Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Day 353: Die, Monster, Die

This was a selection from my Essential Horror book and I watched a bad rip on Youtube.

Die, Monster, Die is loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space but you would be hard pressed to tell. Nick Adams plays a guy who shows up in the town of Arkham looking for the Whitley place. All the townsfolk shun him and make him walk the miles it is to the Whitley estate. There he finds a huge pit surrounded by dead trees. In the mansion itself, Boris Karloff (confined to a wheel chair) welcomes him by telling him to GTFO. Adams is there to see Karloff's daughter, Susan, and maybe take her away from all this. Karloff's wife is bedridden and refuses to be exposed to light. Their butler is a weirdo who keeps falling over. In the midst of all this is a mystery and some slight danger.

This was not a very good movie. Karloff is all about his father going insane and worshiping beings from beyond the galaxy but that has very little to do with the actual plot. Almost like the giant frog in The Maze, I hate to give away what's going on but if it saves you from seeing the movie, maybe it's a service. You see, a meteor crashed on the Whitley estate and now it is making plants, animals and people mutate. The mutated people are really just dying. But before they die, they go on kill crazy rampages for some reason. There is a maid named Helga who keeps popping up at weird times to attack people, we never really see what happens to her. Karloff and his wife go crazy. It all feels like a cheap 50s throwback even though it was made in the 60s. Karloff deserved better than this.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Day 352: Raw

This was a Netflix watch and, while not on any countdown I've seen yet, was on my list of movies to watch in 2017 so, Spooktoberfest win!

Raw follows a young student as she starts her first year in veterinarian school in France. The place is a literal Animal House as the upper classmen haze the "rookies" and throw wild parties all the time. Justine is having a hard time fitting in as she comes from a family of strict vegetarians. One of the first days at school, she is doused in blood and made to eat a rabbit liver. After that, a strange rash breaks out and she discovers herself craving meat, the more raw, the better. It doesn't help that she has a crush on her gay roommate or that her older sister is part of the hazing force. Soon, Justine realizes there is only one kind of meat that satisfies her hunger...human flesh. Things get hard to watch.

This is really a movie about getting out into the world and finding one's self. Justine is getting in touch with her sexuality and wild side as she explores her new hunger. After a lifetime of being dubbed the genius of the family, she is finding it hard to make friends in the scary new environment of school. Oddly, that narrative gets moved aside and a secondary story of family develops here. Justine and her sister have an odd bond that reveals itself as the movie unfolds. Although there are some hard to watch scenes, there is a lot of subtle drama in the movie as well.

Raw is a good movie that just happens to be about a young cannibal. If you can stomach it, and really the worst is one scene in the middle of the movie, you should give it a chance.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Day 351: Games

This one is from my Essential Horror book. I found it for free on Youtube.

Games is about a married couple played by James Caan and Katharine Ross. They collect art and have a lavish New York apartment filled with games like pinball and duck shooting. They invite their rich, weirdo friends over to have wild parties. Everything changes when a woman named Lisa comes to their door, selling make-up, and collapses. Ross allows the woman to stay and recuperate. Caan doesn't think it is such a good idea but, before long, the three are playing an escalating series of pranks on each other. Which is all well and good until one of their games turns deadly. Can Ross live with the guilt of being accessory to murder? And what if the dead person isn't ready to be dead quite yet?

This movie reminded me of a Columbo episode (the harpsichord soundtrack and vivid 60s-ness of the whole thing didn't hurt). As a savvy modern viewer, you are waiting for one more twist to the story that doesn't come. Instead, you get a moderate haunted house story with what was, I'm sure, a shocking conclusion at the time. This could have been a really great movie but the lack of ambition dooms it a bit. I don't want to say anymore in case you choose to see the movie but I was disappointed.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Day 350: It! and The Sublet

Blame this entry on Hush. I watched Hush in September but it was my first post of October. All of October was meant to be my Spooktoberfest movies (all 31 of them). So, I either stop my blog on November 1st or I double up the reviews one day. To make matters more confusing, this is for a day that hasn't happened yet (Monday the 16th). Just trust me.

It! is not a movie about a demonic clown in a small town in Maine but rather a 1966 movie starring Roddy McDowall as a man who figures out how to control a Golem. This is a weird little movie. In the opening scene, a warehouse is burnt down that belongs to a British museum and the only thing that survives is a Golem statue. Upon examining it, the curator of the museum dies mysteriously. Roddy McDowall is the assistant curator who finds the body and thinks one of the Golem's hands have moved. In a plot development completely unrelated to the Golem, we find out Roddy is pulling a Norman Bates and living with the corpse of his mother. He occasionally steals things from the museum for her to wear and then brings them back. He slowly figures out the Golem has been killing people (somehow) and tries to determine if he can use it to his advantage. Meanwhile, the girl he loves is falling for an American sent to analyze the Golem for authenticity. Lots of moving parts in this movie, for sure.

This movie was pretty par for the course except for the weird running subplot about Roddy McDowall living with his dead mom. There is a fantasy sequence half way through where he sees a naked girl on a couch. As he moves to seduce her, he finds it is just his mother's desiccated corpse. Womp Womp. It never amounts to much except to show that he was mentally unbalanced before gaining access to his own Golem. I like that they reference the German silent film The Golem in this one. It was a classy touch for a Psycho ripoff. Anyway, it all plays out in a way you wouldn't expect (hint: nuclear bombs are involved) so it kept me entertained.

