The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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knives
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#551 Post by knives » Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:54 pm

swo17 wrote:I've seen precious few giallos (thanks for the recommendations, Sausage) but would heartily recommend one proto-giallo, and another, um, neo-giallo I guess--Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase, which I believe has already been mentioned a few times in this thread, and a film from just a few years ago, Amer, for which there is some discussion here.
If we're speaking proto-Giallo I also highly recommend Wellman's Lady of Burlesque which isn't too far from something like StageFright though I'm not sure how much horror you can count it as.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#552 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:39 am

colinr0380 wrote:This might also be the best time to praise Nicoletta Elmi, who play's Lazenby's murdered daughter in this film - after a brief appearance as one of the girls in Death In Venice (overlooked by Bogarde in favour of Tadzio!) she had quite a few important roles as a child actress in 70s Italian horror cinema, from A Bay of Blood and Footprints through to Deep Red and one of the creepy mute children in Flesh For Frankenstein. Plus one of the Italian films inspired by The Exorcist, The Night Child. One of her final roles was all grown up as the usher in Demons.
I'll second your praise. I remember the first time I saw her in Deep Red. She's only in the film for maybe couple of minutes, but she had this unforgettable face and this creepy way of suggesting that there might be something wrong with her. Never forgot her after that. I thought she was especially good in Le Orme and Who Saw Her Die, in both of which she plays a very crucial role.

It was a pleasant surprise to see her all grown up in Demons, and that she had become a very beautiful woman.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#553 Post by domino harvey » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:45 am

Thanks for the guide (in progress), I've only even heard of four of the films you mentioned and seen none. There really is quite a rabbit hole of films to watch for this genre project!

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#554 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:05 am

Mr Sausage wrote:Aldo Lado, based on the two films of his I've seen, is an above average director in this sub-genre, with an impressive, low-key visual sense (the way he uses long, tightly held close-ups of Anita Strindberg's impassive face to suggest the extent of her grief is masterful). But it's Ennio Morricone's score that really lifts this giallo above the merely competent ones surrounding it and brings out all of the sadness and pain hiding at its centre. A very good giallo.
I really have to second Mr Sausage's comments about Aldo Lado. Based on Who Saw Her Die? and especially Short Night of the Glass Dolls I think he is extremely overlooked, even in giallo circles where Sergio Martino seems to take precedence for silly stuff like Torso (yet as Sausage says Torso is extremely thrilling in its last twenty minutes or so, which basically seems to be trying to extend that sequence of Suzy Kendall being menaced in her apartment from The Bird With The Crystal Plumage out into a full final act of the movie)

I don't think Lado's Night Train Murders (his only other film that I've seen) quite reaches the level of the other two films, but that I think is because it is somewhat hamstrung by having to be a riff on the themes of Last House On The Left. However I do think it plays with the themes from the Wes Craven film in a much more interesting and disturbing way, complicating its rape and revenge plot by throwing in class and gender biases into the mix to allow one of the murderers to escape, and even for a businesssman to watch and participate in the degradation on the train before walking off back into anonymity.

It is also a far slicker production, which in some ways makes the horrors all the more upsetting compared to the grimy world of the Craven movie - how could a film in which a girl is murdered with a knife pushed up her intimate regions also feature a syrupy Demis Roussos title ballad?

The film also features an extremely strong cast including Macha Meril (Godard's A Married Woman and Belle de Jour, but 1975 is the year in which she played the psychic whose visions necessitate her murder in the opening of Deep Red along with this role in Night Train Murders); Franco Fabrizi as the father (he was one of the five young men in Fellini's I Vitelloni, in Antonioni's Le Amiche and in Death In Venice), and Irene Miracle (later underwater in Argento's Inferno) as one of the two menaced girls.



Since Sausage was also talking about giallos and the trend of Argento heroines like Suzy Kendall getting roles in stranger outcroppings of the genre by other directors, I would like to bring up one of the crazier giallos that I have seen so far, Autopsy starring Mimsy Farmer (previously in Argento's Four Flies on Grey Velvet). This film jumps around between so many different ideas that it is endlessly fascinating, although I do not think it is a great film as nothing really gels into a satisfying whole.

