Thursday, October 30, 2014

World War Z (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 23 – World War Z (2013)

World War Z is Contagion For Dummies.

When I saw it in theaters, I thought the problem was simply that the film dumbed-down its zombies to fit a PG-13 rating (and the trailer spoiling all the big visuals certainly did nothing to help). Essentially, I found that none of the film had any lasting impact, and I assumed that this was caused by the producers and the MPAA neutering the film to reach a wider audience. So I decided to give the unrated cut a try.

Halloween (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 22

Audio commentary mini-series: part 1 – Halloween (1978)

This is the film that defines the season.

In the trifecta of famous 70's–80's serial-killer slasher flicks—Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm StreetHalloween is undeniably king. From the dreamlike steadicam to the moody lighting to the iconic soundtrack, it's hard to imagine that this landmark horror film was made on a tight budget of only $325 thousand. Nevertheless, it managed not only to establish the career of John Carpenter, then a young independent filmmaker, but to live on to maintain its influence on the genre over 35 years later.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

YouTube Horror Shorts (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Spooky YouTube!

Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 21

We all love October, and there's nothing like celebrating Halloween by watching horror movies all month long, but sometimes there's not enough time to sit down for a full-length feature. Fortunately, there is an abundance of short films available to watch on YouTube for those of you looking to feed that hunger for horror without cutting into your day too significantly. These shorts are all right around 10 minutes long, and they're all thoroughly enjoyable in one way or another (I certainly enjoyed them all anyway). So what are you waiting for? Get you comfiest blanket and get watching!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Inferno (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Malleus Rock Art Lab
Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 19 – Inferno (1980)

Finally, I found a Dario Argento film I'm not virtually tripping over myself trying to watch again. Inferno is the spiritual successor to Suspiria, but while they share a similar lineage this feels more like the unloved second child whose parents just weren't trying as hard. It's still an enjoyable watch—it still had good parents even if they seem less inspired—but some of the magic is missing.

The Blair Witch Project (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Narcisus Ilustrius
Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 20 – The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project is a groundbreaking movie, and I'm not the man to do it justice. I just don't like found footage. In fact, the only time I've liked found footage was when it invented reasons to not actually be found footage (e.g. Chronicle). I thought maybe The Blair Witch Project could change that, but as much as I'm fascinated by its production design (5 years in the making) and as much as I can admire its no-budget approach to film (turning $25,000 into $250,000,000), I still just don't like found footage.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Village (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 17 – The Village (2004)

The Village is a film that I really like to stand up for. I get an almost perverse joy out of defending it. And it's not just that I enjoy talking out of my butt (although that's also the case). I genuinely think there are interesting ways to interpret the film. The readings aren't unbreakable, of course, but they're intriguing enough to keep my brain at attention. That and I think Shyamalan gets a bit more flak than he deserves. But today I learned (or relearned, perhaps) that, as much as I like talking about this film, I don't particularly love watching it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Eyes Without a Face (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 15 – Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Of all the movies I was hoping to watch this October, Les Yeux sans visage was among those I was most frightened to actually see. Something about the premise and the fact that I'd seen it on a few favorite films lists around the Letterboxd community had me thinking it would be the kind of movie to scare me out of my pants. I didn't find this to be the case at all, but the film does nonetheless deserve to be held among the greatest horror films of all time. It's just that Eyes Without a Face isn't scary. It's beautiful.

The Mummy (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 14 – The Mummy (1959)

I think I finally got it. I finally understand what I've been missing with these Hammer Horror films. They're silly and campy, and maybe they're a little shallow, but that's not the point. They're also beautiful and fun, and there's little in this world of more objective value than watching Peter Cushing do his thing. Of course, the irony is I had apparently already figured this out back in June when I watched my first Hammer Horror film, but whatever.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Art of Madness in The Darkness Within

The Darkness Within is a microbudget Hitchcockian psychological thriller from independent filmmaker Dom Portalla, and it's a perfect example of how to do everything right with no money. In spite of its limitations, the film manages to not only establish its own sense of style, but more importantly it builds and maintains a high level of suspense.

Chad (Jimmy Scanlon) and Ashley (Michelle Romano) move into their new house with high hopes, and while the place clearly needs some work, the young couple is willing to try as long as it means being together. But the one thing Chad can't cope with is their neighbor, Mr. Reed. After catching him peering in through their bathroom window, Chad takes the matter to the police. He just can't stand being watched. Meanwhile, Chad spends more and more time escaping his problems by hanging out upstairs with his delinquent landlord and her sometimes-boyfriend. But as his frustrations continue to pile up, the reemergence of one of Ashley's old lovers threatens to finally push Chad over the edge into madness.

Tenebre (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Malleus Rock Art Lab
Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 13

Dario Argento double feature: part 2 – Tenebre (1982)

I think that, technically speaking, Tenebre might be the best film I've seen from Dario Argento so far.

It's certainly his most self-aware and self-reflexive. The protagonist is a clear stand-in for Argento, a famous writer of what appear to be giallo novels in the same vein as Argento's giallo films. Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is also criticized for his purportedly sexist subject matter: "Tenebre is a sexist novel! Why do you hate women so much?" But that's not where the connections end. The murderer, who keeps killing fans of Neal's work, has a penchant for photographing his victims. In the duality between writer and photographer, here we have the two most common aspects of a director's work brought to life. Each half of the whole embodies different aspects of Argento's idea of himself and of directors in general. And insofar as the author and the killer are doubled representations of the director, Argento is here literally killing his own fans.