As we reach the halfway point of the Six Weeks of Halloween horror movie marathon (See Week 1 | Week 2), it seems I’ve run out of thematically similar movies and have moved into more of a hodgepodge. But nevertheless, this week’s lineup is pretty darn good. I seem to have gotten a bit ahead of schedule here, so a couple of these were actually watched a couple weeks ago:
- The Call of Cthulhu By H.P. Lovecraft (short story)
- Hellraiser (trailer)
- Jacob’s Ladder (trailer)
- The Signal: A strange, hypnotic pattern mysteriously appears on all the TVs in the world, and after watching it for a while, people seem to go on a murderous rampage. It’s clear from the taut opening (which unfortunatly turns out to be a red herring) that first time directors David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, and Dan Bush have a love for the horror genre and know what makes it tick. Each director took on a third of this movie… but unfortunately, this leads to some serious pacing and tone issues, as the story ping-pongs from gorey realism to apocalyptic dystopia to outright camp and comedy (including an attempt at parody and even some slapstick) with no real rhyme or reason. Part of the problem is that the story follows a single plotline, but each segment of the film is drastically different from the other in tone and style. In theory, I suppose this could work, but it doesn’t work that well here. Still, each segment taken by itself is pretty good. The second segment stood out the most in my mind because it really nailed the comedic and surrealistic undertone of the film, while the other two segments went for more of a realism that is harder to pull off. The performances by the three main leads in that act (AJ Bowen, Cheri Christian and Scott Poythress) are also the best in the film, as well as a hilariously perverted bit part played by Chad McKnight. I found the film entertaining and well made, but it had trouble transitioning from one segment (and one director) to another. The ending also turns out to be a little more conventional than I expected. All in all, it was worth a watch, but not especially brilliant. **1/2
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning
- Shining (fake trailer)
- The Shining (trailer)
- The Others: A seemingly standard ghost story set in 1945 at a desolate mansion in Britain. Nicole Kidman plays the lead, and her two children have a rare allergy to bright lights, so all the rooms in the house must have their drapes drawn shut and those walking around the house must be sure to close the door behind them, least stray sunlight get in the room. The servants of the house have mysteriously taken off, and the movie opens with three new housekeepers arriving to help out Kidman, whose husband has been off in the war. This is one of the few films that have really creeped me out so far this year, and it achieves most of that more through restraint than anything else. There are no horrific deaths in the film, no gore, and very little violence. The scares here are all based on atmosphere and style. Director Alejandro Amenabar makes great use of shadows and especially sound to impart the dread that saturates this film. One scene involving a piano was particularly spooky, as was the infamous “Are you mad? I am your daughter!” scene. Kidman carries the movie on her shoulders, and puts in a good performance in what must have been a difficult role. Fionnula Flanagan also has an interesting performance as one of the new housekeepers. The film’s climax is not as scary as I would have expected, but it does have a satisfying twist (I suspect even guessing the twist would not ruin the movie). The film does have some issues with pacing (it’s a little slow), but it’s ultimately quite effective and possibly the best of the 6WH so far. I wish more films would rely on atmosphere and style to provide the scares, but films like this seem pretty rare (I was reminded a bit of the excellent 2007 film, The Orphanage). ***
- Twilight at the Towers, by Clive Barker (Short Story from Cabal)
- Dark City (trailer)
- After Dark Horrorfest 2007 (trailer)
- The Deaths of Ian Stone: Part of the 2007 After Dark Horrorfest, this film is often described as the horror version of Groundhog Day. That doesn’t exactly fit the premise of this movie but it works well enough. Basically, Ian Stone wakes up in a new life every day, only to be hunted down and killed by shadowy pursuers. He’s haunted by memories of his past lives, and is anchored by one other person who keeps showing up in his life. The more he remembers, the more dangerous he becomes. It’s an interesting and entertaining movie despite all of its derivative elements. Unfortunately it’s not very scary, and its various twists aren’t all that surprising. The movie does much better when the happenings are mysterious… once we start to get answers, it falters a bit. However, it manages to overcome its deficiencies (or at least, it clears the hurdle) and I did enjoy it. The direction and performances are rather standard, but the film also looks pretty good when you consider its low-budget origins. The shadowy monsters are appropriately menacing and the main villain, played by Jaime Murray (essentially reprising her “Pardon my tits” role from Dexter), is devious and ruthless enough that we’re rooting against her. It’s an enjoyable movie if you take it for what it is, and it’s well worth a watch. **1/2
Incidentally, this Horrorfest thing sounds pretty interesting, except for the fact that it seems to happen months after Halloween instead of the weeks preceding it (where you’d think it would make more sense). I do remember hearing about it towards the tail end of the 2007 fest, but the only film that really interested me was The Deaths of Ian Stone, and it was no longer playing… Still the 2009 fest is coming in January (again, January? Why then!?), so maybe I’ll take a gander when it happens this year. That’s all for this week. Next week will mark a return to the 80s slasher movie as well as a movie that I’ve seen described as a modern silent film (a concept that intrigues me).
In other news, Kernunrex continues his 6WH, which includes several mentions of Kaedrin favorite Phantasm (including a comic book I’ve never heard of but now want to read and the DVD commentary track). Kaedrin compatriot Roy posted his tentative schedule as well. NeedCoffee has started their 32 days of Halloween (it’s kicked off by none other than Bugs Bunny!). Quint over at AiCN has been doing a movie a day, and for the month of October, he’s doing a horror movie a day, starting with The Dunwich Horror (I didn’t even know they made a movie out of that excellent H.P. Lovecraft story). Some other folks doing the marathon thing: The Metal Misfit, Random Acts of Geekery, Cal’s Media of the Month and I’m sure lots of others. And of course, there’s also Horror Movie a Day, who eschews the whole Halloween thing and just does horror all year round. Is anyone else doing a horror marathon?