The opening sequence (scored to another amazing Morricone soundtrack of painful, brain-rattling whistles) shows a whole series of unrelated people committing suicide in lots of different and inventive ways. There is a suggestion later on that this is due to people being driven insane by solar activity and indeed the film features lots of lens flares, sun spot imagery and scenes shot in the unrelenting glare of the sun. (Which maybe suggests the original Italian title Macchie solari is more appropriate than Autopsy, though nothing really comes of this idea. It is perhaps telling that the one scene later on where Farmer and another character talk about sun spots appears to have been removed on US distribution, as the scene appears on the Anchor Bay disc in Italian with subtitles, while the rest of the film is dubbed)

Anyway all of these bodies go to the local morgue where Mimsy Farmer works (perhaps inadvisedly, since she seems utterly scared by the bodies, to the extent of fantasising of them all getting up and menacingly approaching her!), so that an Autopsy can be performed! Yet then the film after this scene immediately leaves the morgue, suggesting that this title doesn't really capture what is going on in the film either!

Then the film tackles some classic giallo themes - one of the bodies in the opening scene could have been a murder passed off as yet another sun-related suicide, so whodunnit and why? Farmer's boyfriend appears in the film in order to be a complete bastard to our heroine and then pressure her into a nudity filled make-up sex scene (both giallo tropes), while Farmer herself turns into a detective for some reason and starts trying to find out which of her acquaintances is a killer.

Events become disappointingly rote by that point (although there is a mid-film visit to a museum full of exhibits about executions, which manages to throw some real-life atrocity imagery in the film just when the audience thinks it can begin to relax!), but still the film never really decides what it is going to be almost from scene to scene. Which keeps the interest, but makes the revelation about the killer (which is always underwhelming in these films anyway) come out of the blue, as if someone just threw a dart at the cast list to choose it!

Along with the morbid opening sequence and the Morricone score (which I think Sausage would love if he watches this film!), the best part about Autopsy for me was the absolutely stunning use of slow motion in a few scenes suggestive of mental breakdown. As when Farmer is almost shot during the 'Museum of Executions' sequence, as a shotgun with its trigger linked to the door she is opening goes off and explodes the head of dummy next to her - Farmer does this amazing twisting, dead faint fall that is beautifully captured in extreme slow motion. Also the scene following the killer falling to their death into a crowded piazza has a wonderful shot of the bloodied body in the foreground as the crowd of people run towards it, again captured in extreme slow motion. Those shots are beautiful, surprisingly sensitive uses of that technique and are almost worth the entire film in themselves.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#555 Post by whipsilk » Sat Apr 07, 2012 11:56 am

I haven't seen much commentary in this thread on one of my favorite sub-genres of horror, what I think of as Grand Dame Guignol (sadly, it's not my phrase; I don't know who first coined it). Like giallo, there was a fairly limited window for these films (circa 1962 through the early 1970s), but some of them are quite enjoyable, if for no other reason than watching these aging (for the most part) broads have a field day laying it on not just thick, but massive. I'd say at least four are in contention for this project:

Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) - far closer to real horror than its more famous predecessor (...Baby Jane), it's weakened by Olivia de Havilland's pallid Miriam (De Havilland was a replacement for Joan Crawford, who decided she really couldn't do another film with Davis, and she mars the film by actually trying to act), but immensely strengthened by Agnes Moorehead's fabulously gothic Velma; her way-over-the-top performance was matched only once: see below. The men (Joseph Cotten, Cecil Kellaway, Victor Buono, Bruce Dern, George Kennedy) - all of 'em - are little more than ciphers, although Buono does tend to leave behind a rather noticeable trail of slime. Of course Davis did little more than replay Baby Jane, but she still manages to steal every scene except when Moorehead's around.

What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969) - notable at first glance for the bizarre pairing of Geraldine Page and Ruth Gordon. Gordon's more restrained than she often is, but Page is a treat (her bun alone is curiously sinister) and, like the film below, she almost single-handedly transforms an otherwise lacklustre film into real grand guignol.

Blood and Lace (1971) - I haven't seen this in years, but I remember it fondly, and I'll be getting it soon since it's now out on DVD-R. Gloria Grahame, in pounds of vaseline, runs the orphanage from hell; turns out Grahame was a natural in this kind of thing.

I should also mention 1965's Die! Die! My Darling, primarily because of the presence of Tallulah Bankhead in the lead - a lady seemingly born for grand dame guignol. Sadly, she never really goes far enough to pull it off, but she's fun to watch all the same.

Finally, my absolute favorite in this genre - Night Warning (aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker, 1983) - This movie appeared some 10 years after the last of the Grand Dame Guignols slithered across the silver screen, but it belongs nowhere but here. Susan Tyrell gives a truly demented, rococo, utterly unforgettable performance as 'Aunt Cheryl' in one of the strangest horror movies ever, with its heavily gay obsessions (mostly centering around a too-pretty Jimmy McNichol), incestuous overtones, and Bo Svenson alternately hilarious and terrifying as a bigoted sheriff. Even during the first 45 minutes, while the plot's being set up, you'll find that this film is not only creepy, it's downright unsettling. Sadly, this isn't available on DVD yet, although Code Red has announced it as forthcoming for about six years.

There's been a lot mentioned in this thread, and since really good horror movies are hard to come by, I'll look forward to seeing some of the titles that are new to me. I should point out, since this is a horror thread, that most of the above are more fun than genuinely frightening - Night Warning is the definite exception. And for those who are interested, there's a fairly interesting article on this topic at http://www.terrortrap.com/specialfeatures/grandguignol/, although I'd dispute a couple of the titles, and the anonymous author leaves out a couple of critical titles. Finally, there's even a book on the subject, Grand Dame Guignol Cinema, by Peter Shelley.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#556 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:54 pm

whipsilk, that reminds me of a really great film near to the end of the 70s era of the Whatever Happened To Baby Jane 'grande dame guignol' subgenre - The Baby, in which Ruth Roman plays the dominating mother of a family of two buxom daughters and a grown son who they keep in a giant play pen and keep regressed as a baby with an electric cattle prod!

It is an utterly bizarre premise but for the first two thirds plays entirely straight, as the latest in a long line of social workers, played by Anjette Comer, visits the family and begins to bond with Baby, much to the consternation and sexual jealousy of the rest of his family. The rest of the film plays as a battle of wits between the two women over Baby's treatment.
SpoilerShow
During the final third the film simultaneously becomes more generic (with a sequence after Comer kidnaps Baby of Roman and her two daughters prowling around Comer's spooky house in the middle of the night) and infinitely more perverse than it had always had the potential of being, as our sympathies take a 180 degree shift as Roman is buried alive with the bodies of her two dead daughters in the backyard and Comer introduces Baby to her brain damaged after a car accident husband, who she has also been keeping as a grown baby of her own! Thus we get both a happy ending and a disturbingly deranged one of Comer frolicking in her nursery with her two man-children!
Having been on a few mandatory Safeguarding Children and Adults courses in my employment, it was amusing that it is almost impossible to count the number of ways that things have gone terribly wrong in this particular case! (It could perhaps be used as a seriously extreme case study of exploitation and the wrong way to handle a difficult family situation!)

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#557 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Apr 07, 2012 1:36 pm

My own favourite of the "grand dame guignol" sub-genre is also the most restrained: The Nanny. An interesting battle of wills between a child and the household nanny made all the more unpredictable because you're not always sure which one of them to believe. A very good suspense film. Davis is allowed to use a bit of nuance and play an actual character instead of the usual screeching caricature (as fun as the latter can be to watch).

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#558 Post by antnield » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:10 pm

whipsilk wrote:I haven't seen much commentary in this thread on one of my favorite sub-genres of horror, what I think of as Grand Dame Guignol (sadly, it's not my phrase; I don't know who first coined it). Like giallo, there was a fairly limited window for these films (circa 1962 through the early 1970s), but some of them are quite enjoyable, if for no other reason than watching these aging (for the most part) broads have a field day laying it on not just thick, but massive.
Here's the "Hag Horror" thread from a few years back.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#559 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:32 pm

Sausage have you seen the other Hammer film Bette Davis made at the same time as The Nanny called The Anniversary? That is ostensibly a drama but is horrific in the bitchiness and totally unsympathetic characters on display throughout (and yet again in the wake of Psycho has a rather disturbing mother-son relationship involving cross-dressing).

Here's Davis's big sweeping entrance into the film, scattering all before her!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sun Apr 08, 2012 11:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#560 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:40 pm

colinr0380 wrote:Sausage have you seen the other Hammer film Bette Davis made at the same time as The Nanny called The Anniversary? That is ostensibly a drama but is horrific in the bitchiness and totally unsympathetic characters on display throughout (and yet again in the wake of Psycho a rather disturbing mother-son relationship, involving cross-dressing).

Here's Davis's big sweeping entrance into the film, scattering all before her!
Yep. Wasn't a fan. I gave my thoughts on it earlier in the thread.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#561 Post by domino harvey » Sat Apr 07, 2012 4:55 pm

Do you think you could either edit your post to include the best DVD/Blu editions for these Giallo films or start a new running tally of such?

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#562 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:28 pm

domino harvey wrote:Do you think you could either edit your post to include the best DVD/Blu editions for these Giallo films or start a new running tally of such?
I'll do my best. I rented a lot of these films (some of them years ago), and I don't have a Blu-ray player, so I'm not up on Blu releases. Just about all of them are available in good editions from Anchor Bay, Blue Underground, Shriek Show, and NoShame. The latter in particular has put out great R1 editions of three of the Martino films, but sadly the company folded and the DVDs are out of print. Anyway, here are mostly the R1 releases, all of which are very good:

Part 1

All The Colours of the Dark - Shriek Show (R1)
Black Belly of the Tarantula - Blue Underground (R1)
The Case of the Scorpian's Tail - NoShame (R1, OOP)
Don't Torture a Duckling - Blue Underground (R1), Shameless (R2)
The Fifth Cord - Blue Underground (R1)
Forbidden Photos of a Woman Above Suspicion - Blue Underground (R1)
La Donna del Lago aka Possessed - There's a good Spanish DVD but without English subtitles. May want to use the back channels for this one.
Nude...You Die! aka The Miniskirt Murders - Dark Sky (R1, under title "Naked You Die").
Le Orme aka Footprints - Shameless (R2, under the title "Footprints on the Moon")
The Perfume of the Lady in Black - Raro Video (R1)
Pieces - Grindhouse Releasing (R1)
The Psychic - Severin (R1)
A Short Night of Glass Dolls - Anchor Bay (R1, stand-alone or as part of their OOP Giallo Collection)
The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh - NoShame (R1, OOP), Shameless (R2)
Torso - Blue Underground (R1)
What Have You Done to Solange? - Shriek Show (R1)
Who Saw Her Die? - Anchor Bay (R1, stand-alone or as part of their OOP Giallo Collection), Shameless (R2)
Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key - NoShame (R1, OOP)

Part 2

Autopsy - Blue Underground (R1)
The Black Cat - Blue Underground (R1)
A Blade in the Dark - Blue Underground (R1)
The Bloodstained Butterfly - Manga Films (R2; the R2 Medusa has better quality, but no English subs)
The Case of the Bloody Iris - Anchor Bay (R1, stand-alone or as part of their OOP Giallo Collection)
Killer Nun - Blue Underground (R1)
Knife of Ice - Trash Mountain Video (Japanese release, non-anamorphic. Film is also up on youtube in serviceable quality).
Lizard in a Woman's Skin - Optimum (R2)
New York Ripper - Blue Underground (R1)
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave - NoShame (R1, OOP)
Paranoia - Millenium Storm (R2, also on youtube).
Perversion Story - Severin Films (R1, best DVD release, but the cut it uses has replaced ten minutes of crucial dialogue with more nudity)
The Pyjama Girl Case - Blue Underground (R1)
The Red Queen Kills Seven Times - NoShame (R1, OOP)

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#563 Post by AlexHansen » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:17 pm

MYA released a disc of Mrs. Wardh under the Blade of the Ripper title. I got it from Blockbuster not too long ago so it should still be available.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#564 Post by Feego » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:37 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:My own favourite of the "grand dame guignol" sub-genre is also the most restrained: The Nanny. An interesting battle of wills between a child and the household nanny made all the more unpredictable because you're not always sure which one of them to believe. A very good suspense film. Davis is allowed to use a bit of nuance and play an actual character instead of the usual screeching caricature (as fun as the latter can be to watch).
I've always enjoyed The Nanny too, thanks in large part not just to Davis but to the two main child actors as well. William Dix creates a truly unsympathetic, death-obsessed brat, and the scenes he shares with the always welcome Pamela Franklin as his flirtatious 14-year-old neighbor are great fun.

Speaking of Franklin, she seems to have carved a niche for herself early on playing creepy roles in this film, the justifiiably hailed The Innocents, as a psychic in the haunted house flick The Legend of Hell House (which I have not seen), and an alternately frightening and sympathetic performance in the decidedly non-horror but nonetheless deeply unnerving Our Mother's House.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#565 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:33 am

I love The Legend of Hell House, not quite in the league of The Haunting but I like all of the modern technology and the ominous, inexorable time cards appearing throughout. Along with Roddy McDowall's great nervous performance!

Another Pamela Franklin role which deserves mention is in the late Robert Fuest's And Soon The Darkness!

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#566 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Apr 08, 2012 11:22 am

zedz wrote:Black Christmas - A damn fine stalk and slash film. Actually, it's more like the stalk and slash film, since it seems to originate a ridiculous number of genre tropes, good and bad. It does everything it says on the box, with more panache than you could reasonably expect , and quite frankly it renders redundant much of the genre that ensued, since few of them stray that far from the template and most of them can't summon the intensity or invention Bob Clark brings to the material here. That said, I doubt it's strong enough to claw its way into my top 50, but it'll be 'bubbling under'.
One of the best things about Black Christmas which is repeated by surprisingly few slasher films (the original Halloween being a notable exception in its final pan over what are now sullied, empty rooms) is that sense of creating a lived-in, thoroughly explored space for the characters to inhabit, which becomes much creepier once the number of characters start to get pared down and we have one or two characters left to walk through what used to be familiar, but which are now suddenly threatening, rooms and corridors (the attic and basement being off limits except in the most extreme circumstances, of course!). A motif which is repeated in that fantastically creepy single shot coda, as all of the kindly and supposedly protective, yet totally ineffectual police officers and father figures leave Jess alone again.

For a film in which many of the 'victims' are constantly leaving and returning into the house of death, there is a surprisingly powerful sense of claustrophobia and fatalism throughout. That the possibility of having left makes the murders even more tragic somehow. Yet the film also manages to have some wonderfully judged comic moments too, which seems to be a very hard thing to balance properly (see the poorly judged comic relief cops in Last House On The Left).

Plus, for what could be considered just a slasher film, there is a wonderfully sensitive attitude towards the victims, particularly of Clare and Mrs Mac, with their bodies left unfound in the attic yet never being forgotten by the filmmakers and providing the final haunting image under the end credits. Too often in later slasher films once the victim is murdered they totally disappear from the film (or worse get magically hidden away only to pop out at the Final Girl during the end chase), thus seeming to underline the sense that the characters are only there to provide the thrill of their murder sequence. In this the other characters are continually troubled by the absence of someone while the audience (in the frequent return to the bodies) and even the murderer themselves to some extent, continued to be troubled by the somehow accusatory presence of the bodies.

We should also throw in as well the wonderfully played character of Clare's father, who gets used for some fuddy-duddy fun complaining about the kind of licentious atmosphere in the sorority (an attitude that gets thrown out there as a kind of very understated 'explanation' of the murders, but which obviously the film doesn't endorse for a minute, and which gets played out more fully in the abortion subplot between Jess and her boyfriend Peter), yet who is also understandably concerned and caring for his daughter, looking for her even though the audience knows she is long dead. The character eventually becomes perhaps the most sympathetic in the film along with Jess (yet like all the adults, he is essentially useless) beautifully playing the dawning feeling of despair and loss during the futile searches (This also made me think about Mark in Argento's Inferno, still desperately asking what happened to his sister at the end of the film, long after she has been murdered).

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#567 Post by domino harvey » Sun Apr 08, 2012 5:30 pm

Tenebrae (Dario Argento 1982) One thing I am enjoying about this project is seeing all those Hollywood stars who once shined so bright popping up in rather lurid films-- not everyone bid their time making the Whales of August! Anthony Franciosa has a grand old time here as a horror writer who has inspired as string of copycat murders (in more ways than one). As seems to be the norm with Argento, there's a strong visual flair with a weak control of actors and plot, and the story this time is particularly asinine. Yet I still walked away kinda liking the film due to the gonzo chaotic energy of its go for broke finale. Also, I had no idea Justice's "Phantom" was a remix of the film's theme, so that was a nice surprise as well.

Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves 1968) Hard to articulate a response that boils down to a shrug, but here we are. I just don't take to period horror films, I guess.

Gothic (Ken Russell 1986) My reaction to this one's a lot easier to articulate: It's trash. Admittedly I tire of Ken Russell's infantile provocation, but I can't imagine why such a supremely cheeky treatment of the night which inspired Shelley to pen Frankenstein was ever greenlit-- who exactly was or is the audience for this? Too erudite for lay horror fans, too campy for the English lit set, and too tedious for me.

Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? (Lee H Katzin 1969) Now this is how you make a fun horror flick. Geraldine Page (who apparently looked to Delphine Seyrig in Muriel for a style icon) stops just short of gnawing on the furniture as she eats up the screen playing the Queen Bitch to end all Queen Bitches. Gotta hand it to any villain who goes after the trifecta of old ladies, children, and dogs! I'm not sure I need to see a dozen "Hag Horror" films just like this, but I enjoyed this one a lot.

Edge of Sanity (Gérard Kikoïne 1989) Awful combination of Jack the Ripper and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde that at the very least has the decency to be weird as hell. A sickly-looking Anthony Perkins plays the doc who transforms into a heroin addict in order to gratuitously grope the nude bodies of both women and men before showing 'em who's the real gay blade. The gratuitous sexual preoccupation would be a lot more interesting if it didn't come across so half-assed (so to speak). But such is the time period, and this certainly has the feel of a basic cable staple.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#568 Post by Cold Bishop » Mon Apr 09, 2012 7:16 am

Tombs of the Blind Dead (Amando de Ossorio, 1972)
You know, I've been letting this film roll around in my head for a while now, as there was something about it I just couldn't put my finger on. It was while watching the sequel (see below), that it finally hit me what's so familiar and effective about this film. What Amando de Ossorio has essentially done is re-imagine L'Avventura as a full on horror film. No, really. Look at the plot: a couple and their third wheel go on an outing. After a spat, and a detour to a barren, abandoned locale, one of them goes missing. The two remaining members spend the rest of the film searching for her while being slowly drawn together. Yet, the similarities go beyond just the superficiality of plot (see Psycho) the film's share a thematic resonance. L'Avventura are about people who are controlled by compulsive sexuality, who thoughtlessly pursue that whim, but at the end, continuously find themselves physically unsatisfied, emotionally empty and facing spiritual despair. Think of the scene where Monica Vitti, wracked with guilt after sleeping with Gabriele Ferzetti, wanders the streets of a town only to find herself followed by one group of men, then another, until she's surrounded by dozens of leering men, persecuted by their glares. This is like that, except instead of unemployed dock workers, the group consists of 6-foot-tall charred out skeletons holding swords and thirsty for blood... you know, the existential crisis of the everyman. But if "eros is sick" in Antonioni's film, here eros leads to ritual murder.

The entire film is informed by the hysterical, unstable jolts of sexuality. The entire modus operandi of our undead friends (actually Templar zombie-vampires) is tinged with sado-masochistic perversity: they live off the blood of virgins, they're fond of stabbing women's breasts (this is Euro-horror after all), and they get their fix by groping and sucking all over their victim's bodies. The entire calamity is initiated by a sordid love-triangle, and it seems to be the emanating vibrations of fierce passions and petty jealousy that arouse the monsters as much as the promise of tasty hemoglobin. A lot of this anticipates the sexual punishment of later horror films, namely slashers, but I'm not sure its quite as cut-and-dry and puritanical here. Yes, to some degree Lone Fleming fills out the role of the virginal final girl, but she also has more than a few sapphic tendencies (and note that the other girl gets punished, if anything, for violently repressing that lesbianism), and she's less virginal than she seems to be terrified of male sexuality. And the film gives her good reason: from necrophilic perversity to sexual assault to general overall caddishness, the film profiles an array of uncontrolled passions and violent desires that are pursued recklessly. It is the disturbances and trauma of these sexual eruptions that echo and instigate the more obvious disturbance and trauma of the living dead. In many ways, the film could be interpreted as a fable about a woman being dragged kicking and screaming into adult heterosexuality, and what she finds their isn't exactly assuring.

The film is highly effective and handsomely shot. It has some problems: the film drags at places, and at other times, the story seems to have been slapped together. The Bava-esque scene in the mannequin warehouse has no internal logic other than it looks cool (and it does!), and, as if realizing the ending won't work with only two characters, the film twists itself in pretzels to shoe-in a few new characters at the last minute. But what Ossorio excels at is atmosphere, and when the plot gets out of the way, it's here the film succeeds. The makeup on these zombies are some of the most impressive of the decade (if ever), and I'm sure the common, overused imagery of the undead rising out of foggy graveyards largely comes from here; other films (and comics) did it earlier, but this film did it most effectively, including some of the best use of slow-motion in a horror film since Epstein's Fall of the House of Usher. It has just the right amount of sleaze to be pulpy but not degrading, and it's all capped with one hell of an ending. The final reel is damn near apocalyptic, as the eros-sickness threatens to overrun the microcosm of our central characters and infect the whole world. Who am I kidding? It already has. :D

A recommended Euro-horror classic

Return of the Evil Dead (Amando de Ossorio, 1973)
Now this I didn't care for at all. How so many American fans prefer this over the original bewilders me, although it probably helps explain the sorry state of Horror in this country (sorry, Siddon). The last film ended with the threat of the undead reaching the greater world, and with this, we have a whole film devoted to just that (to a degree; this is a small village, not a city). If these films bear some debt to Romero's Zombie film, the first film refreshingly went a completely different direction. Here, however, as if unable to help himself, Ossorio makes his Night of the Living Dead, his group-under-siege film. That's fine and all, but the atmosphere that made his earlier film so successful is gone. For starters, the plot is really much closer to an action film: while Romero noticed this and played with it in Dawn of the Dead, Ossorio doesn't seem to realize it, so he automatically assumes anything involving the living dead is automatically scary. It's not. The central conceit of selfish, crazed passion announcing the arrival of unworldly destruction is still here (note the carefully timed firework displays), but he expands his scope from sexual recklessness to just general human pettiness. Once again, this ties to the Romeroic concept that it is man, and not the zombies, who are the true monsters, but often, we can't tell whether these are stupid characters or just stupid writing. Ossorio doubles the amount of characters, and as a result, we really don't have time to care for any of them. In fact, unlike the earlier film, where the human drama and the horror echoed one another, this often just feels like soap-opera filler. But the worst part, and most damming for a under-siege film, is that Ossorio captures none of the urgency, the desperation, the feeling of society slowly crumbling, of hope being drained away, that is crucial to this sort of film. Hell, even Umberto Lenzi could capture some of that feeling!

Only the ending captures some of the magic of the earlier film, but that's purely cinematographic: narratively, its completely anticlimactic. All in all, I find little in this film to recommend. At least the next two film can't go anywhere but up (right?).

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colinr0380
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#569 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:07 am

Great write up of Tombs, Cold Bishop! I love the connection to L'Avventura, and I suppose that I always have some sympathy for a film where the characters attempt to visit and escape from the ruined and isolated chuch by steam train! Though the big problem with the entire series (even Jess Franco's belated 1980s entry into the series Mansion of the Living Dead, which is more related to his oeuvre than de Ossorio's, but does feature some amazing shots of hotel corridors disappearing off into bright Spanish sunshine) is that it draws out the trope of 'girl visits a location, wanders around for ages then falls asleep, wakes up, meets the zombies, runs off screaming and then is captured and dragged off' to its absolute breaking point.

I found that some of the sequences are so drawn out that even fast forwarding them on a repeat viewing for the fun of it often still just results in a character walking very slowly through a scene! This aspect reaches its absolute nadir in the third film The Ghost Galleon, in which a character wakes up, walks across the boat, goes down into the bowels of the ship, finds the zombies, screams, runs back out through the (many!) rooms in the ship, climbs the stairs to get out on deck, then gets captured and dragged (slooooowly!) back down the stairs, through the rooms and back into the main zombie room. Basically about five or six minutes of the ten or twelve minute sequence are totally redundant, and don't even work to build up tension! (I suppose there is the difficulty that setting the action on a boat means that there are not that many places to explore or run around, so they need to drag their heels through every set!)

I would also warn that if you are not a fan of obvious toy boats being used for establishing shots, then you may have a really big problem with The Ghost Galleon, where the 'model in a bathtub' quality is quite heavily on display, to often hilarious effect. So, all in all it is not a great film (and the set up is idiotic - the advertising gimmick device is the most bone-headedly ridiculous premise to get all the characters onto the boat, one which just gets stupider the more you think about it. And why do we need the tacked on rape scene at the beginning? Although it does I suppose strengthen the equation that Cold Bishop notes of men always being utter bastards, whether alive or undead) but it does have some effectively creepy 'shiver me timbers' atmosphere, a nice ending harking back to the first film, and I like the idea of extra-dimensional fog banks!

