Best Performance (actor): Joe Spinell as Frank Zito in Maniac
Best Performance (actress): Deborah Kerr as Miss Giddens in The Innocents
Best Supporting Performance (actor): Tom Atkins as Detective Ray Cameron in Night of the Creeps. "Thrill me!"
Best Supporting Performance (actress): Lynda Day George as Detective Mary Riggs in Pieces. "Bastard!" (See clip below)
Best Fight Sequence: Zombie vs Shark, in Zombie (aka Zombi 2). I mean, come on, it's a zombie fighting a shark.
Most Cring-Inducing Death Sequence: Splinter vs eyeball, in Zombie (aka Zombi 2). Disgusting, and shown in gratuitous detail.
The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity: Well, the dumbest people in the marathon are certainly the meth-addled heroes in Cookers, but that movie doesn't quite fit. As such, Pieces would probably be the best fit. Both films feature really dumb characters, after all.
Best Comedic Film: It doesn't look like I watched any films that were technically comedies this year (Zombieland would be a shoe-in if I hadn't already seen it last year), so it looks like it will go to Night of the Creeps. More of a loving homage than a parody, but there are lots of comedic elements there.
Scariest Movie: It's a bit strange to say this, but most horror movies aren't really all that scary. They may be disgusting or suspenseful, but when I'm laying in bed at night, I'm not usually haunted by what I've seen. A couple of movies did that this year, and I'll have to go with Dead Birds. Paranormal Activity 2 also has its merits, though I think the creepiness factor is largely a residual effect of the first film...
Well, there you have it. Another successful Halloween horror movie marathon. I'll leave you with the single greatest scene I saw this year, referenced above under the best supporting actress award:
See you next year!
Posted by Mark on October 31, 2010 at 06:09 PM .:
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
6WH: Week 6.5 - Speed Round!
It's time to cover some movies that I've seen recently, but that haven't been discussed in the Six Weeks of Halloween marathon so far. Some of them just didn't fit with a given week's theme and some of them are just things I've seen already (and have maybe even written about). So here goes:
Paranormal Activity 2: Ultimately a repetitive and pretty unnecessary venture, it still manages a few well executed "Boo" moments and they actually manage to retcon a semi-interesting link between the two films (sure, it doesn't make a ton of sense, but it's much better than I was expecting). It's a little too slick and redundant for its own good, but it's not devoid of value and there's something about the premise that just gets under my skin. I'll give this one a pass, but I expect the third installment will finally wear out its welcome... **1/2
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon: It's not really as clever as it wants to be, but it's an interesting, self-aware neo-slasher parody and worth a watch for fans of the sub-genre (as I am). It tries to put a name to the many conventions of the genre, though the only really new terminology that's coined is the concept of an "Ahab" (basically, in the context of slashers, the primary example of an Ahab would be Dr. Loomis from the Halloween films). **1/2
Alice, Sweet Alice: This 1976 movie, on the other hand, is a proto-slasher and prefigures some of the conventions. The Catholic themes and one of the more interesting masks make this a step above most of the sub-genre, though I don't think of it as one of the greatest examples. ***
The Roost: If you've seen any of Ti West's other movies, this one won't really come as a surprise. It's a very deliberately paced tale of... something that lives in a farmhouse and seems to be turning people into zombies. It's obviously low-budget and it's not exactly a great film, but it's clear that West's less-is-more approach works well, even on a small budget. **
Piranha Part Two: The Spawning: I've noted several times that the Piranha series has a surprisingly good pedigree, and for this one, we get James Cameron's second effort as director (apparently he was fired from this film though, so it's not all his fault). It's a surprisingly fun schlock-fest, and while there was a small reprise of the silliness at the end of the most recent Piranha installment, I would have liked to have seen more flying Piranha... **1/2
Zombieland: Revisted this movie and had a blast with it. It's just as funny as it was the first time, it's got the best cameo ever, and in the end, it's a big ball of fun. ***
Ghost Busters: After seeing it mentioned in Zombieland, I had to throw my blu-ray in and watch it. Not much to say about it though - it's a classic! ****
The Hills Have Eyes II: A pretty tiresome retread of a tiresome premise. The big twist this time around is that the victims are in the National Guard. ZOMG! It's still a boring, paint by numbers, gory horror film. I had trouble staying awake. **
Masters of Horror: "The V Word": The MoH series has been wildly inconsistent, and this tale of teens accidentally becoming vampires comes in somewhere around the middle of the pack. It's always nice to see Michael Ironside getting work, but it's otherwise unremarkable. **
Masters of Horror: "The Black Cat": How did Edgar Allen Poe come to write his story "The Black Cat"? Do we care? Not really. I think what I learned in this episode is that Poe was a douche. **
Masters of Horror: "The Washingtonians": A quite intriguing premise, but the episode doesn't quite deliver on the potential. It's one of the more entertaining episodes in the series, and it features the most absurd ending of any of the episodes I've seen. **1/2
Session 9: Haven't seen it yet, but it's on Netflix Watch Instantly, so I'll probably take a gander before Halloween...
