Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Lookbook: October Country

31 Weird Tales: The Legend of Hell House

The film is often dismissed as a classless key party gloss on The Haunting, but there's quite a bit going on here. For one thing it's one of the saddest films I've ever seen. Sad at how inescapable the past is, sad at how we often hurt the worst the ones who love us the most, and sad at how we would not be quite so helpless in the face of evil if we would actually work together on occasion. The melancholy gives the pulp a strange dignity, and the whole affair is of a kind with that breed of seventies horror. The kind that feels cheap or forgettable on first pass, but somehow settles into your skin, like dust from an old house, leaving you troubled well into the night... Happy Halloween everybody.

Monday, October 29, 2012

31 Weird Tales: Portrait of Jennie

A ghostly love story that climaxes with a fateful hurricane this is a beautiful forties studio film. In superb black and white, capturing the chilly beauty of winter and Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones giving marvelous performances as the star crossed pair. Perfect to curl up to with a hot drink as the winds rage outside.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 Weird Tales: The Horrors of Spider Island

It made for a grand episode of MST3K but the movie on its own is a hoot and a half too. A raft full of showgirls wash ashore a seemingly deserted island after a plane crash, only to discover strange webs and the unfortunate effect a spider bite has on their manager. The grainy black and white and European cast ad a strange air of surrealistic wonder, as if Ingmar Bergman had decided to shoot a nudie cutie.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

31 Weird Tales: The Dark Crystal

Jim Henson's splendid children's film that doesn't flinch from the terrors adventure can bring. An amazing production design and character work create something truly enchanting.

Friday, October 26, 2012

31 Weird Tales: Exorcist II: The Heretic

One of the most horrifying films of all time births one of the unsung comedy classics of the 70s. John Boorman is a wonderful director but he absolutely hated The Exorcist, and it shows. Gone is the stark simplicity and Roman Catholicism of the premise, instead papered over with strobe lights, steel dove cotes, New Age consciousness and earth toned Protestant mysticism all wrapped up in one ridiculous tap dancing bag. Call me by my dream name and recommend it to your friends.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

31 Weird Tales: Kwaidan

Beautiful anthology of Japanese ghost stories. Ones which for all their supernatural trappings turn on very keen understandings of human nature. "The Woman of the Snow" is a particular highlight.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 Weird Tales: Phantom of the Paradise

It has a cult, but De Palma's glam forked tongue at the music industry deserves a much larger one. Instantly dated in amber with the songs and the fashions and timeless in the age of American Idol and a dozen other watch how the sausage is made shows. Standing room only, and watch out for that plunger. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 Weird Tales: Night Creatures

Marvelous semi-swashbuckling business from Hammer. Peter Cushing plays the lovable village parson who is in no way a notorious pirate who escaped the hangman's noose and has settled into a comfortable retirement of teaching the village how to smuggle contraband across the marshes that surround them. An indecently young and good looking Oliver Reed is on hand to be the romantic lead and the antagonists are suitably boorish. What a pity this didn't spawn a series, I must check out the Disney versions soon...

Monday, October 22, 2012

31 Weird Tales: The Thing With Two Heads

A wickedly fun bit of nonsense from the fine folks at AIP. A rapidly decaying Ray Milland plays a diabolical doctor determined  to cheat death. He attaches his noggin to wrongly convicted death row inmate Grier, who escapes and the chase is on! Milland and Grier have a wonderful, bickering chemistry, it's a shame they didn't make another film together. Funny, and briskly makes sure to not wear out its welcome.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 Weird Tales: Plague of the Zombies

The last major zombie film of note before Romero completely redefined the game. And yet of great interest because it carries a social commentary that's become all the more piercing in the age of 1 percent versus the 47 percent. In a charming Cornish village the local Squire has found a most unorthodox, but undoubtedly Bain approved, way to staff his tin mines. Some very fine work from Hammer second stringers, and memorably creepy zombie designs. Occupy the mines and be reminded yet again that the more things change the more the rich find hideous new definitions for "human resources".

Friday, October 19, 2012

31 Weird Tales: The Brain That Wouldn't Die

There are those films for the b movie fan that were your gateway drug, this is definitely one of mine. A fateful encounter with the Rhino VHS MST3K episode that featured it drew me along to the bent and forsaken path I tread this very day seeking out the best of the worst and the entertainingly bizarre the film world has to over. This one is a priceless rhinestone, mad science, closet monsters, femme fatale burlesque dancers, bikini models, and a surprising amount of blood for the time. Make it a night at the drive-in with this one.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

31 Weird Tales: Hatchet For the Honeymoon

A neato late period effort from Mario Bava that prefigures American Psycho by decades as it centers on a suave, charming man who has the unfortunate habit of hacking new brides to pieces on their wedding night. It's Bava's usual beguiling, disturbingly gorgeous touch, shifting moods and motivations with just a tint of light and color. Marvelously cold, save it for Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31 Weird Tales: The Mummy (1959)

Hammer's take on the undying one is a treat, taking all the good parts from the various Universal entries and leaving the tedium and odious comic relief behind. Anchored by two strong performances, Cushing, and Lee in a nearly wordless role.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

31 Weird Tales: The Company of Wolves

Neil Jordan's wonderfully moody and beautiful version of Angela Carter's novel is a delightfully thorny twist on the werewolf and the Little Red Riding Hood story. In a strange village tucked inside an even stranger forest the wolves howl while stories are told around the fire. Stories that seem to be telling of events long ago that strangely seem to be unfolding right then and there. A canny, and sympathetic, female coming of age tale too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Weird Tales: Starcrash

Disreputable Star Wars cash-ins are my anti-drug, and they don't get much more disreputable than this. Made for approximately ten dollars and apparently written by that guy from Memento as things seem to happen at random and no scene, or line, seems to follow logically from or build on the last. Christoper Plummer manages the most special effect of not bursting into flames from the red hot shame radiating out of him in palpable waves. Set a course for it today.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

31 Weird Tales: Into the Woods

My favorite Stephen Sondheim show, rich and warm and spiky tempered, melancholy, and very funny. The American Playhouse recording of the original Broadway run is one of the best movies of the eighties, certainly its finest musical. Using the stories we grew up on to dive in and wander among the nettles and groves of the human mind and heart it is never treacly or smug. A show to grow with, and careful before you say listen to me...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

31 Weird Tales: 5 Million Years to Earth

Splendid sci-fi from Hammer films. Digging out a new subway stop uncovers something that shouldn't be there, an alien ship, and more precisely an alien ship that has been buried there for millions of years. Professor Quatermass is there to investigate and he soon uncovers a very ancient and very horrifying secret about human origins, and that the ship and it's occupants are not resting so soundly anymore. All of it building to a enervating apocalyptic finale. The marvelous Barbara Shelley is on hand as the professor's assistant. In short, Prometheus done much better, much smarter, and for much less coin some forty plus years ago.