I do really like the fourth film in the series, Night of the Seagulls, though that plays out more like a kind of rural horror of creepy communities full of shifty figures, something strangely like Witchfinder General! Plus the knights are back on horseback again after their boat trip, which is the one place that they truly belong!
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matrixschmatrix
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#570 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Apr 09, 2012 1:29 pm

DVD Savant linked this Frayling hosted documentary on The Innocents today. I'm not really part of this project, but if I was, The Innocents would easily be in my top two or three picks.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#571 Post by Feego » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:49 pm

That documentary is included on the excellent BFI edition of the film.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#572 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:15 pm

That did inspire me to check whether Frayling's 1996 series for the BBC, Nightmare: The Birth of Horror, was up on YouTube. Episodes 1 (about Frankenstein) and 3 (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) are not there but episodes 2 (Dracula) and 4 (The Hound of the Baskervilles) are.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#573 Post by zedz » Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:48 pm

domino harvey wrote:Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? (Lee H Katzin 1969) Now this is how you make a fun horror flick. Geraldine Page (who apparently looked to Delphine Seyrig in Muriel for a style icon) stops just short of gnawing on the furniture as she eats up the screen playing the Queen Bitch to end all Queen Bitches. Gotta hand it to any villain who goes after the trifecta of old ladies, children, and dogs! I'm not sure I need to see a dozen "Hag Horror" films just like this, but I enjoyed this one a lot.
I saw this on television when I was 3 or 4 (definitely pre-school), so it's almost certainly the earliest film that I can recall seeing with any clarity - mainly because there are a couple of scenes that I've never been able to forget. I'm glad it holds up!

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#574 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:59 pm

domino harvey wrote:Tenebrae (Dario Argento 1982) One thing I am enjoying about this project is seeing all those Hollywood stars who once shined so bright popping up in rather lurid films-- not everyone bid their time making the Whales of August! Anthony Franciosa has a grand old time here as a horror writer who has inspired as string of copycat murders (in more ways than one). As seems to be the norm with Argento, there's a strong visual flair with a weak control of actors and plot, and the story this time is particularly asinine. Yet I still walked away kinda liking the film due to the gonzo chaotic energy of its go for broke finale. Also, I had no idea Justice's "Phantom" was a remix of the film's theme, so that was a nice surprise as well.
By the way domino, talking of "respectable people popping up in rather lurid films" the very beautiful lady who spray-paints the walls red with blood in the climax of Tenebrae is Veronica Lario, ex-Italian PM Silvio Berolusconi's wife!

While we are on the subject of Argento again, I recently revisited Trauma and it is definitely growing on me with each viewing, even with the rather implausible addition of the decapitated head still briefly being able to talk and accuse, since this seems like a great trait of Argento's films, of the blatantly obvious clues, even if sometimes like here Argento makes it impossible for the audience to play along (unlike say in Suspiria or Deep Red where the audience can), this idea is often still present. It seems as necessary in his work as having his main characters (often heroines, but also Peter in Tenebrae) traumatised by a past event that keeps bubbling up to the surface - an event which can have more or less of a relationship with the main plot itself depending on the film! The Stendhal Syndrome and Opera are perhaps the greatest explorations of this, but it is there in Trauma too with our heroine being plagued by her family, long after her parents are apparently dead!

One of the reasons I want to post on Trauma while it is fresh in my mind again is because of its fabulous final scene, which runs over the end credits - don't worry about spoilers, as the main plot has already been tied up at this point, but just look at how incongruous it seems to end a horror film with firstly a reggae song and then a focus on an unidentified woman dancing, brightly backlit. I like its sense of the figure of an idealised enigmatic woman which is something that Asia Argento's Aura has been to David throughout the film. In this sense Trauma is also riffing off of noir themes of fascination with a dangerous woman, which perhaps makes sense given that 1993 is at the height of all of the neo-noir erotic thrillers such as Basic Instinct and The Last Seduction. Yet I also think this ending anticipates Argento's Masters of Horror episode Jenifer and that film's dangerously obsessed hero.

The other reason why I love that end credits sequence with its Pino Donaggio score is that it feels eerily reminiscent of the final shot of Carlito's Way, another film from the same year that features an idealised backlit woman dancing over the end credits. And of course Donaggio has provided the scores for many of Brian De Palma's films (though not Carlito's Way), which strengthens that bond between the two sequences in an interesting way.
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#575 Post by antnield » Fri Apr 13, 2012 7:41 am

Just as they did when the Westerns list was in progress, Time Out offer up their 100 Best Horror Films.

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