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.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
Feego
Joined: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:30 pm
Location: Texas

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1376 Post by Feego » Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:22 pm

Lost Highway wrote:Stephen Thrower's "Nightmare USA" is the ultimate tome on American independent horror film. He is an excellent writer on non-mainstream horror in US and European cinema and anything by him is worth searching out.
Excellent, thanks for the recommendation! I just looked it up on Amazon where it has enthusiastic reviews as well. I'll definitely check it out.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1377 Post by domino harvey » Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:25 pm

Keep in mind he was responsible for the selection of films in the first volume! But, to be fair, I enjoyed his comments in the Video Nasties comps. Actually, if you haven't seen those already, that would be a worthy purchase for you. Our thread for the comps

User avatar
Feego
Joined: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:30 pm
Location: Texas

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1378 Post by Feego » Tue Mar 29, 2016 5:09 pm

Thanks Dom. I've read through that Video Nasties thread before, and it's very informative and entertaining. I've never gotten around to seeing those compilations, but they do sound like fun (from what I understand more so than actually enduring all of the individual movies).

User avatar
Satori
Joined: Sun May 09, 2010 10:32 am

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1379 Post by Satori » Tue Mar 29, 2016 6:04 pm

Stephen Thrower is by far my favorite horror film writer as well (at least since the late, great Robin Wood). He has a knack for extracting interesting analysis out of films that I thought were totally disposable. I've been reading Nightmare U.S.A. and watching the films he discusses in it on and off for a couple of years. His newest book on Jess Franco is really good too.

User avatar
Lost Highway
Joined: Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:41 am
Location: Berlin, Germany

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1380 Post by Lost Highway » Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:28 pm

domino harvey wrote:Keep in mind he was responsible for the selection of films in the first volume! But, to be fair, I enjoyed his comments in the Video Nasties comps. Actually, if you haven't seen those already, that would be a worthy purchase for you. Our thread for the comps
A lot of the films he writes about in Nighmare USA are pretty much unwatchable, but the stories he uncovers about them are fun. His tolerance for sitting though zero-budget dross for the odd transcended moment is far greater than mine but he's introduced me to films which have become firm favourites. He opened my eyes to Lucio Fulci at a time hen he was written off as a total hack and introduced me to Zulawski's Possession at a time when it was still considered a total failure by most critics.

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1381 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Mar 30, 2016 12:11 pm

I have been kicking myself for the last couple of months for not having emphasised earlier on in the American Horror Project thread that anyone interested should check out Nightmare USA first to see if they have any interest in that kind of low budget 70s horror (I'm taking the American Horror Project series as a companion piece to that book, especially with Thrower's input into the extras of that set). It is a difficult era to casually recommend to general audiences but it still throws up a number of rough and ready gems. Thrower in those video nasty trailer compilations makes a really strong case for Axe and The Child in particular. I've only ever seen the trailer for it so far but Three On A Meathook seems quite representative of the period too! (I love the noodling and detached narrator getting caught up in a sad, metaphorical reverie during that trailer!)

User avatar
Feego
Joined: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:30 pm
Location: Texas

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1382 Post by Feego » Wed Mar 30, 2016 9:58 pm

colinr0380 wrote:Thrower in those video nasty trailer compilations makes a really strong case for Axe and The Child in particular. I've only ever seen the trailer for it so far but Three On A Meathook seems quite representative of the period too! (I love the noodling and detached narrator getting caught up in a sad, metaphorical reverie during that trailer!)
Watching those trailers reminds me of one of the things I truly love about horror movies, and in particular these low-budget oddities. While there have certainly been plenty of independent horror films that are purely exercises in style or rehashes of tried-and-true formulas (perhaps more so these days with the easy access and relatively lower cost of film equipment -- you can literally shoot a "found footage" movie on your phone), what strikes me as so fascinating about these earlier examples is that they seem to come from a deeply personal place. No matter how bad the final product may be, and those trailers certainly don't promise any overlooked Oscar contenders, I get the sense that these filmmakers proceeded with them not to make a profit but because they had real purpose in making such ugly, nihilistic art. There was something they really needed to say with these movies, and they drew from the high-profile violence around them (it's hard not to relate the graphic violence and home invasion aspects of these early 70s productions to the Vietnam War, the Manson killings, etc.).

