Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Day 324: The Creature from the Black Lagoon

I definitely remember watching this when I was about five or six years old. We were living in a trailer at the time and I recall they sold special 3-D glasses so the TV show could be seen the way it was intended.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon follows the exploits of Dr. David Reed, whose friendship with another scientist pulls him into the orbit of the Creature. Dr. Carl Maia discovers the fossil of a webbed hand that would link amphibians to humans. As he returns to the states to tell his friend and his boss, the Creature attacks and kills Maia's assistants who were left behind. The gang all return and decide to explore a region from which no one emerges known as the Black Lagoon. While they explore, they run afoul of the creature, who has the hots for David Reed's girlfriend. Hilarity ensues as the gang takes on the Creature.

This is really a B-movie at best and I think it gets lumped in with other classic horror so much because of the design of the Gill Man. The Creature was pretty original at the time and looks slickly terrifying. The action isn't all that exciting and the lumbering nature of the creature means it is in the same class as men in gorilla suits. I remember the creature getting stuck in the trawling net of the boat and losing a claw, this might be the origin of my fingernail queasiness. The underwater scenes are something to see, of course.

I can't say this is a frightening movie but it is good for a few thrills.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Day 323: Fright Night

I just saw this 80s classic with a friend of mine a few years ago. I still haven't seen the remake.

Fright Night is about a kid named Charley who discovers his next door neighbor, Jerry, is a vampire. Rather than waste any time making you think Jerry might not be a vampire and Charley just watches too many scary movies, the movie has a confrontation between the boy and his neighbor fairly early on. The rest of the movie is Charley trying to recruit a vampire hunter from his favorite TV show (Fright Night) and the two of them dealing with Jerry's evil.

Besides the odd pacing, which frontloads a clash between our hero and the villain, Fright Night is known for some comedic moments which don't undercut the horror. A lot of the humor comes from Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) as the late night show host sucked into a world of real evil. Evil Ed, Charley's fair weather friend who knows his way around vampire lore, is also good for some fun in the script. I had a good time with the movie even though it didn't immediately vault into my all-time favorites. If I had seen it when I was an impressionable kid, I would have more affection for it, I think.

For a fun time, check out Fright Night. I can't speak for any remakes or sequels.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Day 322: The Devil's Rejects

I don't know why I ever watched this movie. The House of 1,000 Corpses is one of my least favorite horror movies of all time but I guess I had heard enough positive buzz about this one to give it a go.

The Devil's Rejects picks up where House of 1000 Corpses left off, more or less. After one killing too many, the local police (William Forsythe as John Wydell) raid the Firefly family home and kill one (Rufus) while capturing Mama Firefly. Baby and Otis escape and try to reunite with Captain Spaulding, Baby's father. They kidnap, torture and kill most of a country group called Banjo and Sullivan. However, as Wydell interrogates Mama Firefly, he finds out she was responsible for killing his brother. This unhinges the Sheriff and he vows vengeance against the whole clan. Things get grim from there.

This is the only Rob Zombie movie I've liked so far, so if you're a fan you may be built differently than I am. The first half of this movie is business as usual for the Firefly clan as the three on the run rape and torture their way across Texas. Then, like the weird magic trick that happens when you start sympathizing with King Kong, the killers become the victims as Forsythe moves from a figure of law and order to one of sadistic vengeance. By the end of the movie, you are fully on the side of the Fireflys and Zombie luckily doesn't waste that goodwill by sending them right back to their evil ways. If Tim Burton has a soft spot for outcasts, Zombie has one for monsters. It turns out the best way to make them sympathetic is to put them up against something worse than themselves.

Granted, I've only seen this movie once so the magic trick may not work a second time around. However, I would stand by this as a mostly intense experience.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Day 321: Paranormal Activity

I saw this in the theaters when it first came out, like I did the first three sequels. The Spanish spinoff and the Ghost Dimension were the only two I've missed.

Paranormal Activity is about two people, Katie and Micah, who decide to start documenting when strange things begin in their house. At first they hear noises downstairs at night, and go investigate to find nothing. Then, they set up a camera in their bedroom to record any unusual activity that takes place while they are sleeping. The cameras seem to aggravate whatever is in the house and things quickly go from bad to worse. Katie seems to recall similar events happening when she was younger at another house, which leads the couple to believe they aren't dealing with your average ghost.