Martyrs: Just came in the mail from Netflix. I've heard a lot about this one, and figured it was time to check it out.
The Brood: I've inexplicably neglected Cronenberg's early filmography, and this one just came in the mail too.
Grindhouse: They've finally released the theatrical cut of this movie, complete with fake trailers and missing reels, and I went and bought me the blu-ray as soon as I found out. Now I just need to carve out 3 hours to watch it!
That's all for now. See you on the big day, when I'll probably do some awards (any categories beyond the traditional that I should consider? Let's see, best picture, best director, best performances (actor, actress, supporting, etc...), scariest movie, best kill, and of course, "The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity". Anything else?
Posted by Mark on October 27, 2010 at 07:53 PM .:
Sunday, October 24, 2010
6WH: Week 6 - No Discernable Theme Week
These six weeks have absolutely flown by, but lucky for me, Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, which is basically giving me an extra week of horror watching.
The Fog: I really wasn't trying to have a Jamie Lee Curtis movie every week this year, it just seems to have worked out that way (I swears!). This one was on my list for the more mundane (and inexplicable) reason that I never saw this follow-up to John Carpenter's classic, genre-codifying Halloween. The film starts off with an old man (played by the excellent John Houseman) telling a campfire story of tragedy and revenge. Legend has it that an unearthly fog will descend upon the hundred year old fishing town, and the ghosts of murdered sailors will return to take their revenge. The film starts out great, following numerous unexplained occurrences throughout the normally sleepy town and digging into the checkered history of the town's founding. A series of payphones ring, cars in a parking lot start honking and flashing lights, a priest finds an old journal hidden in the walls of the church, and so on. Carpenter captures it all and infuses it with dread. You know nothing terrible is going to happen just yet, but you know this foreshadows a coming menace. The first two thirds of the film do a great job of establishing that atmosphere of dread, and even manage to instill some fear in the blank, featureless fog. The last third becomes a bit more conventional and maybe a bit too convenient, but it's still eminently watchable. The ensemble cast does a reasonable job here. You'll recognize a lot of the smaller folks from Halloween making a reappearance here, as well as some bigger hitters like Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook, and Adrienne Barbeau (though I think that Barbeau's radio broadcasting schtick kinda wore out its welcome at that same two thirds point of the movie.) It doesn't really approach Carpenter's masterful Halloween or The Thing, but it stands on its own as one of a long string of successful Carpenter flicks in the early 80s. ***
Cookers: Ultra-low budget tale of meth cookers and their paranoia as they use too much of their product and slowly go crazy in the abandoned hose they've chosen to hide-out in. I hated this movie. I think my biggest issue is that I really hate watching people on drugs just for the sake of doing so. If there's a larger purpose to the drug use or a coherent storyline, then it's usually fine, but in this movie, watching meth take its toll on three pretty unlikeable characters is just a torturous experience and I hated almost every second of it. There were occasional respites in the misery, such as when Merle (he wears a John Dear baseball cap and a hillbilly mustache, just in case you didn't understand that he's white trash) recounts an urban legend of a young girl who disappeared mysteriously and the ghost that supposedly abducted her, but even those aren't that great and the way the film attempts to tie that in with the rest of the "story" doesn't really work too well. The film looks like it was shot on a crappy, consumer-grade video camera from the mid-90s. Normally this wouldn't bother me, and to be honest, they did a reasonably good job with what they had... but given that I really fucking hated watching these characters tweaking out, it was just adding to the frustration. I know some folks find this movie entertaining, and I suppose if the concept of watching people tweaking out on meth sounds fun to you, give it a shot, but I really hate this movie. To me, the best part was watching what happens to the character of Hector. The problem was that it took 90 minutes to get there. I wanted it to happen approximately 87 minutes earlier. Not recommended! *
