mark of the Vampire (Tod Browning 1935)
A hoary horror programmer about a hott vampire girl who just stares at her victims turns into a hoary mystery movie programmer in the last ten minutes, a lateral move in terms of quality. Lionel Barrymore at least has some fun hamming it up as a professor brought in to verify the vampiric actions, and Bela Lugosi is also on hand to be Not Dracula. The ending is beyond a cheat and into the realm of “Fuck you, audience,” and not in a way that I found particularly worthwhile. The length of the Wikipedia entry for this tells me it has some kind of fanbase, but if you are a booster of this movie, I will never understand you or your kind. And I'm sure it goes both ways!

Memorial Valley Massacre (Robert C Hughes 1989)
Rich industrialist Cameron Mitchell (here looking very much like late-period Rip Taylor) entrusts his new campgrounds to the watchful eyes of his son, much to the chagrin of the crusty ranger in charge. Before too long, people are dying, and it becomes clear the culprit is… a feral caveman living on the campgrounds… who is also the long-lost son of the ranger. Suspension of disbelief gets the equivalent of pumping the brakes in this one, folks. Originally titled Memorial Day (which shows up in the end credits), this is an unlikely and little seen holiday slasher, and I doubt a revival is forthcoming anytime soon. Everything here is so close to PG-13 anyways that I imagine it was made with USA Up All Night in mind.

Night Warning AKA Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (William Asher 1983)
Susan Tyrrell’s overprotective aunt doesn’t want her seventeen year old nephew to leave for college, so people have to die in this astonishingly unpleasant slasher. I am stunned to learn this is held in some degree of esteem, as it is so actively awful. Case in point: Tyrrell kills a repairman and accuses him of rape. Bo Svenson’s stubborn police detective thinks the boy killed him and when it turns out the victim was gay, we are treated to the word “fag” thrown around at least a hundred times (“You think a fag raped your aunt?” &c). Svenson soon becomes convinced the "buttboy" killed the repairman because he was his "fag" lover. This charming discourse is of course only matched by Tyrrell addressing Julia Duffy (a long way from Newhart, though pretty close to nude art), here the boy’s girlfriend, as “slut” over and over and over. I hated this film. I hated how even for a genre far removed from reality, Svenson’s behavior is beyond insulting to any audience not because it’s so abhorrent but because it is so clearly only awful on such a cartoonish level to score a cheap payoff once the asshole finally gets his. And dear lord how I hated Tyrrell’s grotesque Oedipal schtick and how it was used to justify the film’s excesses.

Offerings (Christopher Reynolds 1989)
Some foolish rich dude saw Prom Night, said “I can do that here in Norman, Oklahoma,” and this is the result. Kid falls down well, becomes crazy after hitting his head at the bottom, escapes ten years later to kill all the kids as teenagers and also send some of their body parts as the titular offerings to the one girl who never made fun of him (though this doesn’t stop him from trying to kill her over and over before being shot seven times, once with a shotgun, and uttering “Love” before dying— spoiler alert). Literally the only point of interest was specific to me watching this and going, “Wait, is that OU?” before it became clear this was indeed filmed in Oklahoma. [P]

Shadows Run Black (Howard Heard 1984)
Someone is killing nude college women in this slasher that forgoes most of the gore in favor of lingering softcore shots of the soon to be victims. Completely useless, bottom-tier slasher garbage, though I did chuckle when the protagonist is told her brother killed her boyfriend and she responds with all the weighty emotion of being told by a cashier that you can’t use a coupon. This film has some mild notability for being the first film of Kevin Costner, so we can all look forward to Vinegar Syndrome’s deluxe two disc edition with twelve different slipcovers, one for each letter of Costner’s name.

Spine (John Howard and Justin Simmonds 1986)
A mental patient serial killer attacks nurses by calling them Linda, torturing them, and then removing their spines in this dumb and mostly incoherent shot-on-video slasher that often resembles home movies and is as narratively exciting as same. For those curious what the bottom of the barrel looks like for a bottom of the barrel genre, here you are.