The elegant simplicity of this movie is in the setup and rhythm it establishes. You know that nothing wacky is going to happen during the daylight sequences so a dread starts to build up every time the movie switches to the night scenes. The setup of the camera is also genius with the bed off to the right side and the left side of the screen dominated by a simple open doorway. This abyss is a blank slate from which your worst fears can arise. Even though we don't ever get to see much of what is coming into their home, your brain creates worse realities than the movie ever could. While the later movies would expand on the technology involved with catching the activity, the first one I think still works the best with the least amount of frills.

This is my kind of horror movie, almost interactive in the presentation. I understand that some people just want to see the ghost, demon or whatever but I disagree. I think it is stronger for what you don't see.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Day 320: Deadgirl

This is almost one of those you don't want to admit you've ever seen but it was a streaming movie somewhere.

Deadgirl is about two horny high school boys who discover a female zombie tied down to a table in the basement of an abandoned insane asylum. One of the boys is kind hearted and wants to set her free, the other just wants to rape her. There gets to be a power struggle between the two boys (the rapey one brings in another young punk) and other people are dragged into the conflict between decency and evil.

This is a pretty problematic movie with a none-to-subtle message about women as men's property. Unfortunately, the ending and other elements muddy the waters to the point where it is hard not to see the movie just as a kind of sick fantasy. The deadgirl is constantly fighting back and looking for openings where she can spread the zombie plague (which, she gets). Women as objects is an uncomfortable zone for any movie to dabble in but horror can be extra tricky since the genre can be so dehumanizing anyway. I know the movie is meant to be about female empowerment, but it just gets undercut by some narrative decisions.

I can't recommend this movie due to the icky politics of it. I can say it had some decent effects. There is at least one dangling plot thread I wondered about (whatever became of Johnny?) that maybe I am just forgetting. Your mileage may vary but it wasn't a homerun for me.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Day 319: Friday the 13th, The TV Show

This show aired late at night on the weekends when I was growing up. I think it only lasted for three seasons.

Friday the 13th, the series, has nothing to do with Jason Vorhees and Camp Crystal Lake. Rather, it was about an antique store where the owner made a deal with the devil to sell cursed objects. After the devil collects the owner's soul, his niece and nephew inherit the store. They decide to regather all the cursed objects let loose by their uncle and proceed to scour the world for them. Each week dealt with a different cursed object with a different evil ability. It was kind of like the X-Files in that the three leads (the niece and nephew had an older gentleman who helped them with backstory) would become imperiled each week but make it out alive with the artifact locked safely in their vault.

Sometimes the artifacts would be as creepy as a doll that kills or as complicated as a trephaning chair that drains brain fluid from one person and injects it into another. One of my favorites was an episode called 13 O'clock where a pocket watch stopped time for an hour after midnight every night. Others involved a radio that tells people what they want to hear (and leads them astray). One episode even featured all the antiques being freed from the vault by the vengeful ghost of the uncle, setting the team back to square one (but really so they could redo some of the favorite ideas from earlier).

I have to say that Louise Robey had a big impact on my puberty as Micki, the red-headed lead. As far as anthology horror goes, this was close but works as a proto X-Files. It may not have aged that well.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Day 318: V/H/S Viral

This was definitely an internet watch, although I forget which platform. As a relative fan of the other two films, I had to see this one.

V/H/S Viral is another found footage horror anthology. The wraparound story is about a mysterious van driving through L.A. and broadcasting images to people's cell phones that make them go insane (a little like Signal). One young would-be internet star believes the van has kidnapped his girlfriend so he pursues it through the streets. Bad things happen.

Dante the Great- This is a cute little short about a magician who discovers Houdini's cloak and the curse that goes along with it. The cloak demands sacrifices but Dante might have finally met his match with his latest assistant. This one is more funny than scary but it is pretty well made.

Parallel Monsters- This short by Nacho "Timecrimes" Vigalando is by far the most interesting of the movie. A scientist makes a breakthrough by reaching an alternate dimension and his alternate counterpart has made the same discovery at the same time. They decide to switch realities and see what's up. One guy definitely gets the short end of the stick. This one is disturbing and oddly funny in its own dark way. The "evil" universe is super creepy and may give you nightmares.

Bonestorm- In terms of having fun, this crew looks like it had the most. It is about a group of kids doing dangerous skateboard stunts who travel to Tijuana to buy cheap fireworks. They stumble onto a ritual site and shed blood, leading to a bunch of Lovecraft worthy cultists coming out of nowhere to kill them. Even when they kill a cultist, they aren't done with him yet. If you like seeing skate punks thrashing on the evil dead, this is the short for you.