The Sublet, on the other hand, plays out beat for beat like you would expect...for the most part. A young couple who just had a baby come to see about a sublet and find no one is home to great them. There is a note in the entryway saying if they like it, they can stay. So the couple stays and almost immediately things start going on. There are door knocks with no one there, a locked room that keeps unlocking itself and furniture that refuses to be rearranged for long. All pretty par for the course of haunted house/apartment movies. The woman's husband is neglecting her for his work and brings his ex-girlfriend home one night to "run lines." So, the woman is stuck at home with her baby all day and has nothing better to do than read an old journal she's found there.

The ending gets telegraphed way in advance. There are a couple of spooky moments, like the scene where the wife realizes she's slowly been poisoning her husband. This is not a ghost in search of revenge so much a ghost that wants its old life back. Most scenes seem to unfold with a dream logic, like when two cops come to tell the woman she is a missing person. Things move at a brisk pace and although nothing very new or original happens, it can still be entertaining. I would give this one a flat C.

Day 349: Heidi

This one is from Miller's list of recommended 2017 horror. I saw it for "free" on Amazon Prime.

Heidi is about a teenage boy who records everything, hypothetically for a prank show on Youtube. He and his best friend are bird sitting for an older woman when they find a hidden attic in one of her closets. Inside is a treasure trove of comic books and well as a doll named Heidi. They toss her aside but immediately turn to find her sitting up again. From there, things start to happen relatively fast. The old woman is found with her head turned completely around and her bird cooked in the oven. The doll starts showing up at both of the boys' houses. The boys blame each other while the sightings escalate. Ryan, the main character, becomes a suspect in the old lady's murder while he also meets a new love interest in the neighborhood. Lots of moving parts come together in this one while you wait for the doll to take its revenge.

First, the acting is pretty bad in this. What is scripted, sounds scripted. What is made up is mostly just cursing. The budget is low (there is a camera malfunction every time the doll "moves") but that sometimes works to the advantage of the movie. The doll accomplishes quite a bit for a mostly inanimate object and really seems to hate pets. Overall, the story is fairly all over the place but the movie isn't a complete waste of time. Certain found footage rhythms can still result in a good scare. The ending is pretty cool, too.

I would give this a C- overall.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Day 348: Dr. Terror's House of Horrors

This is from my Essential Horror book and I had to track it down on youtube of all places.

There are some convoluted plot devices to get to the title Dr. Terror's House of Horrors. Six men board a train somewhere in England and one of them (Peter Cushing) claims to have the power to see the future with his deck of tarot cards, which he calls his House of Horrors. The man's name is Dr. Shrek, which means Dr. Terror in German apparently. At any rate, he goes around telling each man's fate with the cards.

The first story is about an architect asked back to his old family home to see about renovations. Once there, he uncovers the grave of a werewolf that swore vengeance on the owner of the home. Not much happens but there is a nice little twist at the end.

The second story involves a family coming home from holiday and finding a new vine growing on their house. It resists all efforts to cut it down or dig it out. It is even willing to go so far as murdering the family dog. A plant expert comes in to get to the bottom of things and things go poorly.

The third story has lots of music and is about a jazz player traveling to the West Indies. Once there, he steals the melody of a voodoo ritual song and returns to England to play it. Lots of warnings go unheeded. I liked the music in this part a lot. It was also cool that it features a poster for this very movie.

The fourth story pits Christopher Lee as an art critic against Michael Gough as a painter whose work is bashed by Lee. Their rivalry builds until a severed hand is stalking Lee throughout London. This is a slight addition to the "disembodied hand" genre of horror.

The fifth story features Donald Sutherland as a newlywed who has brought home (unbeknownst to him) a vampire wife. When he and his colleague find a little boy is being slowly drained of blood, the action heats up. There is a nice twist at the end of this one, too.

The frame story just goes ahead and negates all the other stories by the end but, whatever. It would be a few years before Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror did an anthology like this right. Nothing is too scary and the performances are all good. An anthology for completists only, I'd say.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Day 347: The Void

Watched this on Netflix and it was one of Thrillist's Best Horror of 2017 so far list.

The Void follows a police officer who finds a bloodied man stumbling out of the woods. The officer, Daniel, takes the man to a local hospital that is mostly shut down due to a recent fire. There are two nurses, an intern, a doctor, a patient, a very pregnant young lady, her grandfather and a state trooper at the scene when Daniel and his catch arrive. Soon, one of the nurses is cutting her own face off with scissors and the whole place is surrounded by men wearing white hoods with black triangles on them. Things go off the rails pretty quickly after some exposition scenes letting us know Daniel is married to one of the nurses. Two guys who started the movie gunning down a woman and setting her on fire show up to make the mix even more explosive. The cast quickly shrinks and soon, an ultimate evil is set to be freed in the hospital on this night.

This movie owes a lot to John Carpenter's The Thing. Not just the practical effects for the hideous creatures but the overall isolation of the cast from the rest of the world. The cult members surrounding the hospital aren't there to break in, they are there to keep the cast from leaving. So, they are stuck as all sorts of horror unfolds. There is some gore here and some callbacks to Hellraiser as well. Aaron Poole, the poor man's Aaron Paul, stars as Daniel and does a good enough job being the believably flawed horror hero. The two murderers who burst in to the hospital to make things worse are compelling just through their scant backstory. You want to know more about these guys as they start playing a more central role. The ending gets a little on the cheesy side with a monologue-prone villain. It all reminds me a little of something I would have written when I was a teenager, a little too in love with its own ideas. My friend I watched it with said it kept him surprised, which is one of the better things one can say about a horror movie.

I liked this one and fans of Lovecraftian or Clive Barker-style monsters should give it a watch.