Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Day 365: The Invitation

This was a Netflix watch and was recommended to me by a friend, I forget which one.

The Invitation was a movie I didn't know a lot about going in and I am glad. In a nutshell, I would say the less you know about this, the better. But it is worth watching, for sure. If you want a little more info, keep reading. The main character of The Invitation is Will, who we see driving with his girlfriend to a party being hosted by Will's ex-wife and her new husband. Will and his ex lost their son and drifted apart in their grief. Eden and David are the hosts of the party (in the very house where Will used to live with Eden and their son). Will is immediately on edge and wondering why there are bars on the windows. When David locks the front door behind his guests, Will balks and makes him leave the key. It soon comes out that Eden and David are part of a cult/support group called The Invitation. They have invited a couple of their fellow members to this party and the whole dynamic starts feeling like a recruitment pitch for their group. I won't go any further into the plot but I enjoyed the way it unfolds.

This movie really pulls off a neat trick that I can't go into without spoilers. I will say, Will's paranoia becomes pretty fascinating to watch in between flashbacks to his life with Eden and their son. The group of actors playing Will's friends are uniformly good and make their friendships feel lived in. John Carroll Lynch from The Drew Carey Show does a bang up job as one of the Invitation members who makes everyone else feel uncomfortable. I enjoyed the journey in this one and I am glad it was my last review.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Day 364: Count Yorga, Vampire

I rented this off of Amazon and it is from my Essential Horror book.

Count Yorga, Vampire (aka The Loves of Count Yorga) is pretty much a retelling of Dracula in (then) modern day Los Angeles. There is no Harker part but it starts with Yorga being shipped in his coffin to his new estate. Some time after, he is at a seance with the daughter of a woman who died while dating him. He promises to get Donna, the daughter, in touch with her mother. Donna flips out at the seance and Yorga soon puts her mind at ease with some hypnosis. Leaving the party, Yorga gets a ride home from a couple named Paul and Erika. Erika is kind of taken with Yorga. When the couple get stuck in the mud on the way home, Yorga attacks them and drains some of Erika's blood. Things keep getting worse for the couple as well as Donna and her own boyfriend as Yorga creeps into their lives.

The one aspect of this I enjoyed was how quickly a local doctor jumps to the conclusion of Yorga being a vampire. He is the Van Helsing character but sort of incompetent. Yorga makes a big deal out of being smarter than most humans since he has been alive for so long and, with enemies like these, he really didn't need to be that smart to begin with. The protagonists sort of bumble around with broken wooden chair legs and broom handles, looking to stab someone in the heart. There is a lot of implied sexuality in this one (a rape and a lesbian seduction scene are hinted at) but not much in the way of overt eroticism. This is pretty run of the mill vampire lore, watch if you are a completist.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Day 363: Train to Busan

This was a Netflix watch and has come highly recommended by most of my horror friends in the know.

Train to Busan follows an overworked dad trying to get his daughter to her mother in the Korean city of Busan. The only problem? Zombie outbreak. And not Romero Zombies, 28 Days Later fast Zombies. The outbreak hits as they are boarding the titular train and, before long, the whole train is divided into infected cars and uninfected cars (Zombies can't operate the doors that separate the cars). A whole cast becomes evident as the movie progresses with two older sisters traveling together, a man and his pregnant wife, a team of baseball players and their cheerleader and, of course, the selfish businessman who thinks nothing of throwing one of the others at a zombie to delay them. Will the train make it to Busan? Will Busan be safe once they get there? Who will live and who will die?

I really enjoyed this zombie movie. I want to say it is a solid, meat and potatoes Zombie flick but I think that undersells it a little. There is a nice emotional core with the man and his little girl. The man actually goes through a character arc in the movie, which can sometimes be rare for a horror protagonist. The budget for this must have been huge as the special effects are dead on and the zombie hordes are seemingly limitless. This has lots of gripping action and some super tense set pieces where the humans work to outsmart their infected foes.

I would strongly recommend this film.

Day 362: Scream and Scream Again

I rented this off of Amazon and it was from my Essential Horror book.

