Saturday, October 31, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31

There are some movies that work best when you going into them knowing little about what's coming. What We Do in the Shadows (2014) is one such film. So, all I'm going to say is it's mundane, and it's about vampires, and it's extremely funny and easily the best film I've watched this countdown. Go see it.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31 - Movie 1

The tv miniseries of Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1979) is more soap opera than horror, but still holds up pretty well despite a few dated fashion choices. The Glick boys hovering outside of the window, filmed in reverse to give it an even eerier quality, are still a chilling site, and Nosferatu inspired Mr. Barlow is one hell of a vampire, even given his short screen time.  The performances are good, particularly David Soul, Lance Kerwin, James Mason and Bonnie Bedelia, and you genuinely do care about the welfare of the people in the film. It was nice to revisit Salem's Lot after a long time away.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31

As a child I tuned in religiously to The Creature Double Feature on WLVI, channel 56 out of Boston, and each week I'd also draw the monsters featured in the various movies shown. In a lack of judgement/foresight, my high school self tossed out the entire thick stack of drawings. One managed to slip through the cracks and it is the only one of those weekly drawings to survive. Seen below is Reptilicus in all his glory. 

Based on the drawing style I'm guessing this came from late second grade, possibly third grade. It's not too bad, not terribly off model even though everything seems to be occurring on the same plane. I'm not entirely certain if the curved lines behind Reptilicus and the building hiding him are supposed to be rebar, or Reptilicus' wings. 

After all of these years, I thought I'd tackle Reptilicus again in my current medium of cut paper. I would have loved to have recreated the scene entirely, but time was against me. I think I still like the drawing above better. 

Reptilicus (1961) Cut paper.

Friday, October 30, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30

The zombie apocalypse strikes, with a few twists. I won't spoil them other to say one involve fuel, and the other involves experimentation. While neither is necessarily any more plausible than the dead coming back to life, I was happy to roll with them. In the context of Wormwood: Road of the Dead (2014).  There were a few things I liked about this Australian film. First off, unlike most zombie movies that start after thee zombie apocalypse is well under way, this one includes day one of the outbreak. Granted we are seeing it on a small, low budget scale, but we are seeing it. We also know the cause, and which people are affected by the contagion, or not, and why. Second, people actually dress appropriately with full protective body armor. Third, most of the decisions being made are smart, and are being made for the good of the group as opposed to the good of the individual. This movie was a lot of fun, and refreshing addition to this colossal sub-genre.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30 - Movie 1

Until today, I have never seen Hocus Pocus (1993), the movie about a trio of Salem witches resurrected in modern who need human children to prolong their longevity. Starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker as the witches, this film is apparently beloved to many based on my tumblr feed, so along with a recommendation from a friend of mine, and my daughter, I figured this year I'd give it a shot.

As a Disney movie, I'm sure I would have enjoyed it to the same degree as say, Blackbeard's Ghost (1968), if I were at a similar age watching Hocus Pocus as I was the Peter Ustinov spectral pirate movie. It's cute, visually interesting and doesn't follow it's own logic, but that doesn't matter much. My biggest peeve, which I'm sure is the favorite part of most people, is I am not a fan of that over the top acting style chosen by the lead actresses to portray their characters. I've never seen any of the Harry Potter movies either, but I've seen enough to see that many of the actors playing the teachers (Emma Thompson, in particular) use this method of "acting." Also, of the three witches, Bette Midler is the only one who really has anything to do.

Was this a bad movie? Not necessarily. I think I'm just not the right age to have appreciated it as others do.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30

Peter Cushing as Arthur Grimsdyke in Tales From the Crypt (1972). Cut paper.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 29 - Movie 2

A rocketship returning to Earth from Venus crash-lands in the Mediterranean. It's precious cargo, an alien life form, is set free and grows to tremendous proportions. Terrified, it is hounded and hunted until it is finally cornered atop the Coliseum.