Dead Birds: Another low budget haunted house film, this one turned out, oh, about a million times better than Cookers. It actually takes place during the Civil War era, and it follows some bank robbers who take refuge in an abandoned plantation house after one of their heists (naturally, said heist had gone wrong and lots of people ended up dead). Of course, the house is haunted in the extreme and has no intention of letting the wayward robbers leave. It's an effective setup and it's executed really well. Despite the extreme nature of the characters, they are actually able to induce some empathy, thanks primarily to some excellent casting. Most horror these days tends to cast young and pretty teenagers, but the filmmakers here went for a more seasoned bunch, and the film is better for the choice. Henry Thomas plays the leader of the crew and does an admirable job. Patrick Fugit plays his injured brother, and manages to make a lot out of very little. Nicki Aycox and Isaiah Washington also do quite a good job, despite little in the way of screen time. But the real surprise were the two smallest characters, played by Michael Shannon and Mark Boone Junior (both of whom are guys you'd recognize from other stuff, but not necessarily know all that well - they are "that guy" actors). They're total mercenaries, ruthless and cold (Shannon gets to unleash some pretty unrestrained racist rants, even)... yet, you can't help but enjoy watching them. Ultimately, they get what's coming to them and then some, which is where this movie really surprises. It's very restrained and deliberately paced, and it has an almost Japanese flavor to it, though the setting is distinctly American. In this age of hackneyed remakes and sequels, this makes for a great, refreshing mixture, and while I'm sure some would crave more action, I thought it was pretty well balanced. While I'm sure this had a higher budget than Cookers, it was obviously still quite low, and yet this film looks really good. All of the practical effects are great and the film is photographed really well.
The only real complaint from a visual perspective is the CGI, but that is used quite sparingly and it worked well enough for me The one thing I'm not entirely in love with is the ending. It's not terrible, but it feels like they kinda wrote themselves into a corner. There's no real satisfaction there, and that might have been the point, but there's still something a little off about the ending. Nevertheless, it's well worth the watch. ***
Well, that covers what will unfortunately be the last week of full-time horror movie watching, but stay tuned on Wednesday for the typical Speed Round, feating short capsules of a whole slew of other stuff I've watched during the season. Not sure what I'll be posting on Halloween proper, but I plan to celebrate by rewatching Halloween (natch) and maybe checking out the new Walking Dead series...
Posted by Mark on October 24, 2010 at 08:12 PM .:
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
A few short films of the horror variety:
Posted by Mark on October 20, 2010 at 09:18 PM .:
Sunday, October 17, 2010
6WH: Week 5 - Slashers
Coming down the homestretch already? The past 5 weeks have absolutely flown by... There's still a bunch of movies I want to watch and I'm not sure I'll even be able to get to them. In any case, this week, I got back to basics and went with a favorite sub-genre, the slashers! They've been a staple of previous years, but I specifically attempted to decrease my consumption this year because I like to mix things around a little. So far, I think I've done a pretty good job of that, but I couldn't stay away for too long - here's what I watched:
Terror Train: So I know Jamie Lee Curtis got her start in the Halloween movies and earned the title "Scream Queen" but I never realized how many horror/slasher movies she was involved in in the early 80s slasher explosion. Indeed, this movie marks the second movie I've watched and been surprised to see her in (the other being the Ozploitation flick, Road Games). This film takes place on a scenic train that a bunch of college frat boys have rented out for the night. Of course, a freshman prank gone wrong a few years ago is ripe to be avenged, and you'll never guess who the killer is! Or something. It's a surprisingly tame entry in the slasher sub-genre. There's some brief nudity and some blood, but nothing gratuitous. The unique, cramped setting does make for some nice atmosphere, and the surprise of seeing Jamie Lee Curtis and even a young David Copperfield (an aside: magic shows can be very impressive in person, but they never make the transition to movies very well - we've all see hundreds of making-of documentaries showing how almost anything can be accomplished on screen with a little trickery, even before the era of CGI. As such, while Copperfield's magic is pretty awesome, it's also a bit suspicious.) was a welcome change of pace. It's ultimately not that scary, but there's a lot to like about it. **1/2