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

#1486 Post by domino harvey » Tue Oct 23, 2018 10:42 pm

Image

Deadly Games (Scott Mansfield 1982)
Someone is killing women. He wears a mask. He plays a board game. I don’t care. Jo Ann Harris may be the single most annoying protagonist in film history. She’s certainly the most loquacious.

Death by Dialogue (Thomas Dewler 1988)
Vacationing teens visit an old movie set and uncover a haunted screenplay for Victim that updates its blank pages with murders just as they’re about to occur. Amusingly, the title updates with every kill (Victim 68, Victim 69, &c). That’s a fun idea, but this is a Troma film, so no one bothers to do anything with it. The cast at least looks like they’re having fun. Wish I was.

the Devil-Doll (Tod Browning 1936)
Lionel Barrymore escapes from prison with a mad scientist who, decades before Alexander Payne, envisions a world in which overpopulation and consumption could be solved by shrinking people, here forcibly. The minds of the resultant “dolls” are then wiped clean and can do the bidding of Barrymore, who picks up his pal’s mantle and dresses in drag in order to get revenge on the men who sent him to prison. I’m not sure how the film got away with not punishing Barrymore at the end given that he kills and/or cripples multiple people in the film, even if he was innocent of the initial charge. Did the Hays Office consider it time served? This movie is obviously very silly, but it has a charm none of the other movies in the Warner box seemed to capture. A reminder that even ridiculous stories like this could receive a sheen of respectability due to the studio heads casting A-level talent like Barrymore and Maureen O’Sullivan.

Doctor X (Michael Curtiz 1932)
Someone is killing and eating innocents during the full moon, and Lionel Atwell deduces it is a member of his scientific staff. So he secludes all the guilty-looking weirdo docs in order to use (mad) science to figure out the killer. This movie is filmed in gross two-strip Technicolor, and for much of the film it doesn’t seem like a product merited such cost. But then we get a completely nuts finale, with one of the strangest fucking things I’ve ever seen
SpoilerShow
I’m not sure I’ll soon forget the sight of Preston Foster slathering fake flesh all over his face while chanting “synthetic skin, synthetic skin”!
It’s not enough to make the film worth recommending, and it really doesn’t work outside of the last ten minutes, but seriously, what the fuck was that?!

Don’t Go To Sleep (Richard Lang 1982)

Dennis Weaver and Valerie Harper move their family to a new house with the ominous street address of 13666, but all is not well. Still in mourning after the loss of her oldest sister in a car accident, the youngest daughter begins to see her again, and her sister’s spirit convinces the girl to start offing the rest of the family one by one to prevent the two from being kept apart. This is an impressively creepy and disturbing made for TV film that delivers some legit unease in the moments between the living sister and the dead one as they blasély discuss killing their kid brother and grandmother and so on. In a cast with well-known actors like Weaver, Harper, and Ruth Gordon as the grandmother, it’s child actor Robin Ignico who shines brightest here in the challenging role of the little sister. This makes my disgust with the awful child perf in the Bad Seed even more deserved: now here’s a messed up little girl, and one who manages to avoid going big and instead simmer in a consistent tone of unease, aggressively glaring in between fake smiles and reassurances. Fundamentally, this is one of the most depressing horror movies I can think of, a joyless tragedy that stops to wallow in the sadness of the girl’s actions, and then reveals their cause is yet one more depressing act. Why is Warners sitting on this? I can only assume/hope/pray Shout is planning a release, because here’s an underseen horror movie that truly does deserve the deluxe home video editions they routinely offer to complete garbage. Highly Recommended. [P]

Fatal Games (Michael Elliot 1984)

A bunch of teen athletes are excited for nationals, only there’s a pesky masked assailant running around and spearing them with javelins. Slashers are already not the most progressive of film genres, but the villain reveal in this is easily the most needlessly offensive thing I’ve seen in some time
SpoilerShow
The discovery that Sally Kirkland’s nurse used to be a man is first seen as the sole reason the protagonist runs from her, and then Kirkland’s voice begins to modulate into “masculine” tones via after-effects. And of course the notion of female athletes being secretly men has already been used to undermine the real achievements of women for decades, this shit doesn’t need help from a movie like this. When a film like this trots out the old chestnut about the lesbian coach and her teen lover and it turns out to not be the most regressive thing here, well…
A film in which all coaches/adults are predatory or uncaring could potentially milk teen self-identification and provide some level of catharsis, but here it’s just obnoxious noise at best and repulsively reactionary at worst. On a different note, I’ve had the theme song to this goddamn movie stuck in my head for days now.

Moonstalker (Michael O’Rourke 1989)
Competent campgrounds slasher with your garden variety maniac on the loose. This one has a grudge against campers ever since his family was pushed out of their land by campground developers. So one night he gets sprung from the mental ward and dresses like a cowboy, complete with dark sunglasses even though the entire film takes place at night, and starts murdering everyone. This isn’t particularly good, but after a string of unbelievably inept slashers, I was happy for middling. Does contain one of the weirder “displaying the bodies” examples I’ve seen: the maniac ties all the corpses to a log that sways back and forth in front of the campfire while camp songs play from a boombox. How is the log swaying? Well, one of the not yet dead victims is hung from a tree and the other side of the rope is tied to the log, so her struggling is what completes the illusion. Sick, but inventive. Probably the only slasher in which the Final Girl protagonist accidentally kills not one but two friendly cops in separate incidents!

Nightmares (Joseph Sargent 1983)
This pilot for an anthology horror show never brought to series collects four spooky stories and used to air all the time on A&E when I was growing up, so I sort of remembered a couple of these segments. The first is a competent variation on my favorite urban legend, the High Beams. The second is a nonsensical but decent tale of Emilio Estevez’ video game-playing punk alienating everyone on his quest to reach a mythical thirteenth level of an arcade game. The third, which I had zero recollection of, is just Duel with unearned religious overtones. And finally there’s the one about the suburban family terrorized by a giant rat. Richard Masur, who was better served as the dad in License to Drive, is so obnoxiously pigheaded in this that it makes the moderately successful suspenseful moments for nought. So, overall, yet another argument about letting nostalgia, even when vaguely-recalled, stay fond in memories rather than confirm its mediocrity by revisiting.

Phobia (John Huston 1980)
A psychiatrist experimenting with a group of ex-cons’ fears finds his test subjects are dying one by one in this utterly predictable slasher variation by Huston. It no doubt sounds odd for Huston to make a slasher (albeit one with no slashing), but the bigger problem with everyone (correctly) categorizing this as a slasher is that it makes it painfully obvious what’s going on very, very early in the film. Since there’s only one explanation that would allow for the “slasher” tag, the audience is just stuck there as this bad drama plays out. Widely considered one of Huston’s worst films for a reason!

the Return of Doctor X (Vincent Sherman 1939)

Though it sounds like a sequel to Doctor X (and indeed shares the WB DVD with it), the titular Doctor X is actually the name for Humphrey Bogart’s resurrected child murder scientist. Bogart, in pasty(ier?) makeup and gray skunk-stripe, must trawl the streets for fresh blood donors to stay alive, and, well, I can understand why Bogart considered this a career nadir (though he was way, way worse in the Two Mrs Carrolls)

Scream (Byron Quisenberry 1981)
A camping group is stranded in a ghost town where they slowly start to lose member after member of their party to an unseen slayer. Also unseen: actual gore or violence or anything else lascivious. Not a deal-breaker for building suspense, but since that too is unseen, there is literally nothing here. That includes narrative coherence: this is so poorly made that it is often quite difficult to understand the specifics of what is happening on-screen. Pity the old Hollywood c-stringers caught in this mire: Alvy Moore, Hank Worden, and Woody Strode. Between Dr Pepper in this and Onitsuka Tigers in Fatal Games, I wonder which company regretted their paid sponsorship/product placement more?

Silent Madness (Simon Nuchtern 1984)
Originally filmed for 3-D distribution that never came, this is standard issue mentally ill psycho escapes the loony bin (though here he is is let out via clerical error) and gets right to work killing young women. There is no wit, no intelligence, nothing here. The film’s attempts to bring in the bureaucrats as secondary villains is ludicrous beyond measure: if you ever wanted to see the least-likely coverup in medical malpractice history, look no further.

I fully intended to reach the milestone of 150 80s Slashers this month, but the 1-2 punch of Silent Madness and Scream did me in a few shy of that. Prior to these recent rounds, I went two years without watching any new-to-me slashers, and that’s sounding pretty good right now…

Also, I’m working off a list of 80s Slashers to keep track, and it turns out there are two films called “Body Count” released in 1987, which is how I ended up sitting through a Canadian TV movie about a sniper on the loose while wondering the entire time how liberal one could get with their definition of “slasher.” It at least also had a pretty baller theme song, though

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

#1487 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Oct 26, 2018 6:18 pm

Murdoch in 2014 wrote:
Sat Nov 08, 2014 10:38 pm
Fresh off a Halloween binge!
The Conjuring (2013) - After the largely favorable reaction to this from the board, this one I saved for Halloween night. While my companion was terrified by it I couldn't muster much more than a shrug to its theatrics. Ghost movies have never been my cup of tea, with the only ones I've found frightening being, and it pains me to admit this, Paranormal Activity, despite that franchise's flaws. The film does well in its early moments where the ghosts are unseen, but when it does reveal the ghouls as the same ghastly sights as just about every other horror movie on the subject whatever scares it had for me immediately went out the door.
SpoilerShow
The family dynamics between the demonologist couple also detracted from the film for me, especially in the moments the spirits suddenly started attacking their home whereby all of that stuff about the ghosts haunting the property went out the window.
Another problem I had with the film was the general religious angle. I admit this is my problem far more than the film's, especially when it's dealing with religion and the battle between heaven and hell and all that. Still, I can't help but generally dislike any horror movie that tries to use itself as a thesis for the existence of the devil, especially when it closes with a line like "The Devil is real" and throws all manner of subtlety out the window. Although I did like the not so thinly veiled criticism of organized religion it had at the end. Still, I can definitely see the merits in the film and am glad to find a mainstream horror movie that works effectively if only for a little while.
I'm very late to the party on this first film in the series and whilst I mostly agree with Murdoch's points on the film's 'theatrics' and its incessant use of jump scares, which I would often agree are the worst aspects of the horror genre, I ended up quite enjoying this. I think it may end up being my favourite of the seemingly endless run of possession movies that have appeared throughout the 2010s, and also I would like to think the film pokes fun at the way that most of the other entries are found footage-styled by having a few moments shown through an early video camera! Approached prepared for lots of in your face ghost sightings and of course the credulous approach to religion that Murdoch also notes, I think that it works really well. I do like the way that the film sort of grounds its religion as a sort of practical thing - there is no question about faith and so on, since there is no question that the supernatural exists in this universe as well. And religious exorcism feels woefully unpreprared to face demonic forces that have hurt so many people. Plus there is the kind of running joke that the events of the film are all about gathering evidence for the church to intervene, by which point it will be far too late for the people directly affected! It is kind of about the 'first line responders' feeling that they have a greater responsibility to help the family than the church, with the church officials themselves being slightly ambivalent about helping the family due to the children not being baptised and the family not being regular church goers. Perhaps making it a film less about the conflict between believers and those who do not believe (you cannot really have that in a film where people are floating about the room!), but is perhaps more themed around celebrating plucky start up enterpreneurs getting their hands dirty and doing the difficult but necessary jobs to help those in need that the complacent public bodies do not!

As with the Amityville Horror (which I had not realised that this is a kind of 'prequel investigation' to, and also raises similar ideas that you cannot just leave your house for economic reasons as much as simply being attached to the property), I do not believe the 'true story' angle for a minute and subtle about its horror it most definitely is not, but as a ghost story rooted in a particular period and told with earnest seriousness, I felt quite entertained by it!

Plus the 70s fashions and set design is great! I love all of the clunky analogue technology and anti-Brady Bunch feel to the large family being terrorised (It also feels weirdly close to Poltergeist in many ways). Filmically, I really liked the use of the slow zoom in going on throughout the film, as well as the way that scenes jumped back and forth between the family and the investigators as they move closer together and their worlds end up entwined (quite similar to the structure of James Wan's previous film Saw, with the two people trapped in the bathroom faced with a very direct form of horror, whilst Danny Glover's policeman is at a bit more of a 'professional remove' from the horror, and might have the tools to combat it, at least for a little while). That gets replaced in the final section by the parallel action of the 'adult' characters trapped doing the exorcism in the basement, whilst the intern upstairs is trying to keep the children safe, before those two strands meet back up for the climax.

This might just be because Lili Taylor and Vera Farmiga are the key characters in the film, but it was interesting to see this as focused quite solidly on women and their daughters, with the men in their lives often powerless (aside from offering their love and support) and usually not prime targets for being menaced at all. And it was interesting that it interweaved the mother of the family and the investigator and her own daughter together, as the demonic presence is unfortunately able to 'jump' into terrorising the medium's daughter due to their shared amulet ending up lost in the haunted basement! (In that sense this is also for a brief moment amusingly tying in with the Amityville sequels, in which various objects become vessels for spreading the possession in their own right, beyond events being limited to just a specific act in a specific house. All leading up to that Annabelle doll, which I note has had a few spin off films in its own right!)
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Even the demonic ghost turns out to have been of a mother who killed her own child and then herself whilst her ineffectual husband was powerless to stop her!
Plus this has finally shown me what many horror videogames have been taking their cues from in recent years. It, as well as Hideo Kojima's P.T. demo/trailer for a prospective Silent Hills game that was cancelled, feel as if they have probably had the greatest influence on horror games for the last five years. (Amazing to think that a demo for a cancelled game can have had such a major influence on the direction of an entire medium for such a long time! Perhaps the very inconclusiveness of P.T. itself was the reason why it inspired and left room for so many other creators to put their own spin on the material?). Floating sheets, creaky armoires that have to be opened, exploring impossibly large darkened basements full of junk, falling down dark shafts, parents killing their children and being thrown into a purgatorial cycle of guilt, following ghostly footprints via UV (or candles, or a camera flash and so on), animal attacks, spooky yet horribly corporeal and murderous ghost women being a grudge, endlessly repeating hallways and loud thumps on doors, light switches not working and so on are all present and correct in Layers of Fear, Visage, The Beast Inside and of course if the slightly too on the nose name had not already given it away, The Conjuring House!

I'm actually quite interested in seeing The Conjuring 2 now, especially having found out that it is based on the same 'true story' that inspired that notorious BBC Halloween show from the early 90s, Ghostwatch!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Fri Nov 23, 2018 5:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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

#1488 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Oct 30, 2018 10:19 pm

Critters (Stephen Herrick, 1986)
I caught bits of this on tv as a kid. For some reason I thought it was an R-rated sci-fi Gremlins, but it’s actually a PG-13 sci-fi horror comedy...just like Gremlins. It’s not bad if you can get through the first 30 minutes, which is a lot of dull family shenanigans on a farm intercut with a couple of po-faced alien bounty hunters in red leather trench coats looking for the gremlins, er, critters. But things pick up once the critters arrive. At least one character trips per chase, and there’s not enough spatial logic to get any real tension, but overall the critters besieging the farm house works as a sustained action scene.

Tremors (Ron Underwood, 1990)
A childhood tv staple. Amidst so many horror movies that try to create likeability among its cast by giving them endless forced banter, how refreshing to get one with a charming cast whose interactions are actually amusing and natural and arise out of character. An exemplary monster movie.

Curse of Chucky (Don Mancini, 2013)
Did you know they’d been making more Chucky films in the last five years? I had no idea. Having taken the series as far as they could go into parody and wackiness, it’s no surprise to see them roll it back to a traditional slasher. Chucky is mailed to the ancestral house of an invalid and her mother. The mother dies under mysterious circumstances, and the wheelchair-bound daughter’s extended family move in to help her. Chucky kills them one-by-one in classic slasher fashion. Nothing that you haven’t seen in, oh, five other films in the same series. Notable only for the return of Andy Barclay from the first three (and played by the same actor as 1 and 2).

Cult of Chucky (Don Mancini, 2017)
The final girl of the previous movie has been committed to a mental institution after coming to believe that Chucky was a manifestation of her psychosis. Horror films set in mental hospitals are almost never scary; mostly they use the setting as an excuse to indulge in nonsensical plots and imagery. That’s what you have here. Not a thing makes sense and no part of its setting or characters (sane or otherwise) corresponds to anything in the real world. Even Chucky’s motivations, usually crystal clear, are unaccountable. There are multiple Chuckys now, a nurse in a slutty-nurse Halloween outfit, a patient with Jesse-Eisenberg-as-Mark-Zuckerberg as one of his multiple personalities, and (ugh) a doctor that molests his patients. They’ve also upped the gore by a factor of 10, so the movie has that, I guess. I hear a remake is under way with Aubrey Plaza as the mother, so looks like this is the last in the original series. It’s also the last of the big slasher franchises to get a remake.

Evil Dead (Fede Alvarez, 2013)
I’m no great fan of the original, but it had its charms, and those charms are absent from a film whose main reason for being is to take the original’s basic plot and apply a generic modern horror style to it. It’s the precise style of the Friday and Nightmare remakes: the same dark, monochromatic colour scheme, the same excessively crisp and jacked-up sound design, the same bland pretty faces, and the same glinting harshness to the violence. The intended effect of this style, the feeling it wants to produce, is the oversensitivity of an exposed nerve: everything a bit too keen for comfort. What’s missing is any sense of the gleefulness and looniness that made the first one worth watching. This is a silly movie treated with an insistent, heavy seriousness. Also misses a good opportunity to blast Slayer during the climax.

Scream 4 (Wes Craven, 2011)
Scream for the internet age, written by someone who doesn’t much understand it. There’re webcams shoe-horned in, some mentions of twitter and facebook, and a rant at the end about internet fame, but it’s all inconsequential and, at seven years old, pretty quaint. I don’t know that the film finds any novel variations on its formula, but at least it’s better than 3.

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

#1489 Post by domino harvey » Tue Oct 30, 2018 10:52 pm

Scre4m works better for me than it sounds like it did for you with regards to the motivation for the murders-- while the specifics may be sketchy, I think the impetus broadly still makes the most sense of any of the four films (and I'd rank this one second overall behind the second one)

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

#1490 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Oct 30, 2018 11:29 pm

I don’t know. The motivation is that to get famous in the internet age, you have to have something extreme happen to you, which isn’t at all how you get internet famous. Ingrid Goes West does a better job showing how scary the emptiness and callousness of internet celebrity can be, and how it acts as primer for mental illness—and it’s a comedy!

Getting famous by being a serial killer with his crimes plastered all over the 24 hour news cycle, ie. the first film’s motivation, seems more plausible.


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

#1491 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Nov 23, 2018 5:27 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Tue Oct 23, 2018 10:42 pm
Doctor X (Michael Curtiz 1932)
Someone is killing and eating innocents during the full moon, and Lionel Atwell deduces it is a member of his scientific staff. So he secludes all the guilty-looking weirdo docs in order to use (mad) science to figure out the killer. This movie is filmed in gross two-strip Technicolor, and for much of the film it doesn’t seem like a product merited such cost. But then we get a completely nuts finale, with one of the strangest fucking things I’ve ever seen
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I’m not sure I’ll soon forget the sight of Preston Foster slathering fake flesh all over his face while chanting “synthetic skin, synthetic skin”!
It’s not enough to make the film worth recommending, and it really doesn’t work outside of the last ten minutes, but seriously, what the fuck was that?!
That reveal of the identity of the killer (major plot spoiler in video) is perhaps the most disturbing sequence in 1930s cinema. I think it mostly comes down to that strangely detached quality that suddenly occurs, as we get "synthetic flesh" lovingly yet menacingly spoken in obvious voiceover across lapse dissolves inexorably pushing the sequence onwards, whilst all of the bubbling lab equipment bubbles and buzzes away like mad!

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