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) is a giant monster on the loose movie from Charles Scanner, Nathan Juran and Ray Harryhausen, the same team that would bring us The 7th Voyage of Sinbad a year later. Unlike most other giant monster movies of the 50s, 20 Million Miles to Earth hearkens back to movies such as King Kong and Mighty Joe Young, by giving us a sympathetic creature who only acts out because it is frightened or under attack itself. Harryhausen's stop-motion animated Ymir gives a wonderfully nuanced performance, and the plaintive sounds it is given only add to the creature's distress.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 29 - Movie 1

The Angry Red Planet (1959) tells the tale of a group of astronauts who reach Mars then come face to face with its dangerous flora and fauna. While much of the film involves less than exciting speculative rocket operation scenes, once they reach Mars, creative cinematography and some bizarre looking creatures give the illusion of a much larger budget than what was actually available. There's also some well edited use of stock footage used at the beginning of the film. This film is imaginative and fun.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 29

Lon Chaney as the Ape Man in A Blind Bargain (1922). Cut paper.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 28 - Movie 2

When a Jeanette (Susanne Loret) is facially disfigured in a car accident, Dr. Levin (Alberto Lupo) becomes determined to restore her beauty. Using knowledge he's learned from studying the victims of radiation from Hiroshima, he's able to restore her features, and becomes romantically obsessed with her. A feeling not reciprocated. The restoration of her features turns out to be temporary, and Dr. Levin turns himself into a remorseless monster in order to protect his true identity when killing women for the glands he needs to repair Jeanette's face.

Seddok: l'erede di satana / Atom Age Vampire (1960) seems like it wants to be Eyes Without a Face but plays out more like The Brain that Wouldn't Die. Alberto Lupo is disturbingly sleazy as the doctor, which is more effective when partnered with Jeanette being his prisoner, tolerating his advances -- to a point, so that she can have her face back, but clearly repulsed by him. As a c-list movie it's somewhat entertaining, but nothing you can't live without.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 28 - Movie 1

The corpse of a vampire is brought to a hospital where it is brought back to life and escapes seeking new victims. El ata├║d del vampire / The Vampire's Coffin (1958) is a sequel to El vampiro / The Vampire (1957), though everything you need to know about the first movie is covered here, and even if it weren't the movie is so straight forward that knowing it's a sequel is really unnecessary. The movie starts out with some nice moody atmosphere, but once it reaches the hospital, antiseptic sets and lighting take over and we are presented with characters walking back and forth between rooms looking for the vampire, and taking breaks for romantic asides, or to try and inform the authorities, who refuse to believe a vampire is on the loose. There's something about the structure that suggests it's, at least partially, meant to be a comedy, but the laughs aren't there, and the movie as a whole becomes little more than a not very entertaining diversion.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 28

Carroll Borland as Luna in Mark of the Vampire (1935)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 27 - Movie 2

When Frank Carvath's (Art Hindle) young daughter, Candy (Cindy Hinds) returns from visiting her institutionalized mother (Samantha Eggar), she is covered with bruises, bite marks and scratches. Frank forbids Candy from seeing her mother again, but her psychiatrist, Dr. Raglan (Oliver Reed) promises to make trouble if he does. Frank begins to investigate Raglan's institute and his "psychoplasmics" method of treatment. As he does so, people attached to him and Candy start being murdered by strange mutant children, which have some kind of connection to Raglan, and to Frank's wife.

David Cronenberg's The Brood (1979) is one of his finest films. Written amidst a tempestuous divorce from his own wife, Cronenberg's film exemplifies the difficulties and estrangement of a couple whose marriage has collapsed in animosity as well as the psychic scarring that such a collapse places on the children of the couple involved. Filled with disturbing imagery and interactions, and some truly brutal murders. The newly released Criterion edition also reinstates a notorious scene cut from the original release of the film.


31 Days of Halloween - Day 27 - Movie 1

Ig Parish (Daniel Radcliffe) is believed by almost everyone to have murdered his longterm girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple). After committing a sacrilegious act in anger over her death, he wakes up the next morning sprouting a pair of horns. The horns also come with the powers of making everyone he encounters feel compelled to tell him their darkest, most private secrets, and allow Ig to be very persuasive. Initially, this makes him feel even more cut off from his community, but he soon sees it as an advantageous tool in finding out the truth about who killed Merrin.

