Short Film Saturday- The Music of Erich Zann and The Earth Rejects Him

The Music of Erich Zann

I am a huge admirer of the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I have read nearly all of his works, some on multiple occasions, and the few I haven’t yet read I’ll soon get to. Lovecraft typically has been seen as someone who is for the most part un-filmable. This is usually due to the descriptive nature of his work, how ensconced in prose, inner monologue and an atmospheric sense of foreboding that the psychological play of the written word can achieve far easier than a moving image. Those are just some of the reasons.

One recent excellent adaptation of similar length is The Call of Cthulhu by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, they have a feature due out at the end of the month.

The Music of Erich Zann is a notable tale not only because of Lovecraft’s designating it as one of his favorites, but also because of the description of the eponymous music. This film is ambitious for tackling this story on that fact alone, and much of the time the music works it has a borderline-grating yet conversely captivating quality that Lovecraft alludes to in the text. The sound design of the film also works well in conjunction with it. There are great oblique angles thrown into the mix that build that sense of unease and hint of something outré.

The locations are really great and the film does well to play rather timelessly throughout. There are few hints of when this film was made, which allow it to be rather close to the Lovecraft’s text without being strictly period. The makeup work is rather good for the most part, but most of what makes this film click is that this film insists on the myopic world view of the mythos and that is most of why it works. The world beyond the walls of this decrepit apartment building is illusory and the reality of reality is being uncovered behind these walls.

This film is very true to the text based on what I recall of the story and builds atmosphere and dread and slowly builds to a huge wallop, that may impact the protagonist more than the spectator. I know from experience that an undertaking of a tale of this kind and size in a university production is quite an undertaking and the results are pretty impressive.

The Earth Rejects Him

Jared Skolnick has since made a new short film. This one is an original tale. What’s most intriguing is that most of it unfolds without the aid of discernible dialogue and it’s an elementary horrific tale insomuch as we see results and understand patterns, in short we witness results, and don’t necessarily discern the cause in a precise fashion, but understand it. This, of course, is by design. In a Lovecraftian way a curtain is pulled back here revealing a maniacal, terrifying underworld that we only understand enough to know we want no part of it, and in many ways that makes it more frightening.

You can view The Earth Rejects Him below.

http://t.co/roou4klSLn

If you’re interested in this film it can be purchased here.

The Best Horror Films of 2012

I was better at tracking my views, and it was a better cinematic year overall in my estimation, so this list has expanded to 15 selections this year.

15. Absentia

Absentia (2011, Constellation, Phase 4)

This is a case of faith rewarded. The beginning is a little rocky but I saw something in it that made me stick with it and I was rewarded several fold. The film really picks up in all aspects of production as the details of the narrative start to fall into place. It’s most certainly worth a look.

14. The Hidden Face

The Hidden Face (2011, Fox International Productions)

Fans of cinematic frames should rejoice at this film, which I will grant will likely grow from a revisit. It’s a very well orchestrated and constructed, twisted tale.

13. Cold Sweat

Cold Sweat (2010, Dark Sky Films)

Bring out the skeletons from your collective sociopolitical closets and great horror can be found. Cold Sweat really takes that premise and expound on it moreso than many other Argentine horror films I saw in a row this year. It’s expounding takes some suspension of disbelief but is quite effective.

12. Silent Night

Silent Night (2012, Anchor Bay)

This film has tremendous fun with its premise. Evil Santas of all shapes, sizes and styles should be on the comeback trail because there really is a tremendous amount of latitude there if you’re willing to trek it. Steven C. Miller makes his first of two appearances on this list and having seen two of his films I’ll be on the lookout for more. This film features some great supporting turns. It was also filmed in Manitoba, who seems to be positioning itself as a new hotbed of production in the Great White North, and I can see why based on the locales used here.

11. Excision

Excision (2012,  Anchor Bay Films)

Excision, moreso than any other film on this list, has a possibility to have its reputation blossom over the years to come. This film very much inhabits the mind of its protagonist. This film does not fear exposing the the delusions of its main character opaquely, slowly revealing a plan of action that unfolds with precise and exacting horror. The film also features a number of great performances and very well-cast players including AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords and Jeremy Sumpter. It is definitely the one film on the list that warrants warning the faint of heart or stomach not to apply.

10. Whisperer in the Darkness

The Whisperer in Darkness (2011, HPLHS)

While I can’t say this is as successful as The Call of the Cthulhu in transcending it period-mimicking trappings; it does again choose the right time period and cinematic style for its Lovecraft adaptation. If the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society continues blending old-style cinematic ethos with mythos they’ll have hits for years to come.