My recent viewing of Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural had much of this sort of appeal. It plays like the backwoods cousin of Valerie and Her Week of Wonders with its story of a 13-year-old girl embracing her budding sexuality amidst a group of vampires. The look of said vampires at times even seems to have been copied straight from Valerie, which was made three years earlier, but I don't know that director Richard Blackburn would have had the opportunity to have seen it. Apart from some impressive performances by lead actresses Lesley Gilb and Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith, the movie is strictly amateur hour in every other respect. It didn't help that TCM showed a washed-out, Academy-ratio print that looked like an old VHS transfer rather than the reportedly beautifully restored print released on DVD by Synapse. But even in this print, an eerie dreamlike atmosphere emerged from the cheap sets, somehow perfectly reflecting the mental construct of a naive southern girl. All of the men in the film are horny old lechers, and when faced with the thread of being pawed and slobbered over by them or succumbing to the lesbian seduction of the titular vampire, our young heroine seems better off going with the latter. Blackburn has the audacity to cast himself in a key role as one of these potentially dangerous men (a preacher, no less), and while directors playing roles in their own independent horror films was certainly not uncommon (Herk Harvey and George Romero did it, among many others), this instance does suggest an intriguing investment in the subject matter. The film manages to be both a failure of technique and a minor masterpiece of psychosexual terror and sheer artistic drive.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1383 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jul 03, 2016 9:29 am

Another summer, another Sisyphean quest to work through my unwatched cauldron:

American Gothic (John Hough 1988) While camping on an isolated island, a young woman is held against her will by Donald Trump’s core constituents.

Children of the Damned (Anton M Leader 1964) I wasn’t a fan of Village of the Damned, which took a decent premise and refused to explore it in any interesting way. On paper this quasi-sequel sounds even more flimsy— six genius kids from around the world are discovered to hold historic intellectual capacity and are gathered together in London, where they immediately form a collective and threaten the military and diplomatic figures of their varied nations. But I was surprised at how effective the film was, alternating intimidating shots of the little brats looking ominously at assorted adults with wry bits of British comedy from two of the specialists who first discover the existence of the kids. The ending here is strange and fatalistic in an unexpected way, and I’m not sure what to make of it but I give it props for going in such an unusual direction. Recommended.

Female Vampire (Jess Franco 1975) This movie is as awful as Lina Romay is attractive.

the Hand (Oliver Stone 1981) Another in the long list of movies my mom shouldn’t have let me watch as a child, this one left an indelible mark on me as a kid in that even today I still worry about ending up like Michael Caine every single time I stick my hand out the window of a moving car! The gory, blood-spurting bit of casual road-side violence that cripples Caine’s cartoonist in the film is relayed well, but Stone’s movie is a little too in love with the obvious psychological symbolism of having Caine’s phantom limb attack those who threaten him sexually (the message here is so obvious that it’s directly acknowledged and mocked by Caine’s character early in the film as a bit of preemptive lampshading). And of course the ending of this film follows that of many others this decade in having its cake and eating it too, with both hands.

How to Make a Monster (George Huang 2001) Part of the “Creature Features” Showtime series of cheapie horror movies, all centered around a new creation by Stan Winston. A skeleton crew of nerds work around the clock to design the perfect video game monster in the hopes of netting a one million dollar bonus, only to find themselves battling a sentient motion-capture suit that is receiving orders from within the game to kill its opponents (the programmers). As you can tell, this is not a movie that takes itself seriously, and as a product of its time, it is occasionally an illuminating history lesson of the period (Clea Duvall’s intern wants to secure funding for a “dot com”, &c). I have a greater tolerance than most for these brightly-lit late 90s/early 00s straight-to-cable Showtime features, and I must admit I enjoyed this a lot, especially the strangely cynical ending that finds Duvall’s character learning all of the wrong lessons from her ordeal with no criticism of her turn whatsoever.

the Incredible Melting Man (William Sachs 1977) Well, he’s melting all right, but how incredible it is to basically be soft serve frogurt wrapped around an astronaut’s skeleton for eighty five minutes is debatable. Long stretches of the scant running time are spent watching Melty slowly approach his next victim, quickly execute them, and then turning the focus to non-liquifying humans discovering the remains. Horrible acting choices abound from the non-melting principles, my favorite being an irate conversation about crackers. I would rather have watched a movie about crackers though.

Mr Sardonicus (William Castle 1961) Disfigured baron hires world famous doctor to treat his permanent grimace. This didn’t do much for me, but I liked that Castle’s gimmick at the end of offering mercy for the protagonist if the audience voted for it was clearly never intended to be utilized, though the eventual “punishment” ending is pretty toothless— literally!

the Oblong Box (Gordon Hessler 1969) An adaptation of the Poe story like the Lawnmower Man was an adaptation of the King story. Vincent Price cares for his deformed brother (whom he helpfully keeps chained inside a bedroom) out of guilt for an African tribe accidentally cursing the wrong brother. Eventually the deformed brother escapes, dons a crimson hood, and takes up gently running knife blades across the throats of assorted lowlifes throughout the English countryside. A silly movie, but I enjoyed some of its directorial flourishes.

the Shout (Jerzy Skolimowski 1978) Alan Bates’ mysterious Australian-refugee shacks up with John Hurt and Susannah York under threat of unleashing his Aboriginal death cry. A ridiculous movie that seems classier than it is due to the three well-regarded actors headlining the picture. This might have made for a passable twenty minute segment in one of those plentiful horror anthologies of the decade, but even at the brief running time here there’s just not enough material to justify a feature length, and the multiple (!) deus ex machina endings in the film make the time spent with the film even more pointless.

Someone’s Watching Me! (John Carpenter 1978) TV movie starring Lauren Hutton as a TV director stalked and harassed by an unseen neighbor. There are some effective passages here and there but the film as a whole is impossible to take seriously when there are numerous opportunities for Hutton to remove herself from harm or threat that are ignored for no other reason than that the film needs to fill a two-hour slot in primetime.

Spirits of the Dead (Roger Vadim / Louis Malle / Federico Fellini 1968) Like all portmanteau films, results vary, but each of these three Poe adaptations get better as the film goes along. The worst comes first with Vadim’s absurd faux-artistry and impractical wardrobe for Vadim’s then-wife Jane Fonda as the villainous countess who romances a horse after its owner (Peter Fonda!) parishes in a fire she ordered set. Malle’s middle segment is the only one of the three to play its adaptation straight, with Alain Delon facing off against himself, literally. Malle delivers a solid, occasionally disturbing entry but memories of it get quickly cast aside by Fellini’s barn-burning in “Toby Dammit,” which is easily the best thing I’ve ever seen from the director. Capturing a drunken/drugged haze of stimuli and barely concerning itself with Poe’s source material, the segment is a forty-five minute distillation of everything Fellini does best and its inclusion here is exactly like the Who playing one song in the Rolling Stones’’ Circus concert movie and blowing away everyone else onscreen to the point that you don’t even remember the rest.

Sssssss (Bernard L Kowalksi 1973) Probably about as good a movie as could be made about a mad herpetologist who gradually turns his assistant into a snake. This is of course a ludicrous premise, but for most of the running time it’s a decent horror movie, hitting the requisite notes until it just gets too stupid in the last half-hour. I could not help but wonder why the makeup artists would pick such a bright shade of green to paint the human-snake hybrid, especially once it’s revealed that the assistant was being turned into a cobra (and a completely normal, albeit blue-eyed cobra at that). It did seem like a lot of effort was expended by Strother Martin’s doc on making an ordinary snake out of human parts, but maybe this too is evidence of his madness!

Tourist Trap (David Schmoeller 1979) For all the guff that slasher movies from the 80s catch, at least they normalized the template to exclude silly distracting elements like those frequently found in the proto-slashers of the 70s. Case in point: it’s well-enough that this film co-opts the Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s formula of throwing idiot college kids into a backwoods horrorfest (here a wax museum/western history museum), but why did the villain have to employ Carrie’s telekinetic powers as well? There’s no need other than to achieve a maximum number of instances of crazy shit happening for no reason, which, as stated in the very first post I ever made in this thread, is one of my least favorite horror tropes. Chuck Connors at least seems to be having fun, and some of the open-mouthed masks the villain wears are effectively creepy, but there’s just too much cheating with the premise and the powers for this to ever land any of its punches.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1384 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 06, 2016 7:09 pm

I don't really like Brian De Palma, there's something to his style that keeps me disengaged from his movies, some sickly oversaturation and accompanying emptiness that prevents me from caring about even those films of his that seem to be effective. But I felt like giving him another chance, so watched some of his films I'd never seen over the weekend. Endless spoilers. Here we go:

Body Double (Brian De Palma, 1984) In the All-Time list thread, maxtrixschmatrix tore into this one not for the morality of its protracted murder scene, but for the ethics of treating something horrifying like sexually-based murder as a kind of game. For him, the distasteful callousness of De Palma's techniques in that scene were enough to call into question De Palma's motives for all his films, ruining the viewer-filmmaker trust. I think matrixschmatrix has hit on a truth: that scene in Body Double is indeed just a game, one De Palma often plays and that reflects his ethos as a whole. But I think matrixschmatrix has mistaken the intent here. As Domino noted in the same thread, the scene is a cheeky parody of the typical heroine in distress scene, with endless close calls that allow the hero to arrive in time for a miraculous save. De Palma takes all the elements of such a scene (endless improbable near misses, psychosexual overtones) and extends them to such outrageous lengths precisely to highlight the constructedness of the whole thing, including the distasteful sexual aspect of the violence. This is all a game indeed, because cinema itself is a game, a game of expectations teased, drawn out, then released, a game where audience and filmmaker conspire to fabricate and enjoy perversions. Cinema-as-game has been one of De Palma's main themes for a long time. This is why so many of his thrillers revolve around this or that character using film techniques to solve a mystery. Body Double is itself endlessly self-referential. It takes place in Hollywood, it's full of various filmic rug-pulls (it even opens with a desert scene revealed to be a backdrop), and it's about a man who transitions from being a film viewer to a participant in that film. The whole context of the plot is deception and fakery for pleasure. Sex and murder aren't games to this particular film, they're games to film in general, and De Palma shoves this in our face. It would be an indictment if the film weren't strongly in favour of the film game. But it wants us to be aware of the artificiality of what we're watching and enjoying, how the perverted mix of sex and death in a thriller is put there deliberately for our enjoyment, and how we enjoy that (if we do, and many do). De Palma has been doing this for a while, but this is his most explicit examination of it. I can't be outraged because that scene is not standing alone; it's pointing backwards at all such scenes.

Oh, and I didn't like the movie. Like almost all De Palma movies, it's all so slick and hollow that I couldn't watch with any investment. Every movement of the plot is so obvious and predictable, and the comedy is so dumb. I just didn't care.

The Fury (Brian De Palma, 1978) It's impossible to take this film seriously. Nothing here makes any sense on either a plot or character level. Only Kirk Douglas' character has a coherent motivation; aside from that, who knows why any of the other characters do what they do. This is the first conspiracy movie I've ever seen where the conspiracy goes unexplained. I gather a shadow organization is trying to corner the market in weaponized teenagers, but I pieced that together only because I'd seen many of the same beats in other films. And the movie is so visually disappointing, too. Normally De Palma can be trusted to lend it all some visual interest, but the set-pieces here are undistinguished (there is a highly-praised chase scene I was looking forward to, but it was just people running in slow motion forever) and the rest of the movie is workmanlike. And then it all just ends. Kirk Douglas' son tries to kill him (why?), Douglas jumps off the roof (why?) from a prone position (how?), and John Cassavetes blows up fifteen separate times. It's such a bizarre sequence of events. Cassavetes death is a slap in the face on top of it given that we've spent a movie with a character who goes into a screaming fit if she so much as gives someone a nose bleed, but suddenly decides to murder some guy that she technically knows nothing about and has never seen do a bad thing. I don't really like Cronenberg's Scanners, but it's a masterpiece compared to this one.

Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976) So many of De Palma's films are dated; his style always leans heavily on some of the sillier aspects of the decade. This is true of Carrie, but the movie is the best De Palma film I've ever seen. The slick, overwrought style is anchored by such a sure and moving emotional centre that the film is almost always riveting. This comes down to the actors, Spacek especially. Carrie and those revolving around her feel like genuine human beings. That does a lot for a movie. When everything comes crashing down at the end, it's more than a technical exercise. It has a real emotional impact to it. A fine film. I'm not sure why I waited so long to see it.

Raising Cain (Brian De Palma, 1992) This movie is impossibly ridiculous, but I enjoyed it more than most De Palma movies. I can't think of a reason why; I just noticed at a certain point that I was involved in the thing, and that's rare for me with this director. I doubt I'll ever watch it again, but it was fun while it was on.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1385 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jul 06, 2016 7:19 pm

Glad to hear another Fury dissenter, I recall getting raked over the coals when I last suggested it was awful. Even though I've seen him make more bad films than good, I don't have any strong feelings one way or the other on De Palma, except to say of the fifteen films I've seen from him so far, the ones I'd hold up as his best (In this order: Obsession, Phantom of the Paradise, Snake Eyes, Carlito's Way, the Black Dahlia) don't belong in this thread!

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1386 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 06, 2016 7:32 pm

Of your favourites, I've seen Phantom of the Paradise and Snake Eyes, and I was indifferent to the former and didn't like the latter at all. I'm very interested in seeing Obsession, however. It sounds like the apotheosis of the euro-sex thriller.