Horns (2013) is a well done, faithful, truncated, adaptation of Joe Hill's novel, and while it can't get as far inside of Ig's head as the novel, Daniel Radcliffe delivers a performance that truly convey's Ig's inner landscape. Everyone in the movie is really good, but Radcliffe really commands the movie.  Ig really remains the only character we can latch onto, since everyone else's revealed inner landscapes are so horrible, but that's okay, because that same thing is isolating Ig from them, too. The movie as a whole is compelling to watch with some really lovely visuals.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 27

Koji Furuhata as Frankenstein in Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)

Monday, October 26, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 26 - Movie 2

After having sex with her boyfriend, Jay (Maika Monroe) learns that she is now the recipient of a sexually transmitted bogeyman, which will, at a slow walking pace, follow her wherever she goes until it catches and kills her, or she passes it along to someone else.

It Follows (2014) is a very effective film with a nicely realized and original idea. The film takes its time in getting to its premise, introducing us to its cast of characters and their interrelationships, so that the stakes involved go beyond simply setting up a bunch of generic teens to be killed off one by one. The characters also try out a number of well thought out possible solutions on how to destroy the following entity who is only visible to the person it's after. The matter of fact presentation of the entity also heightens the tension with its slow walking persistent approach. It Follows is one of the better movies I've watched this month.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 26 - Movie 1

When a bunch of friends go exploring an old mine they are trapped by a cave in. As the days stretch beyond a week, they realize that something must be done to deal with their hunger. Not ready to kill anyone, they decide to eat only the part of someone. Drawing the short straw, one poor guy has his arm cut off -- just as a rescue party arrives.

The rest of the movie is set five years later when the other members of the group are each attacked and winding up with one of their own arms hacked off. Certain it's their amputee friend out to settle a score, they mostly wander around discussing it and doing nothing else to save themselves, as the killer brings their numbers down one by one.

I mistakenly confused The Severed Arm (1973) with a not dissimilarly titled film that I actually enjoyed. This movie was a real trial to sit through. Shot with the most uninteresting compositions imaginable, with a bland cast, bad script, terrible score, and nothing else to draw the viewer in, The Severed Arm's entire strength lies in the premise of cutting off the arm of one of the cave-in victims just before the rescue party arrives.

This is the only movie so far were I checked the time remaining to see how much longer it was and was horrified to see that I'd barely passed the 35 minute mark of its 90 minute running time. So far this is easily the worst movie I've subjected myself to this Countdown. It would take something of excessively poor quality to dethrone it in the time remaining.


31 Days of Halloween - Day 26

Conrad Veidt as Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). Cut paper.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 25 - Movie 2

After his father disappears, Jonathan Davis (Ingo Heise) travels to the area of Germany where his father was stationed during World War II, here he uncovers the disturbing tale of the consequences of a meteorite landing decades ago. 

Die Farbe/The Color Out of Space (2010) is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's tale "The Color Out of Space." Shot in black and white, the film delivers and sustains an eerie ambience throughout, accentuated by an evocative score by Tilman Seege and some really marvelous sound design by Marc Veizhans. The filmmakers strike a nice balance between holding back and showing that enhances the otherworldly nature of the story. They are to be given credit too for defying their small budget and making something that suggests greater resources. This is easily one of the films I've enjoyed the most this month, and I highly recommend it. 

31 Days of Halloween - Day 25 - Movie 1

Four young people (I wasn't sure whether they were meant to be teens, or twenty-somethings) with the lowest IQs imaginable find themselves stranded at sea, when fortune brings them along side a luxury yacht, which turns out to be a recently abandoned marine biological lab conducting experiments of mutated deep sea fish. It turns out some of these fish don't need water to live, or get around, and that they mix with people with interesting results.