The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VI: Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace (sorry no vid online)
Maniac: Meet Frank Zito. He misses his mommy! He's also a murderous maniac that likes to scalp his victims to create wigs for his collection of mannequins. This is a bit of an oddity when it comes to slasher films. For the most part, the film is told from the perspective of the killer, played by the decidedly odd (and perfect for this part) Joe Spinell (you may remember him as a wiseguy gangster in The Godfather, or as a wiseguy gangster in Rocky). Spinell is perfect in this roll, whether he's delivering manic monologues or just skulking around in his killin outfit, and to the extent that this movie works, it's mostly due to Spinell's performance. The rest is due to the makeup effects by Tom Savini, whose work is as gloriously gratuitous as ever (the standout sequence involves a shotgun shot to the head). Otherwise, the story is a bit of a mess. I guess this is to be expected considering that the story is told from the perspective of a nutjob, but that doesn't really make it an endearing movie. That's not really what it's going for anyway, but that still doesn't make it fun to watch. Then again, I have to admit that it was a bit more artistic than I expected and I did really enjoy the ending, where things just start going way over the top and falling apart. It's a must watch for students of the genre, though it's not one of my favorites. **1/2
Twilight at the Towers, by Clive Barker (Short Story from Cabal)
Pieces: I think you could say the other two films in this post had some sort of relatively high aspirations. Neither were going for an Oscar nod or anything, but they didn't seem like they were just attempts to cash-in on the successful slasher sub-genre. Pieces, on the other hand, is a much more exploitative experience. The story is about a chainsaw-wielding maniac who is chopping off various victims' body parts, presumably to put all the pieces together into a Frankestein-like (perhaps Frankenhooker-like is more accurate) monster. Lots of fun horror tropes here. Axe-wielding kid, the crazy bearded groundskeeper, a kung-fu professor (!?) who claims he ate bad chop suey, a water bed murder, lots of chainsaws that can cut through the human body like butter and gratuitous gore in general. Though not aspiring to much, I think this might have been the most fun of all three of this week's movies. There's some great gore and lots of unintentionally hilarious moments. The highlight for me was when the undercover cop discovers that the killer managed to murder someone right under her nose, after which she exclaims something to the effect of "Bastard! You bastard! BASSSTAAAARD! BAAAAASSTAAAARD!" It goes on for about a minute (I know that doesn't sound much, but a minute of screen time is actually quite long for something like this).
I don't know if the actress was intentionally hamming it up, or if she thought it was her prestige moment, but I prefer to think of it as the latter, as that makes me laugh even more. The other notable sequence is the very last scene. I don't want to ruin it because it is pretty surprising, but it's... eye opening, to say the least. **1/2
That's all for now. No idea what's next, but I think it's probably time for a no discernible theme week! Maybe I'll have some updates on Wednesday as well... Oh, and go Phillies!
Posted by Mark on October 17, 2010 at 02:25 PM .:
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
6WH: Link Dump: Other Halloween Movie Marathons
It would seem that I'm not the only one watching lots of horror movies in preparation for Halloween. Here are a few blogs I follow that have been watching tons of movies:
Six Weeks of Halloween - I would be remiss if I didn't call out kernunrex first, as the whole reason I do my six week marathon is because of him, and he's racking up quite the list this year, posting reviews almost every day.
Final Girl: Stacie Ponder, as always, has wonderful things to post during the month she dubs Shocktober. This year, she's been collating a number of top 20 horror lists that people sent her (much to her surprise, she ended up with 732 different movies on the master list, which is pretty astounding). She's also got other lists, and some more lists, and pretty much lists everywhere. This blog has been a long time Kaedrin favorite, so give it a shot.
Need Coffee - As per usual, Widge and the gang are watching lots of movies and finding obscure audio and video horror bits that are always fun to check out.
Horror Movie a Day: I'm sure everyone thinks they're all badass for watching horror movies all month, but Brian watchings horror movies every day, all year long. And posts about them too. And he's been doing so for several years now. I'm kinda in awe of this.
