After well over a decade of the Six Weeks of Halloween, it’s easy to slide into niche, obscure sub-genres and forgotten foreign flicks, but there are honestly some bona-fide classics or at least famous (or infamous) franchise-spawning films that I inexplicably haven’t seen. Week 5’s Killer Kids theme was actually already a pretty good example of catching up with famous films I’d never seen before (well, two of them were.) Obviously, what constitutes a “classic” is a fraught topic, but on tap today are two flicks that I figure to be pretty mainstream successes, such that I’m actually familiar with a lot of details, just through cultural osmosis.
It’s also worth noting that I grew up in the cable television/VHS era, and I have definitely seen bits and pieces of these movies, but never watched them all the way through. Revisiting those movies is always interesting, because sometimes I’ve watched much more of the movie than I thought… but sometimes I realize I haven’t really seen it at all.
The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 6.5 – Inexplicably Haven’t Seen These Movies
Fatal Attraction – A married man has a one-night stand and the affair comes back to haunt him as his new lover begins to stalk him and his family. It goes further than you might expect.
I’m sure there’ve been lots of revisionist readings of this as problematic or something, but that’s not a rabbit hole I want to go down right now. It’s a reasonably well constructed thriller, with a flawed man making a mistake that spirals further and further out of control. Each step escalates the stakes and indicates how fraught the situation is while also still remaining somewhat logical in structure, which is harder to do than it might seem. By the end, we’ve gotten to rather disturbing territory, but the progression was well established and grounded, so it doesn’t feel too improbable.
Michael Douglas does a good smarmy protagonist who should have just kept it in his pants here. It’s the sort of role that he’s played many times in his career, and for good reason: he’s really good at this sort of thing. It’s not an especially flattering specialty (and obviously it’s not the only type of role he has played), but I respect that he leaned into what he’s good at. The character is clearly flawed and the movie plays with sympathies a bit, but it’s obviously coming down on his side by the end (to my mind, once you start jeopardizing the wife and kid and pet, the proportion of wrongdoing/consequences has shifted a little too far).
This is a well made, mainstream Hollywood production, with all the slickness and competence behind the scenes that makes a the story and impacts seem effortless. Adrian Lyne has made a career out of restrained and yet somehow overheated premises like this, and the filmmaking is not flashy but still very effective. Great performances from Douglas and Glenn Close as leads, but a really solid supporting cast in Anne Archer and character actors like Stuart Pankin.
I already knew some of the more shocking moments of the film, but they’re still effective when watched in context, and while this movie isn’t exactly “enjoyable”, it’s effective and well made. ***
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror: Bad Dream House (Disney+)
- Shining (Fake Trailer)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning (Disney+)
The Amityville Horror – The Lutz family moves into their dream home, which they were able to buy on the cheap because the previous owner murdered his entire family in that house. As they get settled, it seems that it’s less of a dream home… and more of a nightmare home!
This is a movie that has spawned almost a dozen sequels, spinoffs, reboots, whatever, not to mention setting a template that countless imitators have used over the intervening decades. Which is kinda funny, because the movie is a bit of a mess. Lots of individual components are well done, to be sure, and there are memorable and oft-imitated elements, but this is one of those less than the sum of its parts movies. There’s a distinct lack of cohesion that becomes especially pronounced in the ending. Look, I don’t need everything wrapped up in a tidy little bow and it’s fine for some ambiguity to be present, but the end here feels suspiciously indifferent.
Once again, this is a reasonably well crafted, mainsteam Hollywood production. The overheated, sweaty nature of the proceedings isn’t really counterbalanced by anything though, which makes things a little less plausible. Of course, this is a haunted house movie – not everything needs to be plausible, and as previously mentioned, a lot of individual scenes work well on their own. A priest comes to bless the house and is struck with nausea. He hears a mysterious voice ordering him to “Get Out!” of the house. When he fights with his superiors over what should be done, even more ills fall upon him. Weirdly, this subplot never really connects with the main plot (which is part of the point – the house is asserting its will, in a way, I guess), which is a good indication of how things don’t really add up in this movie.
There are several other effective elements here. A little girl has an imaginary friend named Jody… but Jody might be a ghost… or worse? A babysitter gets trapped in a closet. James Brolin plays the step-father and he’s almost immediately worn down by the house. The way his appearance unravels throughout the film is well done (the Grinch-like reversal at the end is yet another example of things not quite adding up). Bees and flies swarm rooms at odd times, the walls bleed, there’s a strange draft in the basement that leads to the discovery of a hidden room. The house itself looks like a face, with big windows for eyes, and so on… Each piece is put on the chess table, but it doesn’t feel like they’re playing the game very well.
Infamously presented as “Based on a True Story”, much of it has since been revealed as a hoax. There really was a Lutz family who moved into a murder house and left suddenly, but most everything else is just exaggerated and overblown. But that’s not a big deal in my boat. I’d rather have bleeding walls and hallucinations rather than the truth here – this isn’t a documentary and from what I can tell, the reality of what went on in the house was rather boring. Still, it would have been nice if the disparate elements here were tied together a little better in the end. Weirdly, this means it actually makes sense that there would be a long-running franchise. Lots of opportunity that is presumably covered in the sequels and reboots and whatnot. **
We’re really in the homestretch now. The standard Speed Round of films I’ve watched, but not otherwise covered coming up on Sunday, and then some reviews of spooky books read during the season the following week.