9. The Monitor

The Monitor (2012, Grindstone Entertainment Group)

Here’s one you could pigeonhole as psychological horror. It features two very strong lead performances by Noomi Rapace and Kristoffer Joner. It hints at a rather big twist early and delivers on more to follow to keep things intriguing. Mind-play, particularly in the horror genre, is under-utilized and can be highly effective and is used quite well here.

8. The Aggression Scale

The Aggression Scale (2012, Achor Bay)

You can call it a crime thriller if you like, and I’ll spend minimal time on this point, but I will address why I consider it horror. I don’t feel it’s a stretch. Any film that deals with home invasion can be considered horror if it plays towards that realm. Home Alone, which I compare this film to, never allows itself to be taken too seriously, this film ups the stakes, maims and kills people and is serious in tone, so: horror. Just because the villains are unmasked, in organized crime and have clear motives doesn’t make it less horrific.

The Aggression Scale also functions in large part due to the fact that it builds its character, in fact, quite a bit more than its situation at first. When things start coming to a head the two converge and the escalation of narrative intensity is quite great.

7. The Possession

The Possession (2012, Lionsgate)

I had better tracking of films and more horror watched this year, so the likelihood of another possession tale ending up on the list was actually lessened unless it was little better handled than last year’s pick. The Possession most certainly is. The Possession concerns itself less with differentiating details though Judaism, Dybbuk boxes and the like are new, as it does with character development, and that’s what makes it effective.

6. ParaNorman

ParaNorman (2012, Focus Features)

In some ways, I can’t help but feel that this film’s balance keeps it lower here than it should be. ParaNorman splits time between doing a lot of things, and it does so in a horror milieu but isn’t always a traditional horror film. However, since it’s excellent at whatever it does it belongs. ParaNorman not only tackles feeling like an outsider, a child coming to grips with death himself, and in essence that tired phrase coming-of-age, but in horror terms it also more effectively draws a distinct parallel between protagonist and antagonist by having him experience the anguish and isolation of the victimizer when they were victimized. However, especially since it’s ostensibly designed for kids, ParaNorman never sugarcoats the wrongdoing of its antagonist; it explains, it even empathizes but never forgives it – it states the obvious: you’re not getting out of it what you think you are. The zombies feeling persecuted and being persecutors is also a great touch such that reversals are near-constant.

I had yet to write about it so I could further discuss what ParaNorman does in other regards, but that’s about as succinctly as I can cover the horror angle.

5. [REC] 3

[REC] 3 (2012, Magnet Releasing)

Yes, [REC] 3 went somewhere I wasn’t expecting it to either, but I rather enjoy it nonetheless. In this film there are thematic expansions and new veins of thought explored if not literally picking up pre-exisiting narrative threads, which is all fine by me. It all comes down to how it’s done.

4. Intruders

Parallel narratives can be a double-edged sword. I’ve seen this film twice and it really works in both viewings in one I was naively accepting and offering no guesswork, in the second I knew it all and enjoyed it nearly as much as the first time. It’s a bilingual tale with a sensibility many horror fans will be familiar, one that’s uniquely Spanish even in the English portions of the film. It’s a different kind of approach to apparitions that I enjoyed.

3. Sinister

Sinister (2012, Blumhouse Productions)

You’ll note that this is the only title on this list in which any footage is even found, not that I’d consider this film a found footage approach per se. What Sinister does is take the concept of malevolent celluloid a step further than most and build a story around the film and not strap it diegesis or camerawork to a narrator-cum-camera. Sinister also interestingly works again with a male protagonist, oft times alone who is very expressive and his fear allows us to fear. Silence or gasping is scarier than incessant screaming. That’s just one thing Sinister understands so much better than many other films.

2. The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black (2012, Hammer Films))

There’s just something about Gothic horror tale done well that will affect me like few others do. There’s a primal hearkening to the sensitivities ingrained in us. The pitfall of the subgenre is that its been done to death and knowing tropes and protocols makes it hard for a style so old hat to work. However, there are some tweaks, techniques and approaches that dress up this old favorite and make it more effective than most.

1. The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods (2012, Lionsgate)

It’s one thing to deconstruct a genre, however, it’s another entirely to reconstruct it following said evisceration and build a beautifully grotesque new prometheus in its stead. It’s the second half of its master plan that put The Cabin in the Woods over the top.

Horror Films and Stephen King (Part Four)

The horror genre in film has attracted more than its fair share of crud-ass directors. Amazingly some of these people who lack in the fundamentals essential to filmmaking have managed to create scary films like David Keith’s The Curse, a modern day rendition of Lovecraft set in Tennessee, I dare you to watch it alone! Some, actually many, take a story that’s not all that bad and assemble a group of people who are just talent-less and waste a perfectly good premise, like in Richard Caesar’s The Calling. 

 
“The worst movie sends its own message, which is simply to say stay away from other movies done by these people; if you have seen one film by Wes Craven, for instance, it is safe enough, I think, to skip the others.” (Danse, 216). Contrary to King’s opinion people who begin their careers making junk as filmmakers can move on and make some damn good stuff. Case and point, Craig R. Baxley directed one of the most painful movies of all time Bad Day on the Block, better known as Under Pressure, in 1997 but quickly turned around to direct both Stephen King’s original mini-series (Storm of the Century and Rose Red).
 

And horror always seems to produce some of the worst films in the world, in America anyway, well, why? Stephen King puts it very astutely in his non-fiction examination of the genre “low-budget moviemakers are attracted to horror because it seems to be a genre which is easily exploited – an easy lay, like the sort of girl every guy wanted to date (at least once) in high school.” (Danse, 216).
    

Not only does the genre have to deal with low-budget moviemakers, which isn’t so bad, which the 90s have proven with the rise of the independents, but you also have to deal with rookie filmmakers working in what is likely the hardest genre to be effective in.
 

King approaches the horror genre in film with a very fair-minded and level-headed attitude. He understands that we’re not dealing with Shakespeare and every style has its standards. “I am no apologist for bad filmmaking but once you’ve spent twenty years going to horror movies looking for diamonds (or diamond chips) in the dreck of B-pics, you realize if you don’t keep your sense of humor you’re done for.” (Danse, 200). And one thing many people may not realize is that he is a very funny guy one of the few authors who doesn’t write humor who can make me laugh out loud. One of Maximum Overdrive’s “failings” is that it succeeds as being a comedy. There is some funny dialogue but the tone of the piece ended up being a little more lighthearted towards the middle and it feels totally unintentional.
 

“Once you’ve seen enough horror films you get a taste for really shitty movies.” (Danse, 200). This may be at the root of at least part of the problem with how Maximum Overdrive came out. While King understands the way horror works a more filmic approach was needed and is always needed when handling his tales. The concept of genre should be on the backburner. There were definitely attempts by King to try and build these characters through images but he may have run both out of time and cash to be completely successful.

Welcome to 61 Days of Halloween 2012 and The Call of Cthulhu

Alas, the time of year I long for most has come. There will be a heavy focus on horror from here through October 31st, but rest assured that pieces discussing current/recent theatrical releases are still being worked on, Short Film Saturday will continue to be full of variety and the Mini-Review Round-Ups will also offer films outside the genre if it happens not to be your cup of tea. Enjoy the standard intro and this piece!

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Every once in a while there is a film that just stands out so far it not only deserves to be noticed it practically demands it, it screams to be noticed. Such is the case with The Call of Cthulhu.

This is a film that screamed from the shelves of a Best Buy at me. It is produced by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, also known as the HPLHS. The cover art was so convincing – once I had discovered it was actually “a new silent film” I nearly gave up on it. However, I decided to give it a chance, first for their dedication to the idea and second, because how often do you get to watch a new silent film?

The film is short, under an hour, and highly decorated but having seen it this is the absolutely perfect treatment of the Lovecraftian mythos and a true delight for any fan of the author or the genre to behold. It takes his most difficult and ‘unshootable’ film and aside from one shot which I imagined when reading the tale handles it deftly, in fact, far better than I thought possible. All the conventions of the silent film are present and amplified. The end with close on text in journal could not be more perfect.

Throughout the use of forced perspective, miniatures and compositing is accurate to style and also rather effective. The film is also framed perfectly going through several locales with ease and not dependent on titles, in fact, not once is a title unnecessary or left wanting. It is truly a well-crafted film.

It is likely Lovecraft’s most globetrotting tale and it is certainly aired out well. The execution of the narrative is so accurate you are sure to forget about its being silent after a time if it does bother you.

The HPLHS is working on a new project Whisperer in Darkness. Their site features many links to their and other companies’ wonderful adaptations of the master’s work, available radio broadcasts and even a musical adaptation called Shoggoth on the Roof, both as a play and documentary about the play. One can only hope this group continues to bring HP Lovecraft the kind of appreciation and representation he deserves.

10/10

Mini-Review Round-Up – August 2012

I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings.

For a guide to what scores mean go here.

The Whisperer in the Darkness

The Whisperer in Darkness was a film I just had to see. After having seen The Call of Cthulhu, which was a short, silent version of a Lovecraft classic, I knew I’d want to see anything this company (known as the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society) did.

In their newest film, and first feature, they tackle The Whisperer in Darkness and shifted from a silent film representation to a monster film of the 1930s approach. In both cases, the style of film that is emulated perfectly suits the work being interpreted.

I firmly believe this to be the case, regardless of your familiarity with either of these very distinct niches. If you are unfamiliar with Lovecraft this is a great introduction as it very faithfully, but also intriguingly in cinematic terms, renders the narrative. Any admirer of film, regardless of what era(s) they prefer, will recognize some of the conventions on display in this film, and as details of the narrative unfold it’ll become clear the choice is an inspired one.

Much of this is a roundabout way of saying that odds are you’ll like this if you go in with the knowledge of what the film is attempting, and you could be a fan of either or neither end of the narrative equation and walk away liking it. However, if you like both it’s rather heavenly, or should I say hellacious? Either way, it’s great stuff.

10/10

Intruders

20120822-231103.jpg

I can’t put it right at the top, but when all is said and done, Intruders will likely end up being one of my favorite horror films of the year. It starts almost immediately with a scene that you think will just be a great teaser but instead ends up being the first building block in a parallel storyline (in terms of both time and place). Aside from being a bi-lingual film, the film does a great job mirroring certain themes and elements in the storylines, giving elements different spins in each. The film is very tense but also cloistered in its drama and fear-inducing, which it makes it very effective indeed. To say too much more would be to start giving things away. I think that fans of the horror genre, Spanish horror in particular should see this film.

10/10

Detention

To accentuate the positive first, I cannot, nor can anyone in all likelihood, accuse Detention of being unoriginal or predictable. One of its few perks is that it does not ever make it obvious where it’s going next, and in its own insane way does manage to link everything together in the end. However, the film seems to think it’s a lot more clever and funny than I find it to be. It’s part (sub)genre-hopping horror/sci-fi and mostly comedy but the comedy portion is very forced, nearly all of it. Few and far between are the jokes that work for me and rarely did jokes strike me as genuine reflections of character. Instead the characters always seem to be in a state of limbo between being a stand-in for a horror archetype and a human vessel for a punchline.

I can see how the film has produced divisive reactions, and I always prefer a film that strives for divisiveness. When all is said and done, attempting to please everyone creates tepid cinema. Truly universal stories, at their core, come from a very personal place- so, I can easily see how this might be someone else’s cup of tea, but it’s not mine.

2/10

Lovely Molly

I tend to take my time to even send out a tweet reaction to a film most of the time. In very vague terms I’ll know walking out of a film, if I liked it or not. However, to what extent I did and what I thought of it usually takes a little time to decide. It’s the rare film that plays on my mind for a while.

Lovely Molly is one of those films. My initial tweet about it, when I did finally mention it, was slightly mis-worded: it’s not that the film is difficult to follow, it’s not; the denseness and nebulousness comes in the ‘answers’ the film gives to questions it poses. They’re not entirely clear, they invite debate, they invite you to re-view the film; but they are all chilling and surprising.

The film also features a fabulous performance by Gretchen Lodge, which makes you stand up and take notice.

This film made me realize that there are two kinds of re-viewable films ones that could get massively better and one with a definite ceiling. This film is the latter kind, but worth giving your own shot.

6/10

The Moth Diaries

It’s a bit of a shame when a film that offers a different perspective on a subgenre fails to catch lightning in a bottle. The Moth Diaries is not only subtle vampire tale set at an all girls school, but is also directed by a woman. It’s a slow-burn, which never quite catches fire all the way and it doesn’t really bend convention too much save for the casting and setting. Some of the better parts of the film are the overt allusions to the Gothic literature, from which all vampire tales draw at least some inspiration, which doesn’t bode too well for the piece at hand. The film doesn’t seem to detach itself too much from the source material, and there is an excessive amount of voice over for the story being told. Perhaps the novel is a better vehicle for this tale than the film as constructed.

5/10

Cinematic Battle of the Nutcrackers

Every year for the past 5 years Ovation TV has a Battle of the Nutcracker’s wherein they play 5 different versions (rotating some out annually) of the ballet based on Tchaikovsky’s most renowned work. While I definitely qualify myself as an enthusiast rather than a savant of dance, this is a piece I know well enough such that I find it interesting to watch the different versions and pick a favorite.

Now within the ballet there are many variations for while Tchaikovsky’s music is the standard each choreographer has their signature while it was Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov who originally choreographed it, it’s perhaps Balanchine’s that’s most well known.

What’s most interesting to me about this “competition” where the viewers are invited to vote for their favorites is that it gets me thinking about adaptation. One could do quite a lengthy case study on The Nutcracker alone. While there are many either “filmed ballets” or cinematic versions based on Tchaikovsky there are many based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Just the fact that you have these two available sources available to freely adapt makes this quite a notable story.

However, a narrative as flexible as this wouldn’t suffice for a post for one could argue that “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James and “The Colour Out of Space” by H.P. Lovecraft are more malleable pieces of fiction based on the films they’ve spurned. What makes The Nutcracker a unique tale, is not only the fact that I personally would put it on a list of ‘The Great Stories’ meaning classic narratives I could watch re-interpreted any number of ways but also the fact that it does have two potential origins as a source material either in literature or in dance.

In honor of this great story and the novel idea by Ovation I thought it’d be good to have some suggested Nutcracker-related film viewing for the holiday season.

Here are perhaps the three most well-known (the ones I’ve seen) cinematic versions to get you started.

The Nutcracker in 3D (2010)

The Nutcracker in 3D (2009, Freestyle Releasing)

During its all too brief cinematic run it was referred to as The Nutcracker in 3D. Now with 3D being the cinematic boogeyman du jour home video is the way to check this film out. I won’t give too much away but this version is most definitely different and based on the story rather than the ballet. This allows the storytellers to have a lot of latitude and there are few if any safe decisions and this film will likely cause divisive reactions all around. Partially musical and very allegorical it’s a film that refuses to be ignored. It also features Elle Fanning (Super 8, We Bought a Zoo) and Charlie Rowe (Neverland).

Fantasia (1940)

Fantasia (Disney)

If you’re one who prefers your references and adaptations a bit more oblique then you need look no further than Disney’s pet project Fantasia. Along with many numbers from The Nutcracker you will of course see interpretations of may other classical pieces. This film is definitely all about Tchaikovsky’s music rather than the ballet though there is dancing too as you may well know.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (1993)

Macaulay Culkin and Jessica Lynn Cohen in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker (Warner Bros.)

This was the first place I was able to complete viewing the complete story of The Nutcracker ballet. My first attempt to view it live at Lincoln Center was interrupted halfway through. There are a few things that are interesting about this film not the least of which is that you have within it an encapsulation of George Balanchine’s choreography. You also have the fine narration of Kevin Kline. However, of course, what most will note is that it features Macaulay Culkin in the lead. The only major alteration is that the choreography, which for the nephew/nutcracker is rather minimal is diminished further here. While some may not even know this film even exists you might be further surprised to learn that this film is really perhaps the biggest power play Kit Culkin, Macaulay’s father and perhaps the most notorious stage parent in modern times, ever pulled off. Macaulay’s participation in The Nutcracker was really a case of living vicariously through your child. Though he speaks of it earnestly now of his distaste for the project it really doesn’t translate very much on film. Furthermore, Kit tried to influence the final cut of the film removing said narration and when it wouldn’t happen Culkin didn’t publicize the film so it was another Nutcracker box office bomb.

The Ovation block certainly made me want to look for other versions on film and I hope you enjoy these as well as seeking out others.

61 Days of Halloween- The Evil Dead

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Evil Dead

Ellen Sandweiss in The Evil Dead (New line Cinema)

If there was ever a horror film in the gore sub-genre that goes for the throat and just won’t quit it is unquestionably The Evil Dead. This is a film with such pulverizing scenes of blood-letting and death that there’s no time to be concerned with much else it just draws you in and you become absolutely enthralled.

At the beginning we see just enough of these characters to differentiate amongst them. They are sketched out just enough such that we don’t hate them and so that their deaths aren’t a relief but sometimes it does come as a pleasant shock.

The use of the subjective camera to represent the spirits make this film and absolutely does wonders to add to the atmosphere. The relentless speed and the bowling over of trees on the part of these spirits who never really manifested themselves in their true form make the film what it is.

Of course, one cannot talk about the cinematography without discussing the score of this film for without it these would have just been cute camera moves. Instead the spirits had their own theme song: a tenebrous, loud yet low-pitched thump that struck fear into my heart every time I heard it.

Another way The Evil Dead is interesting is that it takes some precepts of film and the horror genre in general and uses them masterfully. First, is the Book of the Dead, which may also be known as the Necronomicon, the filmmakers implemented it to unleash unknown powers on these characters and it was done tremendously well.

The Book of the Dead is undoubtedly a piece of work that has been sparingly used but here it is a perfect fit and shows these people have at least working knowledge of the works of Lovecraft. In Lovecraft’s fiction man’s desire to know what they had absolutely no hope of understanding always leads to his downfall a similar parallel can be drawn to this film.

Secondly, this film masters the use of the subjective camera as the villain which was initiated with It’s Alive! and made famous by Jaws, after The Evil Dead it would be foolishness for someone to try and rely so heavily on it because it just wouldn’t work as well.

Third, there is the great use of possession in this film which is no doubt inspired by The Exorcist and comes close to reproducing an equally effective result along that line. Some audiences may look back on this film which is now 30 years old and think it looks dated but they can’t argue with the fact that it works. I happen to think that the special effects are great especially for when they are made. Claymation or Stop-Motion Animation are great techniques and truly lost arts. Granted it is very difficult to film but the results are great especially with The Evil Dead because the clay and whatever other materials they chose to throw in there just added the extra grotesque touch the film needs. I think it is just wonderful!

There is a great debate between people who are proponents of Night of the Living Dead and The Evil Dead. I think all the arguing is futile. Both of these films are their own unique kind of beast and they’re both beautiful in their own way. Enjoy both these films for what they are and the debate should end and everyone busting a vein trying to win the argument should just shut up.

10/10

61 Days of Halloween- The Curse

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Curse

Wil Wheaton in The Curse (Trans World Entertainment)

Granted, this like most adaptations of Lovecraft is quite changed but from those I’ve seen so far this has been the most faithful. Lovecraft is often described as un-filmable and it’s interesting to note that a few people will reportedly step up to the challenge in the near future, namely Guillermo Del Toro with At the Mountains of Madness (currently scrapped but rumors persist) and Ron Howard with a Lovecraft-inspired tale.

As for the film at hand it is based on “The Colour Out of Space,” which is quite an eerie tale scribed by the master of supernatural fiction and this movie captures that. Yes, there are some very cliché things in this film and David Keith couldn’t direct a PSA but yet this movie manages to work mostly due to the handling and quasi-faithfulness to the tale.

The movie is just freaky. It scared me quite a bit and I don’t scare easily. It’s not too proud to be grotesque. Had Claude Akins and Wil Wheaton not been in the cast it might have been just another hackneyed contrived 80s slasher film but their performances coupled with a unique and affecting score make it work.

I was quite uncertain as to whether I wanted to see this or not. Now I’m glad I did.

If you are interested it is available as a combo-pack on both Amazon.

9/10

61 Days of Halloween- Die, Monster, Die!

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Die, Monster, Die!

Boris Karloff in Die, Monster, Die! (AIP/MGM)

There is plenty to talk about when it comes to Die, Monster, Die! Firstly, it is an adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft short story “The Colour from Outer Space.” This is quite a different take on the tale than offered up by The Curse, not only is the story transplanted to an upper crust English family but it is done with American International Pictures’ usual flair. The flexibility of the tale proves it is one of the best the horror genre has to offer.

It’s a film, which like Psycho, believes that an opening title sets the tone for the film and is not a throw away. It is also a rare late-career appearance by Boris Karloff in which his talents aren’t wasted but in fact utilized.

The cinematography is spectacular not only in is atmospheric use of fog to start but in terms of framing, contrast and use of color. The framing being particularly aided by the decision to shoot 2.35:1. However, the art direction, as is often the case, is a co-conspirator in making this film look fantastic. The sets both interior and exterior are precise and meticulous, dilapidated where needed as well as ornate where necessary.

The effects for the era are quite impressive and artistically rendered both with the melting face and also at the end with the glowing head, if you see it you’ll know what I mean.

This film is available both on DVD and to stream over Netflix. It is a film whose title, like many of those in the halcyon days of cinema, belie the quality of the feature contained. Make no mistake that despite its B-movie moniker that Die, Monster, Die! is a quality piece of cinema and a valuable addition to the horror genre.

10/10