Plankton/Creatures of the Abyss (1994) is terrible. First off, I was shocked to discover this movie was made in the mid 90s instead of the mid 80s. The dubbed dialogue combined with the awful performances makes for something hypnotic to watch. I really couldn't stop. The Lovecraftian plot is unfolded in the clumsiest, least interesting manner possible. the whole movie is incompetently made. The less attention I give it the better. If you're looking for a really bad movie that is strangely watchable, then get your friends over and start drinking.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 25

An American Werewolf in London (1981). Cut paper.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 24 - Movie 2

Richard Vineyard (Stephen Moyer) takes his family for a camping trip to the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The trip is meant to bring his family, which includes his children and new wife closer together. It's also so that he can scatter the ashes of his father who took him camping there regularly as a boy. The Pine Barrens is also the home of the legendary cryptid, the Jersey Devil. As the camping trip progresses, bad things start to happen. Campers they've encountered go missing, Richard becomes ill and starts behaving erratically, hallucinating and becoming more and more violent. He's determined to protect his family from the monster, little realizing that he's becoming that monster.

The Barrens (2012), thematically is very much like The Shining, as the father's mental condition deteriorates and puts the people he loves the most in jeopardy. It has an interesting script with a lot of tight story development, yet leaving a lot more questions than answers. There are brief flashbacks to Richard's own trauma as a boy in the Pine Barrens that is never fully fleshed out or tied in to the story as a whole, but which still heightens his anguished mental state. It's unusual to find a movie that feels confident about not explaining everything and trusting that it is unnecessary to do so, and in this case it works. The cast is good, especially Peter DaCunha as the Danny, the young son. The family dynamic is well done and realistic, especially the relationship between the teenage daughter (Allie MacDonald) and her stepmother (Mia Kirshner).


31 Days of Halloween - Day 24 - Movie 1

An anthropologist (Cornel Wilde) and his daughter (Jennifer Salt) following a research lead in the American Southwest, find themselves in conflict with a colony of gargoyles who initially present themselves as just wanting to be left alone in isolation, but may actually have more sinister plans in mind.

Gargoyles (1972), the made for tv movie, is something I haven't seen in a long, long time. It holds up better than I remembered it. The story is pretty compelling, and moves briskly without many dead spots, and the gargoyle suits by Stan Winston and Ellis Burman are pretty impressive, especially given how many of them appear on screen and how small a budget and schedule they must have been working with at the time. Nicely done.


31 Days of Halloween - Day 24

Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) in An American Werewolf in London (1981). Cut paper.

Friday, October 23, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 23 - Movie 2

Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) falls in love with and marries Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) but her fears that she will turn into a panther if the marriage were to be consummated opens a rift between them, and as that rift spreads, Irena's jealousy and emotional state go to a very dark place.

Cat People (1942) is deservedly a classic of understated horror, proving that what is suggested and not shown is often much more effective than what is. Stylish and well acted, this film contains a few set pieces where sound design and shadows do all of the heavy lifting to great effect. Whether Irena is actually able to turn into a panther, or not, doesn't matter. All it takes is for someone to believe it is possible, and half of the work is done for her. This is an excellent film. Not to be missed.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 23 - Movie 1

A group of G.I.'s on a last furlough in Asia before coming home, bride their way into attending a secret religious ceremony where they hope to witness a human being transforming into a snake. Their intrusion is discovered and they are cursed to die one by one, no matter where they go. The curse starts acting on them almost immediately, but as their numbers dwindle, the final survivors discover that the new girlfriend of one of them is really a snake-woman bent on destroying them all.

Cult of the Cobra (1955) is one of Universal's more unusual horror movies. There is no iconic monster, and it feels more like fantasy exotica, like The Mole People, than something like The Mummy. The movie's plot is pretty straightforward, but succeeds by working with the camaraderie between the cursed men, as well as romantic successes and rivalries. The film also wisely relies less on the obviously marionette acted cobra, and instead uses an eerie pov effect from the snake's vision to represent it. Faith Domergue's unusual beauty lends her character a convincing otherness lending credibility to her ability to turn into a cobra.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 23

Dean Parkin as Col. Glenn Manning in War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 22 - Movie 2

A doomsday religious cult instructs all of its members that the apocalypse is upon them and that they must save souls by sending them to God by killing people with daggers. When the word is given, late at night, a small group of non cult members finds themselves assaulted aboard a stalled subway train. They flee from the cultists down the tunnels only to confront bigger terrors than zealots with knives.