Despite the impression my post might've given, my feelings on De Palma aren't particularly strong, either. It's one of the weird things about him: I feel I ought to like his movies more than do. Something just always keeps me at a distance.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1387 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jul 06, 2016 7:39 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:I'm very interested in seeing Obsession, however. It sounds like the apotheosis of the euro-sex thriller.
Welllll, not to dissuade you from seeing it, but not at all. More like imagine someone remade Vertigo but misremembered most of the details and filled the blanks in with audacious, off-the-cuff insanity, and then gave the whole thing one of the best scores of all time from, who else, Bernard Herrmann! Whoever it was that claimed Herrmann was the real auteur of the film was spot-on, the finale in this movie is truly mind-blowing thanks entirely to the melodramatic frenzy De Palma and Herrmann cook up-- I mean, that final sequence is the most orgasmic use of music in a film ever, I'd argue!

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1388 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 06, 2016 8:07 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Mr Sausage wrote:I'm very interested in seeing Obsession, however. It sounds like the apotheosis of the euro-sex thriller.
Welllll, not to dissuade you from seeing it, but not at all. More like imagine someone remade Vertigo but misremembered most of the details and filled the blanks in with audacious, off-the-cuff insanity, and then gave the whole thing one of the best scores of all time from, who else, Bernard Herrmann! Whoever it was that claimed Herrmann was the real auteur of the film was spot-on, the finale in this movie is truly mind-blowing thanks entirely to the melodramatic frenzy De Palma and Herrmann cook up-- I mean, that final sequence is the most orgasmic use of music in a film ever, I'd argue!
That sounds even better. I'll be getting a copy soon.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1389 Post by knives » Wed Jul 06, 2016 8:10 pm

I think it was you who did! I'll likewise say that Fury is a pretty low hanging film (certainly I can't say there is anything done well) though the only one for me which is actively bad is Mission to Mars. I like him a great deal, he's easily me favorite of the New Hollywood crowd, but I don't feel any pressing urge to defend him either since most of what makes him a personal favorite is what frustrates others so it strikes me as mostly a difference in conclusions. Part of it is I don't quite understand most of the complaints leveled against him (Mr Sausage's distancing comment makes a sense but is utterly alien to my experience while I don't see anything wrong with Body Double even as I agree fully with the dissenting opinions). Not that this will matter for Dom, but I see DePalma and such critiques against him in the same breath as Cronenberg wherein the films are clinical giving the appearance of being hollow, but the director fills up the interior in a way that suits that hollow appearance. What that filling is is extremely different between the two directors of course and it is easy to understand how DePalma's filling could be criticized as shallow or obtuse though I personally don't feel that way.

This wound up being a rather awful defense, but I promised that to begin with anyway.

User avatar
matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1390 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Jul 06, 2016 9:13 pm

Oh, hey, I missed that post- thank you, Sausage, I think you crystallized my objection better than I did, even if ultimately you didn't have the same reaction. I think De Palma's game playing goes back and forth for me, and there are instances where he's using it somewhat as bitter irony rather than undercutting the connection to the film itself; having let Body Double wash away a bit, I think I've recovered most of my love for Blow Out, which ends on an intensely nasty joke- but one that seems to be meant to underline the connection between the characters and the viewer's connection to the film, not to undermine it. Body Double does feature one of the things I do really love about De Palma, which are scenes in which he luxuriates in technique for technique's sake until one can just float away on it, and that's a lot of why Phantom of the Paradise (which the porn shoot in Body Double most closely recalls) is probably my other favorite of his, but it's present in high degree in Obsession as well. I agree with dom about this music in Obsession- that it and Taxi Driver were Hermann's last scores is as remarkable as it is tragic- it's one of the De Palma movies that leans more closely towards surface pleasures, but the surface pleasures of it are legion.

I liked The Fury, but it's entertaining nonsense, and feels like lesser Cronenberg with some of the most extreme ideas taken out. Dressed to Kill is another slick, beautifully made movie with a certain amount of real pathos- or at least, I read pathos into it last I saw it- in the horrific murder of Angie Dickenson, which goes on for way longer than one can possibly feel comfort with, seemed productive in a undercutting-the-ease-with-which-one-watches-screen-murders way. Unfortunately, the ugly transmisogyny of the ending (which seems borne of ignorance rather than malice, but plays into half a dozen really harmful tropes) would probably kill the thing for me these days anyway. Scarface and The Untouchables both feel like De Palma putting on an ill-fitting suit, and while I enjoyed Sisters a lot it feels somewhat like a warmup act for obsessions De Palma dived fully into later on.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1391 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 06, 2016 9:51 pm

knives wrote:I think it was you who did! I'll likewise say that Fury is a pretty low hanging film (certainly I can't say there is anything done well) though the only one for me which is actively bad is Mission to Mars. I like him a great deal, he's easily me favorite of the New Hollywood crowd, but I don't feel any pressing urge to defend him either since most of what makes him a personal favorite is what frustrates others so it strikes me as mostly a difference in conclusions. Part of it is I don't quite understand most of the complaints leveled against him (Mr Sausage's distancing comment makes a sense but is utterly alien to my experience while I don't see anything wrong with Body Double even as I agree fully with the dissenting opinions). Not that this will matter for Dom, but I see DePalma and such critiques against him in the same breath as Cronenberg wherein the films are clinical giving the appearance of being hollow, but the director fills up the interior in a way that suits that hollow appearance. What that filling is is extremely different between the two directors of course and it is easy to understand how DePalma's filling could be criticized as shallow or obtuse though I personally don't feel that way.

This wound up being a rather awful defense, but I promised that to begin with anyway.
De Palma is someone I can very much understand others loving, tho' I don't share it.

I find your comments on Cronenberg strange. His gaze is often detached, but I doubt there is anyone, lovers or haters, who would have the impression that his films are hollow. That they are movies of ideas is apparent on the surface. They don't hide their intellectual content, whatever one may feel about it. Plus detachment isn't a corollary of hollowness (or the perception of it).

Also, De Palma doesn't have a detached style. His style is pathos-laden.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1392 Post by knives » Wed Jul 06, 2016 9:56 pm

I've heard the critique of hollow many a times against Cronenberg so while you have not that doesn't seem to be a universal truth. Also I didn't say that DePalma was detached, if anything he is melodramatic for the purposes of rather broad comedy, but rather clinical as a side effect (or vice versa) of his primacy for technique over direct emotional investment for the characters (though many of his films like the two war films and Blow Out are plain in where DePalma's emotional investment is).

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1393 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 06, 2016 10:04 pm

knives wrote:I've heard the critique of hollow many a times against Cronenberg so while you have not that doesn't seem to be a universal truth. Also I didn't say that DePalma was detached, if anything he is melodramatic for the purposes of rather broad comedy, but rather clinical as a side effect (or vice versa) of his primacy for technique over direct emotional investment for the characters (though many of his films like the two war films and Blow Out are plain in where DePalma's emotional investment is).
Ok, but was the critique that they were hollow in general or that they were emotionally hollow?

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1394 Post by knives » Wed Jul 06, 2016 10:07 pm

Both depending on the person talking if I understand you correctly (though I've heard the emotional claim, wrongly and bizarrely in my opinion, more against Cronenberg).

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1395 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 06, 2016 10:58 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:Oh, hey, I missed that post- thank you, Sausage, I think you crystallized my objection better than I did, even if ultimately you didn't have the same reaction. I think De Palma's game playing goes back and forth for me, and there are instances where he's using it somewhat as bitter irony rather than undercutting the connection to the film itself; having let Body Double wash away a bit, I think I've recovered most of my love for Blow Out, which ends on an intensely nasty joke- but one that seems to be meant to underline the connection between the characters and the viewer's connection to the film, not to undermine it. Body Double does feature one of the things I do really love about De Palma, which are scenes in which he luxuriates in technique for technique's sake until one can just float away on it, and that's a lot of why Phantom of the Paradise (which the porn shoot in Body Double most closely recalls) is probably my other favorite of his, but it's present in high degree in Obsession as well. I agree with dom about this music in Obsession- that it and Taxi Driver were Hermann's last scores is as remarkable as it is tragic- it's one of the De Palma movies that leans more closely towards surface pleasures, but the surface pleasures of it are legion.
I guess I don't object to it because it's parody. The concept of parody becomes incoherent if you start treating it as tho' it were a failed example of what's being parodied. Sure, if something's insufficient as parody, it becomes indistinguishable from the thing itself (see: Starship Troopers). But I think the murder scene in Body Double is clearly parody in the same way that the violence in Robocop is, and avoids being objectionable for the same reason. The violence in both is all so absurd and so obviously poking fun at the ultra-violence of this or that media that the extremity is not morally or ethically objectionable because it's present for an end outside of itself. Sexualized violence is ugly, but by the time a huge spinning drill bit is shot being lowered from between a guys legs and in another shot moves in and out of a hole in the ceiling, repeatedly, spewing blood everywhere, you have to laugh at the absurd near-literalization of a usually hidden trope. It's forcing recognition through exaggeration, a key technique of parody, so it isn't to be appreciated simply at face value. Something like Dressed to Kill seems far more open to the charge because it is meant to be appreciated in itself as a complexly and viscerally composed piece of violence and not much more.