Scream and Scream Again is yet another movie that roped in Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. This time, it starts on almost three separate tracks. A long-distance runner collapses in the beginning and wakes up in a hospital with his leg amputated. Meanwhile, in a weird Nazi-style country, a big dude meets with his superior and kills him after revealing he knows too many secrets he shouldn't know. Meanwhile meanwhile, a killer is loose in England, draining ladies of their blood and raping them (maybe not in that order). Eventually, these plot threads kind of come together (although I still don't know what the Nazi thing is about). Price plays a scientist whose employee is the first victim of the "vampire killer." Cushing is a fascist military leader who is tired of his underling's use of torture. Lee plays a British government official who is kind of dealing with the Nazi-ish country. There is a super long car chase, vats of acid and live music by a group called The Amen Corner.

This was a weird little movie that doesn't quite come together the way it wants to. It keeps doling out little bits of information about how the plots are connected but then stops cold for a 20 minute chase scene. Cushing is wasted in his cameo but Price and Lee do a fine job in theirs. The ending doesn't entirely make sense to me but your mileage may vary. This could very well be a work of genius I just didn't "get."

Day 361: The Devil Lives Here

This was a free watch on Amazon Prime and recommended from Miller's Top 31 of the year.

The Devil Lives Here is about four teens visiting an old plantation house on the one night a year no one is supposed to be there. The two boys are looking to prank the girls by using the haunted history of the plantation to scare them. Unfortunately for them, the sons of the recently deceased caretaker have resurrected a zombie slave who has to help them complete a ritual that keeps a curse off their family. To make matters worse, the Honey Baron, the evil slave owner who was killed at the house, has plans of his own and is mesmerizing one of the girls to set him free. Evil spirits, the undead, and lots of murder go down when these groups collide.

This is a Portuguese horror film that did not make much sense to me. I don't know exactly what was lost in translation but people act in very abnormal ways, the rules of how humans interact with ghosts and zombies is very unclear and sometimes things just happen because they had to in order to progress the narrative. There is a sex scene way too late in the film (after several characters have met violent ends) that is hard to explain unless a ghost was compelling them to screw? Anyway, the muddled actions never really rise to the level of all out suspense. I can't really recommend this movie despite a few interesting ideas.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Day 360: Count Dracula

I rented this off Amazon, it was from my Essential Horror book.

At this point, you should probably know the story of Count Dracula as told through Bram Stoker's novel. Jonathan Harker visits Dracula in Transylvania, gets attacked. Dracula moves to London and start preying on Harker's friends. Meanwhile, a doctor named Van Helsing starts putting together the pieces of all the attacks and pointing everyone towards Dracula. Much staking of the undead ensues.

The thing that makes this version unique is Christopher Lee taking on the same story for a second time. Jesse Franco directs this to the best of his ability but the budget undermines the action at times (there is a scene where taxidermy animals attack our heroes and it just looks awful). Klaus Kinski plays Renfield in a series of scenes that seem in no way connected to the main plot until a little bit at the end. Overall, this is well-acted but it seems inessential when there are so many other versions of the Dracula story out there. I find it hard to recommend this one unless you are just a Dracula or Christopher Lee completist.

Day 359: It Lives In the Attic

This was from Miller's Top 31 of the year list. It was free on Amazon Prime.

It Lives In the Attic at first seems to be an anthology but the longer you watch, the more you realize all the stories are connected. It really focuses on three people: Ellie, Barney and Andy. What their relationship is to each other and how they all come together is part of the fun of the movie. The opening bit is Andy in the woods, enjoying nature until he keeps coming across smoked cigarettes near his camp site and hearing footsteps in the night. One day, while fishing, he finds a bloody shirt in the water. There is a nice little twist at the end of his story and the vignettes just keep coming from there. The review I read compared it to Pulp Fiction and that is true only in the sense that the narrative is non-linear and sometimes replays the same scenes from different angles.

This is an ambitious little movie that is super low budget. The acting by the main players is not bad but beyond them, there is a kind of "let's put on a show" quality to the whole thing. The production values are non-existent and I swear they turned a high school into a sex dungeon in one part. There are lots of very wrong things happening in this movie and the amateurish nature of the whole thing actually acts as a strength towards the end. This movie is kind of winning despite itself but I can see how it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea.