My Horror-thon Home Stretch

My horror-thon is not quite over, but I can already say I’ve outdone myself this year. I will have watched almost 50 features, a few shorts and a handful of television episodes by November 1st. In all, there were only a few duds — though of course, horror is in the eye of the beholder. Most everything I watched I found intriguing, creepy, hilarious or at least darned fun. The few that didn’t move me, I moved to the bottom of the list. The rest are just in the random order in which I watched them. Behold:

Features

  1. The Signal (David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry, 2007) Loved it! Trailers do not do this justice. Esp. like middle comic section: “Who wants cocktails?” “We have to exterminate with extreme prejudice.” “You just finish jump-starting your head.” “I think I found your sledgehammer out here, so I’m gonna borrow it for a second if that’s okay.” (breaks down door) [from EMP’s List]
  2. Black Sunday (Mario Bava,1960) Finally saw whole thing after having fallen asleep twice during late screenings. Classic gothic fun! [from EMP’s List]
  3. Zombie 2 (Lucio Fulci,1979) Where has this movie been all my life! It’s in Techniscope!! I need the Blu-ray.  [from EMP’s List]
  4. 30 Days of Night (David Slade, 2007) Love the chiaroscuro cinematography not to mention Danny Huston.  [from EMP’s List]
  5. Ravenous (Antonia Bird, 1999) It degenerates at the end, but still – great cast, gorgeously shot and darkly hilarious! Female director and Guy Pierce – how can you not love?
  6. The Gift (Joel Edgerton, 2015) Not a horror film, but a grim and creepy thriller. Fun!
  7. God Told Me To (Larry Cohen,1976) Screening event @ Cinefamily – pre-release cut with amazing introduction by Larry Cohen himself. Murder-suicide epidemic running amok in Manhattan. 1970s NY is the scariest character. Cheesy resolution, but Andy Kaufman has fun bit part.
  8. The Canal (Ivan Kavanagh, 2014) Love the cinematography, design, sound, film-archivist premise, and the faux old footage. But the protagonist is flat, twist is lame, and its ultimately hard to care about any of it.
  9. Scanners (David Cronenberg, 1981) Conspiracy theory, telekinesis, and chemical warfare – whee! (I thought I’d seen this, but hadn’t)
  10. The Purge (James DeMonaco, 2013) Hmm. It could happen… If Trump is elected.
  11. Hour of the Wolf (Ingmar Bergman, 1968) Screening event @ Cinefamily – Love! Stunning imagery. Captures the psychological creepiness involved in trying to love an obsessed and selfish artist. Supposedly Bergman’s only horror – but I feel like many of his films are pretty horrific.
  12. New Year’s Evil (Emmett Alston, 1980) Whoa! L.A. time machine. The punk scene, 1980. SO FUN!
  13. The Visit (M. Night Shyamalan, 2015) Ridiculous, but I enjoyed the first 3/4 because of the teen-auteur angle, comic timing, and fantastic cast. The end is disappointingly stupid though.
  14. Waxworks (Paul Leni, 1924) One of the most amazing of the expressionist films, images chiseled in light out of darkness, undulating and organic expressionist set design, with unbelievable cast of giants: Emil Jannings, Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss and William Dieterle. Not sure why this one gets less attention than some others, possibly because Leni died too young.
  15. Thirst (Chan-wook Park, 2009) Non-glamourous vampire lust — I love it!!
  16. Yakuza Apocalypse (Takashi Miike, 2015) Screening event @ Egyptian OMG too fun. There was a man in a fuzzy frog suit in the lobby. Why? Oh that’s why!! Miike’s still got it – manages to combine operatic violence, brilliant choreography and editing, off-the-wall zaniness, hilarity, and somehow humanity.
  17. The Werewolf (Fred Sears, 1956) Re-watched and re-loved! It’s a sci-fi wolf man (created by lab test), who gets hunted down in B-noir style. My favorite of all the wolfmen! Shot by Edward Linden who also shot King Kong.
  18. Fall of the House of Usher (Jean Epstein, 1928) Re-watching this masterpiece for lecture on French Impressionism. So gorgeous.
  19. Fall of the House of Usher (James Sibley Watson, 1928) Re-watching this masterpiece of American Expressionism. So gorgeous.
  20. House of Usher (Roger Corman, 1960) While I’m on an Usher kick…. This film looks amazing, but kind of ho-hum compared to other Corman-Price collaborations. I think due to Mark Damon getting too much screen time.
  21. Housebound (Gerard Johnstone, 2014) New Zealand must be a really weird place…. Quirky, funny, creepy and charming — can’t think of any other movie that pulls all of this together and pulls it off.
  22. Phantom of the Opera (Rupert Julian, 1925) Screening event @ Egyptian Terrific live accompaniment, organized by Ron Chaney. Fantastic collection of family memorabilia in the lobby! Very glad I was there. [Here’s the 1929 version w/Technicolor sequence – beautiful].
  23. The Most Dangerous Game (Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1932) Cooper-Schoedsack films really stand the test of time. Daring, even by pre-code standards, and truly creepy. I hadn’t seen this in decades and forgot how great it is. Happy it got the Criterion treatment. It’s a marvelously macabre piece of 30s horror. Starring Joel Mccrea, Faye Wray and Leslie Banks — all awesome as ever. [on Hulu] [Pre-Code Horror]
  24. Black Moon (Roy William Neill, 1934) This was a delightful surprise for me. Caribbean voodoo delivered with Pre-Code sensuality and a surprising level of sympathy for both women and the Afro-Caribbean natives (connected here via white paternal oppression).  [Pre-Code Horror]
  25. Isolation (Billy O’Brien, 2005) Horror for vegetarians, not that they would be spared from mutant cow fetus virus. This one’s still stuck in my craw like a piece of rotting meat. Gah! Love the desaturated gloom. John Lynch and Essie Davis as always engaging.
  26. The Purge II (James DeMonaco, 2014) The social critique here is dead-on, excuse the pun. Great film but also incredibly depressing.
  27. Tales of Halloween (multi, 2015) Mostly fun. Three of the ten were disappointing. The last three were a kick. Cameos by John Landis, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Adrienne Barbeau, Barry Boswick, and John Savage are fun. [trailer]
  28. Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro, 2015) Very beautiful. Hiddleson’s role is rather a thankless caricature, but the ladies get to chew scenery, and what lovely scenery it is. The story is Brönte by way of Poe. Glad my expectations were not too high, so it exceeded them.
  29. The Guest (Adam Wingard, 2014) Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) is awesome in this dark and wacky thriller-horror. Typical plot — stranger not who he says — but everyone here is having fun, from the actors to the camera crew and set design. The darkness and the humor just keep building. The final showdown is hilarious — I can say no more. Check it out. [trailer]
  30. Creep (Patrick Brice, 2014) Love this little movie. Just two characters, simple “found footage” conceit. But it does creep you out from the get go, and has fun with unexpected twists. The end is a bit of a let down because it is twist-less, but perhaps Creep 2 will pick it right up. [trailer]
  31. Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. Kenton, 1932) Pre-Code kinkiness. A re-watch. Charles Laughton as the doc and cinematography by Karl Struss are both great. It drags a little, but the climax is great, lead by Bela. [Pre-Code Horror]
  32. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932) Whale’s signature pre-code romp, hilarious with dryly witty dialogue in the quintessential titular house. A re-watch for me. Love more every time. Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, Charles Laughton, Ernest Thesiger, Gloria Stuart. [Pre-Code Horror]
  33. Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (David Gregory, 2014) Technically a documentary, but just as horrific as the actual film, which is a horror only in terms of how awful it is. This doc unmasks that tragic monster. About 3/4 through I was disgusted and depressed but there is a delightful plot twist. Dear Mr. Stanley, I certainly do hope you get a few more last laughs. [trailer]
  34. Black Sabbath (Italian Version) (Mario Bava, 1963) Had never seen the Italian version — way kinkier and more fun, however Karloff is dubbed and it’s sad not to hear his voice.
  35. Tales of Terror (Roger Corman, 1962) I would have sworn I had seen this movie, but I hadn’t! It’s now my favorite AIP-Poe! Price, Lorre and Rathbone are having so much contagious fun chewing up the terrific scenery. Pretty clever mash-ups of Poe’s tales. [On Dailymotion]
  36. Comedy of Terrors (Jacques Tourneur, 1963) Hilarious! Price, Lorre and Rathbone again, with the later getting to show off his comedy chops. Love. [On Dailymotion]
  37. You’re Next (Adam Wingard, 2013) Classy-creepy thriller. Plot not terribly exciting – rich family in remote home inexplicably attacked and trapped. But pulled off with panache from cinematography to editing to performances. [trailer]
  38. Don’t Go to Sleep (Wes Craven, 1982) Pretty creepy for a tv movie. Evil children are always fun, not to mention Ruth Gordon. Alas Dennis Weaver and Valerie Harper have rather thankless parts. I went much further than I’d thought it would, which was mind-bogglingly fun by the end.
  39. Witching and Bitching (Álex de la Iglesia, 2013) The opening set piece is a scream: two jewel thieves, dressed as a metal Jesus and a plastic soldier, make a getaway in a cab. The leader’s son is along because it’s his weekend with dad. The men — including the cab driver — complain about what horrors women have put them through as they make their getaway and wind up on the road to an old, Basque town of witches. And wild, cannibal witches they are. The film has a wacky darkness, vaguely reminiscent of Delicatessen, and is pretty hilarious for its first 2/3. But as it enters the home stretch it gets annoying. Is it me, or does it ultimately reinforced the sexist idea that all women are witches/bitches? [trailer]
  40. We Are What We Are (Jim Mickle, 2013) Very smart and classy horror. Gets off to a slow start, but the grey palette and slowly sweeping cinematography set up a truly haunting atmosphere. Once things get going it is increasingly disturbing. The scene of dad in the rain, will stick with me forever — I can say no more. Also the one of the young lovers, and the final showdown. Shivers. Nothing is scarier than family. [trailer]
  41. Prince of Darkness (John Carpenter, 1987) Screening event @ Union Church, now the Union Center for the Arts (beautiful historic restoration), in LA’s Little Tokyo where it was filmed. A much more fun movie than I remembered it, but very 80s with bad hair and dialogue. When things really get going though, it’s pretty fun.
  42. Dracula (Tod Browning, 1931) Screening event w/Philip Glass & Kronos Quartet
  43. The Black Cauldron (Richard Rich, Ted Berman, 1985) Not horror, but dark fantasy. Saw it in 1985. Re-seeing on big screen, same impression: hero and heroine are lame. Bad guy and his crew are awesome and don’t get enough screen time. But was fun to see them loom large again.
  44. Pet Sematary (Mary Lambert, 1989) Saw this on original release. Was somehow hoping it would be better this time. Uh… no. Fred Gwynne, the cinematography, and the cat are awesome. The rest is a real groaner – an 80s style groaner.
  45. Escapes (David Steensland, 1986) So 80s! The synth-sax score, the ugly hair. It tries to get po-mo self-reflexive but fails. Like weak Tales from the Darkside episodes, and Vincent Price is barely present. It was almost fun… but… not.
  46. The Final Girls (Todd Strauss-Schulson, 2015) Meh. It’s got this mother-daughter subplot (lame) that took up 65% of the movie. None of the females were interesting — guess what: written and directed by young men. The two funny (male) characters — SPOILER ALERT – get killed way too soon. I was hoping the absurd premise would be revealed at the end to have some significance, but no. Bummer. [trailer]
  47. Monster Club (Roy Ward Baker, 1980) I really only liked the framing bits with John Carradine and Vincent Price, but the accompanying “new wave” musical performances are unbearable – except the very last one when Price dances, suave as ever. Donald Pleasance is also great in his bit as a bowler-sporting company-man vampire hunter.
  48. Ghost Train (Walter Forde, 1941) Could have been a fun, old school, ensemble spooky-comic thing à la ‘The Cat and the Canary’ but misses badly thanks to Richard “Stinker” Murdoch who stinks indeed. Makes one appreciate the delicate balance Hitchcock struck between comedy and mystery in Strangers on a Train — This one derails instead.
  49. Stoker (Chan-wook Park, 2013) Totally creepy and hauntingly beautiful. Something about how Park uses space and distance to eloquently express volumes. Mia Wasikowska is India, a creepy teen whose father has just died horribly. Creepy Uncle Charlie (must be a Hitchcock homage) appears at the funeral and moves with India and mom (Nicole Kidman) and gets both women all worked up, to say the least. Ultimately ridiculously corny, but fun along the way, i.e. piano-sex scene, saddle-shoe imagery. [trailer]
  50. Homicidal (William Castle, 1961) Before there was Sleep Away Camp, there was Homicidal, complete with it’s “fright break” giving scaredy cats a chance to get out. God bless William Castle! [trailer]
  51. The Black Cat (Ulmer, 1934) One of the creepiest of the pre-code horrors features both Karloff, Lugosi, satanism, WWI horrors, necrophilia, torture, ailurophobia, and plain old murder all in an art deco mansion in Hungary.
  52. House of the Devil (Ti West, 2009) I liked the first 30 retro minutes of this one, from the freeze-frame-ugly-font title sequence, through the arrival at the babysitting gig. I thought it got the early-80s tone better than some other more popular films (i.e. It Follows). But honestly I got bored and kept wandering off after that, and the climax and payoff weren’t exciting enough to redeem it for me. Well crafted but zzzzzzz story. (Sorry, Ti).

Short Films

  1. “I Love Sarah Jane” (Spencer Susser, 2008) No one does post-apocalypse like the Aussies. Mia Wasikowska is perfect.
  2. “Talk Show” (David Bruckner, 2011) Bruckner’s (The Signal), twisted twist on Pinter’s “One for the Road” comes out HUAC + Guantanamo + reality TV = a real squirmer!
  3. “In a Corner” (Takashi Shimizu, 1998) Before Ju-On, short on plot but big in Japanese creep aesthetic, complete with school girls.
  4. “Sea Devil” (Brett Potter, Dean Marcial, 2014) Simple, spooky, and beautifully shot.
  5. “The Cat With Hands” (Robert Morgan, 2001) Appropriately creepy and fable-like.
  6. “Zombeer” (Rob van der Velden, 2008) “Amsterdam’s finest!” Don’t quit at credits. Delicious Dutch mayhem comes after.
  7. “iMom” (Ariel Martin, 2014) Creepy sign of our times?
  8. “Comedy” (Kazuto Nakazawa, 2004) Animé of gothic Irish legend, Germanic swordsman, and Dante evoking Fantasia.
  9. “Killer Raccoon” (Tom G.,1979) Don’t ask me how I found this Super 8 gem. The ‘coon goes on a spree that includes picking up hitch-hikers (thus driving), sidling up to a bar, and visiting a massage therapist. I can’t spoil the ending, but, uh, yep.

I also watched all of Wes Craven’s Twilight Zone Episodes (1985-86), the complete Masters of Horror series, and some vintage animation as part of my Horror-thon. Oh yes, and of course, American Horror Story: Hotel, but that’s needs its own post.

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