Midnight Tease: I seem to have infected Ben with a desire to participate, which he's been doing on a weekly basis like myself. Some interesting stuff, as always.
Hey! Look Behind You: Nicki has been doing a 31 days of Halloween thing as well, with at least a post a day. I don't know how everyone does it. I can barely keep up posting twice a week!
I'm leaving out hundreds of blogs here, but lucky for me, Countdown to Halloween has a pretty large list of other blogs doing the month of horror thing, so if you're still itching for more horror, check it out.
That is all for now. I think this weekend I'll be getting back into some bread-and-butter slasher films of the early eighties.
Posted by Mark on October 13, 2010 at 08:02 PM .:
Sunday, October 10, 2010
6WH: Week 4 - Zombies!
The Six Weeks of Halloween horror movie marathon continues with some zombies! I've never actually been that big a fan of zombie movies. Sure there are a few good ones and they have a certain amount of influence within the genre, but there's something that never really connects with me. They're such a blank slate that you can apply almost any sort of sociological message to them, which is one reason we see so many zombie movies. This isn't to say that the sub-genre of zombie movies is worthless though, and I can certainly accept that many people find these movies and their repetitive tropes to be comforting (after all, I'm a self-admitted slasher fan). Indeed, I don't mind the more mindless entries in the sub-genre, it's when pretensions start to run high that I start to waver. Nevertheless, there have always been some zombie movies that I've wanted to see for one reason or another, and below are three:
Zombi 2 (aka Zombie): In 1978, George A. Romero released Dawn of the Dead to worldwide success. In Italy, it was released as "Zombi" and Italian director Lucio Fulci was so taken by the movie that he made his own zombie movie and called it "Zombi 2". Of course, Fulci's movie was not related to Romero's film in any way and to make matters even more confusing, "Zombi 2" was released in the US simply as "Zombie". In any case, this was the film that really cemented Fulci's career (see earlier 6WH post on Giallo films for more Fulci), and it establishes many of the mainstays of his later cinema: zombies, gratuitous gore, eye gags, etc... This film, in particular, is notable for two standout sequences. First, there is a scene where a zombie fights a shark (seriously, the scene takes place underwater - you may have seen parts of this scene recut into a Windows 7 commercial, with a Discovery channel voiceover). This battle alone is worth the price of admission here, but there is another sequence that actually made me cringe. That scene features an eye gouging in explicit detail. The rest of the film is pretty much your average zombie island film. The characters aren't especially well established and the story is practically non-existent, but who cares, there are zombies fighting sharks here people! **1/2
Cemetery Man: I have to admit, I have no idea what's going on in this movie. Is it supposed to be a black comedy? Is it some sort of weird existential meditation on life and death and sex and relationships? Or is it just a pointless series of zombie gags? Rupert Everett plays Francesco Dellamorte (which translates to Francesco of Death), the titular cemetery man who works in a town where the dead come back to life about 7 days after they're buried (after which, he kills them (again)). He has a brief relationship with a widow (who becomes a zombie and thus must be killed), and then he starts to lose his mind and kill human beings (instead of the zombies he normally takes care of)... but someone else keeps taking credit for his kills. There's also a pretty funny episode where his mute assistant falls in love with a zombie head. The zombies here are a bit weird - they talk and act like regular humans, except that they seem to have developed a taste for flesh. Anyway, by the end, I wasn't sure what was going on and I didn't really care much either. For people who appreciate ultra-weird movies like Meet the Feebles or Delicatessen, you might want to take a gander, but even then, this is an inferior movie. It's stylish, but I'm not sure there's much of a point. **
Night of the Creeps: Does this technically count as a zombie movie? Most descriptions of the film mention the term zombie, but these aren't your typical zombies. They're really just dead people who are hosting a slug-like alien creature. Director Fred Dekker clearly has a love for old-school SF and horror movies (not to mention noirish pot-boilers), and you can really see that shining through (the same can be said for Dekker's more popular The Monster Squad), from the opening sequence (set in space!) to the hilarious noir detective/action hereo, played brilliantly by Tom Atkins. He answers the phone and bellows "Thrill me!" Later, in a nifty bit of self-awareness, he exclaims: "What is this? A homicide, or a bad B-movie?" If you've ever seen James Gunn's excellent Slither, you'll notice a lot of similarities here. It's not a classic or anything but it's a ton of fun and well worth a watch. ***
That's all for now. Not sure what next week's theme will be (if there is one!) but right now, it's looking like either Silent Horror or slashers. We shall see. There also might be a few mid-week updates if I see more movies...
Posted by Mark on October 10, 2010 at 04:10 PM .:
Saturday, October 09, 2010
I'm in the process of upgrading some of the software that drives the site, including Movable Type (which runs this blog). Which is to say, you may see some issues with some of the dynamic features (like comments or the pagination). There's no specific problem that's causing me to upgrade or anything, I just figured it was about time.
Update: Upgrade is complete. I hope. No unintended consequences as of yet, but I haven't tested commenting yet, and the thing I'm most worried about is my anti-spam functionality. The version I'm using was built for MT4, but it seems pretty straightforward - hopefully it will work on MT5. Pagination seems fine.
Again Update: All quiet on the internet front. Upgrade has gone well. Too well. Suspiciously well. But for now, everything is ok. See you tomorrow with some zombie movies!
Posted by Mark on October 09, 2010 at 01:27 PM .:
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
The Catfish Network
I saw two movies this weekend and it turns out that I'd inadvertently stumbled into a great double-feature. Based on the cryptic but positive comments on the /Filmcast a few weeks ago (not their recent review), I made a mental note to see the movie Catfish. I knew nothing about the movie except that a couple people on the internet found it interesting. In this world of constant film scoops and trailers that spoil the movie, it's pretty rare for me to see a movie without ever having heard of it, so I relish these opportunities.
Also opening this weekend is a movie I knew too much about: The Social Network. Directed by David Fincher with a script by Aaron Sorkin, this was one of the years most hotly anticipated films. The original teaser trailer, featuring a striking cover of Radiohead's "Creep" by a Belgian girls' choir and a quasi-cheesy montage of Facebook clicking, was intriguing, but the expanded trailer that featured actual footage of the film was... not so encouraging. Fincher's track record of the past few years has been a bit spotty. I really liked Zodiac, but it certainly had its problems. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was a bit of a mess, but it was watchable. In both cases, I think my problems were more with the script than with Fincher (though I guess you could say his judgment of what to work on was lacking). So when i saw that Fincher was making a movie about Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook, I was a bit skeptical. The involvement of Aaron Sorkin did pique my interest for a bit, but then I realized that his record over the past few years has also been a bit spotty. The trailers did nothing to help my skepticism... so imagine my surprise when I ended up loving the movie.
It is, of course, a really strange movie. I don't normally care for biopics, but this one gets it exactly right - it focuses on one, well defined episode in someone's life (where most biopicks get bogged down in tangents and don't really have a point). This is a good thing in any case, though perhaps it's even moreso because Zuckerberg is only 26 years old (or perhaps they were forced to limit their scope because he was so young). Anyway, the movie is fantastic. Sorkin's script is crackling with fast-paced, witty dialogue, the actors seem to be able to handle that, Trent Reznor's score is surprisingly well matched, and Fincher ties it all together.
The most interesting thing, though, is that I have no idea how much of it is true. It's not a documentary and I'm positive the story has been simplified and dramatized. Seeing that alone would have been interesting, but seeing it on the same day I saw Catfish was positively serendipitous. You see, Catfish is also about Facebook (after a fashion) and it actually is a documentary. And yet... I have no idea how much of it is true.
I don't want to give anything away with Catfish, so I'm not going to go into too much detail. There is definitely something real about the documentary, but there's also something a little fishy (pun intended!) about it. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter. Even if it was entirely fake (and it's not), it would be a worthwhile story (albeit one with relatively low stakes).
The Social Network tells the story about the founding of Facebook. Catfish depicts one of the interesting effects that Facebook has lead to (though it's not entirely reliant on Facebook)... If you're into movies, it's a great double-feature to take in.
Posted by Mark on October 06, 2010 at 07:20 PM .:
Sunday, October 03, 2010
6WH: Week 3 - Ozploitation!
Last year, I had the good fortune of watching Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!. I love these types of documentaries about a narrow spectrum of movies. Making-of documentaries about a single film tend to get a bit repetitive, but in a movie like Not Quite Hollywood, you can cover dozens of interesting films (in this case, the film covers tons of obscure films from Australia's exploitation film industry). Unfortunately, not a ton of these films are available on DVD/Netflix, but I was able to find several for this week's Halloween movie marathon:
Patrick: Richard Franklin's slow-burning tale of a nurse assigned to take care of a comatose patient named Patrick is quite the interesting film. The central performance here is from Robert Thompson as the titular Patrick. He spends the entire film in a stationary position, laying down on the bed, staring blankly and unblinkingly forward. It's a seemingly simple and repetitive performance, but the more I think about it, the more I'm impressed by it. Thompson can't react to anything that's going on around him. He can't blink, he can't focus his eyes on movement, he can't flinch. This sort of passive performance has to be harder than it looks, and it's strangely effective at establishing tension in the film. You just keep waiting for something to happen...
Of course, that's not the only thing this film has going for it. Director Richard Franklin freely admits to his aping of Hitchcock's style, and while I don't think this film really approaches the hights of Hitchcock's best, it's well above the average horror film in terms of photography and framing. The characterizations are surprisingly well done and and the manifestations of Patrick's power ramp up in a well planned progression. I'm sure there are some people who would find the film slow and poorly paced, but I found myself engaged throughout the entire film and never got bored. All in all, it's an effective film and well worth a watch. ***
Thirst: I'm not entirely sure what to make of this film. A wealthy woman is kidnapped and informed that she comes from a long line of vampires. The kidnappers claim to be superior to the human race due to the fact that they drink blood. They "farm" humans for their blood, and they're attempting to condition our heroine to drink blood, and thus fulfill her family's destiny. Or something. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The centerpiece of the film is a half-hour long dream sequence, thrusting our heroine from one horror set-piece to another. Actually, I'm not sure if the entire film isn't a series of dream sequences. There's a certain unreliability to what we're watching, and added to the lack of coherent story, I don't think it works particularly well. There are a few standout sequences, such as the shower scene or the woman drowning in a vat of blood, but ultimately I'm not sure it was done in service of anything worthwhile. If you're a huge fan of cults or vampires, it might be worth a watch, but it didn't do too much fore me... **
Road Games: When I was in high school, I drove across the US with my brother and uncle. One of the interesting things about such trips is that you actually tend to see the same people over and over again. You might pass someone in the morning, stop for lunch, then pass the same car again later in the day. You might see the same folks at the camp site every night, and so on. Apparently this phenomenon is even more pronounced in Australia, where there are only a handful of roads that take you across the continent. Writer Everett De Roche and Director Richard Franklin, both big Hitchcock fans, looked at that phenomenon and somehow came up with the idea of creating a sorta moving Rear Window. Instead of setting it in an apartment complex, they set it on the road, which allowed them to show the same set of recurring characters over and over again while instilling a certain kinetic energy into the story. Of course, the film doesn't entirely live up to , but it's still a rather effective thriller.
The story concerns a truck driver who notices a strange green van that's picking up hitchhikers in conjunction with a series of disappearances. The truck driver is played by Stacy Keach, and he's a surprisingly well established character. He seems to be a big fan of poetry, constantly quoting his favorites and playing games with the hitchhikers that he picks up. When he says that he's a man who drives trucks, not a truck driver, you almost believe him. He picks up Jamie Lee Curtis at one point, and she seems hellbent on discovering what's going on with the green van.
I think I knew I was in for a good movie here when I saw the first murder sequence. At first, I thought I was going to be seeing kinda standard slasher fare, but Franklin immediately defied those expectations with a gorgeously photographed and well orchestrated horror sequence. The film is nearly bloodless, but it almost doesn't feel like it. There are only a handful of attacks, and they tend to rely on implied violence rather than gory detail. When I was planning out this week's movies, I didn't realize that this film and Patrick were done by the same director, but I'm glad I've discovered Richard Franklin and look forward to perhaps seeing more of his work in the future... ***
The one film I wanted to see but didn't get to here was Howling III: The Marsupials, which looks like an incredibly cheesy, low-budget blast. It's actually available on Netflix Watch Instantly, but I just ran out of time. In any case, I'm hoping enough other films will be available for another week of Ozploitation next year, as I really enjoyed these movies (I'm even glad I watched Thirst, even though it's not quite my thing)...
Posted by Mark on October 03, 2010 at 08:01 PM .: