Monday, October 20, 2008

The October Horror Movie Challenge, 2008 edition.

Like Jason returning in a Friday the 13th sequel, The October Horror Movie Challenge is upon us once again. The object, as usual, is to watch 31 horror movies before midnight chimes on Halloween, with at least 17 movies being movies you've never seen before.

I got off to a flying start after the end of my vacation. I've got some catching-up to do. First-time viewings in blue:

October 6:

282. Black Sabbath (1962, directed by Mario Bava). In which Bava invents Italian horror cinema out of whole cloth. It's like a Basil Gogos painting come to life. Longer review here.

October 7:

283. Snake Woman's Curse (1968, directed by Nobuo Nakagawa). Weird, theatrical Japanese horror movie, with a strong Marxist backbone. Evil land-owner torments peasant family. Peasant family visits a nasty curse upon them once they're all dead. It's creepy in parts. Never really scary, though. Mostly an oddity.

October 12:

284. The Uninvited Guest (2004, directed by Guillem Morales). A brilliant set-up, in which an architect begins to think the man who came in to use his phone and then disappeared is living somewhere in his house. Lots of doubling goes on in this--there's a doppelganger effect--but the ending of the film descends into an incoherent ambiguity. Still, the first hour is razor sharp.

October 15:

285. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936, directed by George King). In which Tod Slaughter devours the scenery as the title character. It's amazing how much Sondheim took from this version of the story. It creaks, though. A lot.

October 16:

286. Feast (2005, directed by John Gulager). This is a minor miracle. Anyone who watched this unfold on Project Greenlight saw a completely dysfunctional production. That anything watchable emerged is surprising. That something genuinely entertaining emerged is astounding. Mind you, this isn't great. It has some fun subverting expectations (and winking at the audience while it does), but it's nothing profound. Another variant of the Night of the Living Dead scenario, which is so popular because it's so cheap to produce. But even so, it has an appealing instinct for the jugular.

October 17:

287. MOH: Homecoming (2005, directed by Joe Dante). A disappointment. I mean, I love that Dante decided that "complete freedom" means freedom to make a political statement, and I love the fact that this is a modern updating of Abel Gance's J'accuse. But the satire isn't sharp enough and it doesn't go far enough over the line to draw any real blood. The real thing is still more horrifying.

288. MOH: Pick Me Up (2005, directed by Larry Cohen). The weird alchemy in this series continues, in which the guys I don't much respect are the ones knocking it out of the park while the heavy hitters are striking out. This time, Larry Cohen makes me choke on every bad thing I've ever said about his movies, because this is sharp, merciless, and scary. Having his cinematic alter-ego, Michael Moriarty, as one of his dueling serial killers is a nice bonus, and even Fairuza Balk's familiar face doesn't save her in the end. Nice.

289. The Dark (2005, directed by John Fawcett). If one turns off the sound and ignores the story, this is a beautiful production. Gorgeous locations on the Isle of Man, terrific actors, superior cinematography. I mean, Sean Bean (yum) and Maria Bello (also yum) alone should make this work, right? Well, not quite. The story itself is pretty bad, and the script sounds like crap even when it comes out of the mouths of these actors. In spite of its Welsh back story, this still seems like it's ripped off from Asia.

October 18:

Nothing. I suck

October 19:

290. Mother Joan of the Angels (1961, directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz). Not quite a nunsploitation film, and artier than most similar films short of Ken Russell's The Devils (it tells more or less the same story), this still feels vaguely like a Hammer film. I mean the stark visuals are a million miles away from Hammer, but the set-up would be at home in any of their vampire movies. The picture quality on the DVD leaves a LOT to be desired.

291. Do You Like Hitchcock (2005, directed by Dario Argento). Workmanlike made-for-TV giallo and no more. It throws around Hitchcock references with abandon, but it doesn't understand any of them. Dario, I hardly knew ye.

292. Non Horror: The Last Laugh (Der Letzte Mann, 1924, directed by F. W. Murnau) with live music by Rats and People Motion Picture Orchestra, who were fabulous. The movie itself is silent film at its most inventive and sophisticated, even though there's a stark break in the mood near the end. Does it betray it's intent? Maybe. I dunno. Emil Jannings overacts regardless. Not my favorite Murnau, but one can see the seeds of later Murnau (Sunrise, for instance) in this film. It's hard to believe that this is the same filmmaker who made Nosferatu just two years earlier. Its a quantum leap in cinematic sophistication.

Current tally: 10 films, 8 new to me.

God, I'm sucking this year.

1 comment:

bsleven said...

OH my gosh! I Love Monster Movies! I'm glad to hear that others share my love of the creepyness and scarryness of monster films!