There are plenty of other reasons not to like the movie, I feel.

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1396 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jul 07, 2016 4:39 am

I love The Fury for its fusing of Carrie with the political thriller genre. Though I do concede that I saw it in my early teens where it perhaps had the most impact - I fell in love with all of the actresses in the film to a greater or lesser extent (the Pong playing, ice cream sundae building montage sequence sold me most on Hester though!), which only made the horrible (and horribly amusing!) deaths all the more shocking! I love the slow motion escape scene, the scene on the bus, the strange digressions with Kirk Douglas breaking into an elderly couple's apartment, and so on! Its all silly, extreme, operatic grand guignol but that worked very well, I thought, only highlighting the ridiculousness of convoluted and nebulous political conspiracy genre all the more! (Its like its taking the essential elements of a particular kind of film and pushing it to the limits to glory in the spectacle and emotion of it all) Plus the spinning death here works much better than the limp CGI version that occurs in Mission To Mars.

I had a discussion a little while ago with Finch on Body Double and hope he will not mind my copying it over here too:

I kind of think of Body Double as pure De Palma - its the one that you'll either love or hate because it pushes his style, the sex and violence and some of the things that people find casually cruel and flippant about the filmmaker to its absolute limits. But that's part of what makes it amazing I think! Its a film I find difficult to recommend outside of somewhere like this forum, as I think people would be appalled at my taste and for having recommended it to them (I think I've moved a bit beyond worrying too much about expressing my bizarre opinions on the forum at this point!), but its endlessly fascinating. And its also a film that seems completely aimless and pointless for about three quarters of its running time unless you pick up on the Vertigo and general Hitchcock angle (which I completely missed on my first viewing! It kind of turns into a completely different film when the audience approaches it with that information!)

Plus also Body Double turns into a porn film/music video to Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Relax at the mid-way mark that is brilliantly audacious and the (literal!) climax of the Vertigo allusions (that YouTube video ends just as the circling kiss dissolves into the previous, lost woman again, and then back for the end of Relax!)

Blow Out, Dressed to Kill and Body Double strike me as the perfect trilogy as they feel very much of the same aesthetic and dealing with the same themes, just weighting them differently (much as Carrie and The Fury are a good pairing, or Scarface and Carlito's Way work well together). Within their similarities Blow Out strikes me as the more emotional and dramatic film, Dressed to Kill is the best genre thriller and Body Double is the best metatextual, layers of film referencing one interested in fantasy and reality being mixed up. Though of course all three feature all of those elements to a greater or lesser extent!

There is a scene in Body Double very similar to the Psycho-style lift scene in Dressed To Kill. And I think Melanie Griffiths here, as the nice-but-dim adult film actress is very much in the vein of Nancy Allen's character from Blow Out, albeit even more pushed into being a bit irritating! So much so that I wonder if De Palma was originally intending for Nancy Allen to play the part. And the film within a film that begins Blow Out gets hugely expanded in Body Double into bookending stagefright scenes but also our main character being a frustrated and literally cuckolded out of work actor, rather than the private investigator of Vertigo!

I really hope Arrow might get to it. If I knew there was a possibility of it, I would be toying with the idea of messaging MichaelB and offering my services to write a booklet essay for Body Double, as I'd hate to miss out on the chance of doing something like that some time!

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1397 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:37 am

And here's a bit more on Body Double:

It’s a very voyeuristic film and very much the ‘male gaze’ companion piece to Dressed to Kill, which felt as if it was privileging the viewpoint of the female characters more (to such an extent that Dressed To Kill resulted in the killer only being able to give licence to their urges Psycho-style by unleashing his repressed female side! It makes Nancy Allen’s attempted seduction scene in retrospect seem almost a taunting of the killer by true femininity!).

Its also a kind of veiled critique of masculinity in the sense that our hero is regularly failing to ‘perform’ in all areas of his life! (Its why I kind of identify with the character!). He’s sort of paralysed by his voyeuristic tendencies in all sorts of ways from his stagefright paralysis in his auditions to literally seeing his girlfriend in bed with someone else, to eventually finding himself in the too good to be true situation of housesitting across from an uninhibited neighbour with a handy telescope to hand! (In some ways the scene in Carlito's Way of spying on the object of affection also bears a lot of comparison to Body Double. They are both scenes couched in a kind of glossy objectifiying and glorifying point of view of the unattainable female figure)

It might be a blunt metaphor but the early adultery scene and the mid-point murder itself are kind of putting our hero into a passive spectatorship role to watch a more masculine figure ‘take’ the woman he cares for in front of his eyes. The failed attempt to save the woman (itself like the climax of Blow Out) isn’t just a way of drawing out the horror but a more concerted attempt of our hero to actually try and become the hero of his own narrative, to save the girl and the day and get a kiss, much as he falteringly had first tried to do with the mugger on the beach.

His failure pushes him back (after admonishment from the tough guy cop types, less interested in catching the phallic power drill wielding killer than being disgusted at our lead character’s creepy, stalkerish behaviour!) into the voyeuristic role, abandoned by the narrative much as Scottie in Vertigo is left in limbo after the initial suicide. But rather than abandoning his passive skills of observation, that is the aspect that he uses to solve the mystery.

The second half of the film from the murder on is about our lead learning to put his ‘unique set of talents’ to effective use, from putting the clues together, to convincingly acting the part of ‘The Nerd’ in the film within the film, to confronting his fear of enclosed spaces, saving the girl (who is amusingly played by Melanie Griffiths as someone who really doesn’t like being used either in a murder plot or as part of our hero’s self actualisation process!), and overcoming the dominant masculine figure who has been pulling all the strings behind the scenes in the way that Scottie in Vertigo singularly failed to do!

Really the whole film is kind of its bookending performance scenes with the opening of our lead being humiliated by his gruff director, played by Dennis Franz, and seemingly fired for his panic attack. Then the final scene is him back on set as one of your confident and sexy Twilight-anticipating vampires, extremely comfortable in confronting a lady in her shower stall, while the director (and his new self assured manager-style girlfriend) watch on approvingly.

It sort of suggests that the film is also a kind of a veiled take on ‘method acting’ with the actor unsure of how to play a scene and paralysed by fear at first drawing on his ‘real life’ experiences to give him the confidence to tackle his role.

This perhaps leads me to one of my few qualms about the film, though its not a deal breaking one. Much as I think Melanie Griffiths’ part feels like a Nancy Allen one, I get the impression that Craig Wasson’s lead role should very much be seen as a William Finley-styled one. In some ways Wasson is too handsome for the part of a bullied nerd lusting after and stalking a woman out of his league, before eventually saving the day. Just imagining William Finley in the lead role (as he was in Phantom of the Paradise) suddenly made a lot of the intent of the film click into place for me. Although in some ways that re-casting, doubling (crudening? remaking?) itself feels like it adds another intriguing metatextual element to the film. It sort of emphasises that synthetic quality even further.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Aug 23, 2016 7:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
thirtyframesasecond
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2007 1:48 pm

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1398 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Thu Jul 07, 2016 8:11 am

domino harvey wrote:Glad to hear another Fury dissenter, I recall getting raked over the coals when I last suggested it was awful. Even though I've seen him make more bad films than good, I don't have any strong feelings one way or the other on De Palma, except to say of the fifteen films I've seen from him so far, the ones I'd hold up as his best (In this order: Obsession, Phantom of the Paradise, Snake Eyes, Carlito's Way, the Black Dahlia) don't belong in this thread!
Are we not counting Phantom of the Paradise as horror? It kind of is.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1399 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jul 07, 2016 8:32 am

I think it even received votes in the actual Horror List, so yeah, you're right, though it just doesn't register on that level for me!

User avatar
Cold Bishop
Joined: Tue May 30, 2006 9:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#1400 Post by Cold Bishop » Thu Jul 07, 2016 4:31 pm

domino harvey wrote:the finale in this movie is truly mind-blowing thanks entirely to the melodramatic frenzy De Palma and Herrmann cook up-- I mean, that final sequence is the most orgasmic use of music in a film ever, I'd argue!
And, as I'm sure you know, it's only the finale because of Herrmann. Although as a result, I think it nixes Schrader raison d'etre for revisiting Vertigo:
SpoilerShow
What if Scottie had a chance to get revenge on Gavin Elster?

Post Reply