 End of the Line (2007) is a nice streamlined horror film that might as well be an envisioned documentary about what life will be like in the U.S. if the far right takes control. The film, wisely, does not paint all of the religious nuts as mindless programmed killers without question, though it's the ones who blindly obey who are the most chilling. The film's outlook is pretty bleak, especially as we reach the final minutes which presents us with a really hopeless scenario.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 22 - Movie 1

After the death of her grandmother, a young woman vows to protect the kappa that her grandmother cared for. The people shy creature becomes friendly and both he and the young woman are captured by a group that wants to use the kappa as part of its army of fishmen that they have created to return Japan to its glory days. As the kappa and the young woman fight to free themselves, a nuclear explosion is ignited in the fringe group's headquarters. The kappa survives, becoming a giant monster who fights another giant monster named Hangyolis who is currently stamping around Japan.

This ridiculous movie pretty much divides into too separate movies featuring the same creature. Obviously a parody of a variety of Japanese fantasy and science fiction movies, the humor is really too brad to be funny, but does make some direct hits on the tropes of movies such as the Gamera series. I can't recommend Death Kappa (2010), but fans of the giant monster and yokai films from Toho and Daiei may want to take a look.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 22

The Gorn from the Star Trek episode "Arena" (January 19, 1967). Cut paper.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 21 - Movie 2

Paul Lavond (Lionel Barrymore) escapes from prison after a seventeen years stretch for a crime he didn't commit. He escapes with a scientist who plans to live the rest of his days altruistically trying to reduce living things to 1/6 scale in order tom further earth's resources. When the scientist dies, Lavond helps his widow continue the work, but for different reasons. Lamond plans to use the shrunken humans to exact revenge against the banking partners who set him up for their own crime.

The Devil Doll (1936) is a pretty lively weird thriller from director Tod Browning.  Lionel Barrymore spends much of the movie in old lady drag, an identity he adopts in order to evade the police, insinuate himself into the lives of the men he plans to kill, and secretly interact with his, now adult, daughter (Maureen O'Sullivan) who despises her father for the crime he allegedly committed which forced her and her mother to live in poverty. It's Lavond's relationship with his daughter that elevates him from simply being a man out for revenge and brings him a chance at redemption. Rafaela Ottiano as the scientist's widow, encapsulates the ultimate incarnation of the mad scientist with her wild eyes, demented expression, white streaked unkempt hair and her asymmetrical physical deformation.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 21 - Movie 1

Twenty years after murdering her husband and his lover, Joan Crawford leaves the sanitarium and returns home to her now adult daughter.  While she naturally feels awkward and out of place, her behavior becomes more and more troubling. When people start vanishing mysteriously her family begins to wonder if she was fit to be released after all.

Strait-Jacket (1964) is a pretty tight thriller from William Castle. The psychological suspense is genuine, heightened by Joan Crawford's performance. The cast as a whole is good, particularly Diane Baker as Crawford's daughter. George Kennedy supports as the skeevy handy man, and Lee Majors appears as Crawford's two-timing husband. Because it's a William Castle film, you know it's not going to be straight forward and that there's going to be a gimmick. In this case it's not broadcast, but is also pretty apparent what it will be. Even so, it packs a punch sold by the performance of one of the key cast members.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 21

The nurse (Jennifer Howard) from The Twilight Zone episode "Eye of the Beholder" (November 11, 1960)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 20 - Movie 2

Boris Karloff discovers a powerful element, Radium X, which causes him to become lethal to the touch. Bela Lugosi is a colleague who develops a serum to keep these effects dampened. He also finds a way to use Radium X as a powerful healing device. Karloff, affected by both Radium X and side effects of Lugosi's serum, is filled with murderous jealousy and turns against everyone who was involved in his discovery. 

The Invisible Ray (1936) demonstrates some wildly improbable "science" in the method used by Karloff's character to discover the meteor that brought Radium X to earth. In spite of that it is a pretty decent film filled with some really nice production design, a heroic Lugosi, and a less than sympathetic Karloff as the socially aloof scientist with the killing touch. 

31 Days of Halloween - Day 20 - Movie 1

In The Invisible Ghost (1941), Bela Lugosi plays a beloved doctor who is compelled to murder my visions of his absent wife. This is a better than average no frills thriller with a decent cast of characters and a sympathetic Lugosi as a man unaware of his hidden compulsion.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 20

The Abominable Snowman from 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964). Cut paper.

Monday, October 19, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 19 - Movie 2

On her deathbed, a genetic scientist asks her son, John, to burn all of her research and to not get sucked into picking up where she left off. She also mentions "Anthony" the brother John never new he had. Instead of immediately destroying everything as asked, John recruits a bunch of his scientist friends to go through his mothers journals in order to find out anything about Anthony. When they finally do, it's to discover that Anthony was the culmination of his mother's research, and that a far less ethical scientist is also after Anthony for his own ends.

The Kindred (1987)is a prime example of 1980s gooey rubber monster movies. Even though the design for the creatures is a bit less than convincing, and some of the characters were indistinguishable, this movie was actually pretty damned entertaining. Things moved along pretty quickly, and even when there was no monster action happening on screen, the human interactions were interesting enough that they didn't seem like filler between the effects scenes. There is also a nicely done sequence where one of the characters sprouts gills right before our eyes.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 19 - Movie 1

People are being murdered in Los Angeles by a killer dubbed "The Mangler" who rips their faces off and only kills at night. On the Mangler's trail are a detective (Richard Jaeckel) a best selling author and father of the first victim (William Devane) and a reporter trying to be taken seriously (Cathy Lee Crosby).

Throw in Casey Kasem as a pathologist and Dick Clark as one of the film's producers and you have The Dark (1979). Formulaic in it's pattern of murder, "we need answers" murder, like many low budget monster on the loose movies, the movie remains watchable mostly through Richard Jaeckel's performance. The Mangler turns out to be some sort of super strong, bullet proof, alien who can shoot energy beams out of his eyes. Apparently this was originally meant to be a zombie movie which tested poorly, so it was changed into a space monster movie by adding the laser beam eyes and so forth. Either way, it plays out like a glorified tv movie, or an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, without Kolchak.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 19

Schlitze in Freaks (1932). Cut paper.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 18 - Movie 2

A young woman in a wheelchair returns to the house of her wealthy father after an absence of ten years. She discovers that her father had to leave town and is left with her step-mother that she's meeting for the first time, the chauffeur, a doctor friend of the family, and the housekeeper. She has two experiences where she thinks she sees her father's dead body on the property, but no one believes her and she begins to believe that she imagined it. Then evidence appears which makes her think her father really is dead and that her step-mother is trying to kill her for the inheritance.

Scream of Fear (1961) is one of the Hammer movies that no one ever seems to talk about, but they should. This is a compelling psychological thriller with more secrets and revelations than you can shake a stick at, and they all work. The cast is excellent, and there are some lovely black and white visuals. The script by Jimmy Sangster is one of his best.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 18 - Movie 1

A pianist witnesses the murder of his neighbor, a psychic, then finds himself trying to uncover the identity of the killer even while the killer is working to block his investigation and kill him as well.

Profondo rosso/ Deep Red (1975) is a beautiful, stylized giallo by Dario Argento, with some truly gorgeous compositions and camera work. The plot, as with many giallos, is fairly convoluted and, like motivations and logic, secondary to the journey of the protagonists and to the murders themselves. It's best just to sit back and enjoy the ride without worrying too much about what route you are taking. It's easy to get sidetracked by details that don't make sense or add up in the end, but which make for interesting visuals, and keep this a riveting film to watch.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 18

Vincent Price as Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General (1968). Cut paper.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17 - Movie 2

A team of archeologists exploring Mayan ruins encounter an ancient, corrosive, blob creature which the Mayans called the god, Caltiki. The archeologists manage to destroy the creature but bring back a sample to civilization to study and once again face peril when this sample grows to enormous size.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959) has a plot that's pretty hokey and melodramatic, but features some nice photography, really decent effects, and a blob monster that is disgusting  and really comes across as some weird living organism rather than simply a special effect. Riccardo Freda was the director, but he apparently stepped aside to allow Mario Bava would have a chance to direct.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17 - Movie 1

A wealthy, alcoholic woman is tired of her philandering, gold digging husband. An encounter with a UFO and its giant occupant gives her the opportunity to get even, when she grows into a giant herself.

I have not seen Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) since I was a kid, and really remembered nothing about it, except for what I've since seen in stills and in the trailer, so I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Allison Hayes, William Hudson and Yvette Vickers as the three sides of the romantic triangle, such as it is, are particularly good. Unlike films such as The Amazing Colossal Man, Allison Hayes remains normal size until close to the very end, which is actually fine since the movie is better before the giant woman appears on the screen. Sadly, the special effects, even for their time and budget, are anything but special. Both the space giant and the 50 foot woman are transparent against the backgrounds that they are superimposed over, and the 50 foot woman's scale is wildly inconsistent with her appearing to be about twenty feet tall in some scenes. The two giants are also represented by the least convincing oversized rubber hands imaginable (I'm guessing probably the same fake hand, only with mats of hair added for the male giant). Why they didn't simply use forced perspective with real hands, and non-superimposed actors is beyond me.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17

The hobo's dog in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) Cut paper.

Friday, October 16, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16 - Movie 2

Margaret Hichcock (Barbara Steele) is having an affair with the physician, Dr. Livingstone (Peter Baldwin), treating her ill husband, Dr. Hichcock (Elio Jota) who holds an interest in the supernatural. Margaret convinces Livingstone to murder her husband. When they find themselves essentially cut out of his will, they begin trying to get their hands on Dr. Hitchcock's hidden money, but are repeatedly foiled by ghostly visits from Dr. Livingstone.

The Ghost (1963) has a an unreal quality to it which lends it an atmosphere which heightens the effect of the story. Even the poor dubbing lends itself to this dreamlike quality. Visually it's quite striking even if the plot does feel a little long. Towards the end there are some nice plot points that elevate the mostly by the numbers script which comes across as something of a knock off of Les Diaboliques (1955).

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16 - Movie 1

I've decided not to give a plot recap of Crimson Peak (2015), Guillermo Del Toro's lush gothic romance, because I don't think it would do it justice, and I think that movies tend to be more enjoyable the less you know going in. The story itself, on the surface, is about as basic as you can get, but it's below the surface that really adds a rich texture to the film. There is sumptuous production design, costumes, and Del Toro's color coded manner of delivering information supporting the themes and character relations. There is also a lot pertain to the eye; to seeing and perception, the act of revealing as well as concealing and mirroring, or shadowing the way characters are dressed. This is an absolutely gorgeous movie, dense with visual information and compelling performances.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16

Doug Bradley as the Hell Priest in Hellraiser (1987). Cut paper and nails.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

31 Days of Halloween - Day 15 - Movie 2

As the zombie apocalypse spreads across the earth, a group of people hole up in a local shopping mall in order to survive. This basic premise is really all that connects Dawn of the Dead (2004) with the superior George Romero film that it "reinvents." I remember first seeing this and being really impressed with how intense the pre-credits opening of this film was. Few zombie films start with the outbreak just taking place. Most of them already have civilization essentially collapsed by the time the story starts. Unfortunately, all of that tension dissipates by the time the characters get to the mall and never really comes back.

In the mall, the characters don't really have to go through the process of clearing out the undead and shoring it up as a safe house. Here, the mall is essentially empty except for a trio of redneck security guards, who don't take long to stop being a threat themselves. This whole crew goes through the rest of the movie almost completely safe from the zombies until they decide to leave and head for a boat and then an island. With many of these films, it's really a commentary on how humans are their own worst enemies, especially in times of crisis. I've seen that movie before and this Dawn of the Dead remake, while being fairly entertaining, doesn't bring anything new to the subgenre.