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

#926 Post by vogler » Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:02 pm

swo17 wrote:Can anyone recommend any experimental horror shorts in the vein of Tscherkassky's Outer Space?
These are not really much like Outer Space but they are both absolutely superb. I'd never really thought of them as horror films before but they might fit the bill.

Harpya (1979) Directed by Raoul Servais

La femme qui se poudre (1972) Directed by Patrick Bokanowski

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

#927 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Nov 11, 2012 8:18 pm

Satori wrote:I think there was always something quite queer in the 80s action hero/wrestling culture, which them film makes apparent (also the scenes of Piper doing construction work earlier are rather fetishistic).
Absolutely, Carpenter doesn't exactly go to the same lengths as Verhoeven but I see some of those briefly glimpsed inane television broadcasts as slightly related to the barbs of a film like Robocop. And the construction site scenes with Frank looking the shirtless Piper over from a distance made me think a little of the way Verhoeven would later set up Schwarzenegger in his job at the beginning of Total Recall!

(However is the construction context necessitated by the needing to create a believable work context for a well muscled guy rather than for any particular ideological or semiotic reason? Schwarzenegger or Stallone in an office job perhaps wouldn't really make sense! But then on the other hand every aspect of any film is likely thought through, consciously or unconsciously, for the various kinds of 'meanings' that are conveyed)

Although it is extremely difficult to talk about 'subtext' in this film because there is no 'sub' to the 'text'! Even the homoerotic element of the alley fight then gets even more blatant as the pair retreat to a shared hotel room with Piper declaring "ain't love grand!" to his new partner!

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

#928 Post by Satori » Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:44 pm

However is the construction context necessitated by the needing to create a believable work context for a well muscled guy rather than for any particular ideological or semiotic reason? Schwarzenegger or Stallone in an office job perhaps wouldn't really make sense!
Definitely, and I think that the film also needed some kind of "productive" job that would better signify the idea of an "honest day's work" (I think one of the characters even says something to that effect), since the whole construction sequence functions to set up a character that has been interpellated by the classic work ethic ideology to believe that he will eventually get ahead if he just works hard enough and doesn't question authority. The working class job also sets up a better contrast with the white collar middle management types that end up collaborating with the alien capitalists.

I also totally forgot about the hotel room scene, which really does practically literalize that queer subtext!

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swo17
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#929 Post by swo17 » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:26 pm

vogler wrote:
swo17 wrote:Can anyone recommend any experimental horror shorts in the vein of Tscherkassky's Outer Space?
These are not really much like Outer Space but they are both absolutely superb. I'd never really thought of them as horror films before but they might fit the bill.

Harpya (1979) Directed by Raoul Servais

La femme qui se poudre (1972) Directed by Patrick Bokanowski
Thanks! I especially liked that second one.

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

#930 Post by knives » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:08 pm

If you're considering on going forth with the animation project I highly recommend you check out more of Servais' work. Chromophobia in particular is a tough edged thing which heavily reminds me of George Dunning's work. For now though Sirene might be a bit more horror dashed.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#931 Post by Cold Bishop » Fri Nov 16, 2012 1:31 am

Horrors of Malformed Men (Teruo Ishii, 1969)
A very bizarre movie, which had me close to writing it off, but won me over in the long run. An amnesiac gains consciousness in the female ward of an insane asylum. His only brief glimpses of memory: a contorted figure on the rocky shores of the sea. A dark cellar where a beautiful woman's face shape-shifts into something monstrous. The melody of a childhood lullaby. Using these clues he sets out to discover his past. Let's get straight to its taboo status. Banned in Japan? Perhaps, but that has more to do with its questionable attitude towards the disabled than any shocking content, which probably doesn't surpass the pink films of its era. Where the film excels is it's atmosphere of sheer mystery - labyrinthine, somnambulistic, and with a psycho-sexual edge that's often more deeply felt at the moments when it's not explicitly present. The full Japanese title: The Collected Tales of Edogawa Rampo: Horrors of Malformed Men, and it's an accurate one. The movies is ostensibly based on the novel The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, but Ishii folds in the elements from at least a half-dozen Rampo stories. The film also takes clear inspiration from other sources: there's a clear affinity with H.G. Wells' Dr. Moreau, the opening brings to mind A Page of Madness, which along with its "Freudian mystery" links it with that great classic novel of the Ero guro nansensu genre, Dogura Magura (which unjustifiably, as of the time of this writing, has yet to be translated into English). Later, Ishi jettisons traditional horror for something more attuned to Jacopetti and Prosperi, a Mondo... documentary for a civilization that doesn't exist. And when time came to cast his antagonist, he decided to forgo a traditional actor, instead casting the famed Butoh dancer Tatsumi Hijikata, making full use of his unique physicality. The results are undeniably convoluted, with the narrative constantly twisting itself into knots that threaten comprehensibility... but just as Hijikata performance is based on the way he twists and folds his body, so do these convolutions become an end of themselves. Which might be for the best, as the film falters at moments it briefly straightens out: the film really doesn't succeed at traditional horror shock and thrills, and its effects and costumes are sometimes close to those of Euro-horror schlock. The film's pleasure comes from its inscrutability, its near Chinese Box reshaping of itself, until it culminates in its much talked about Antonioni-inspired finale. Like I Walked With a Zombie, like Towers of the Seven Hunchbacks, like Vampyr, this is a horror film that understands that the pleasure of a mystery comes not in solving it, but prolonging its sense of the unknown and uncanny. Is this as good as all that? No. And not everyone will be convinced by it. But those who are should be quite smitten.

The Ghost Galleon (Amando de Ossorio, 1974)
The third entry of the Blind Dead films has de Ossorio scraping the bottom of the barnacle-encrusted barrel. The film involves a millionaire's ridiculous attempt at a marketing stunt involving sending bikini models out to sea to get lost and rediscovered. Things don't go as planned when the Blind Dead's Ghost Galleon emerges from the watery deep. Ossorio decides to deepen his mythology by folding in elements of the Flying Dutchman and the Bermuda Triangle. The variation is largely cosmetic; after the brief sojourn into action cinema for the previous film, this is a return to the first film's chamber horror, a small group isolated in a small space being picked off by the undead. What could have been refreshing is just predictable and tired. The sexual traumas that propelled the first film are largely ignored for some class tension which is both heavy-handed and only lightly applied. Otherwise, this is a film where you can guess every move a quarter hour in advance. I don't need much from a film... I largely follow the Howard Hawks rule: a good film = two great scenes, no bad ones... although I'll excuse the latter if the former are good enough. But there's nothing here worthwhile. I guess some of the cinematography does a nice job covering the cheapness of the sets, but even that's compromised by Blue Underground clearly mis-timed transfer. You know the film's in trouble when it kills off it's last sympathetic character half-way through. Some people find the film's shock ending worth distinction, but its a whimper compared to the climax of the original film. Some people consider Night of the Seagulls the second best of the trilogy, otherwise I'd be tempted to jump ship on this series here and now.

Blue Sunshine (Jeff Lieberman, 1978)
A 70s horror film that gets things backward, succeeding where these films usually fail, but doing a poor job at the meat and potatoes. Here, Jeff Lieberman throws aside zombies, werewolves, witches or vampires, and instead taps into the most horrible of primal horrors: early on-set baldness. I jest, but that and some good old fashioned anti-drug messaging forms the basis of this film. People are suddenly going bald, going crazy, then going on killing sprees. Poor Zalman King has the poor luck of constantly being at the wrong place at the wrong time, ends up framed for a series of these murders, and has to clear his name. What's most compelling about this film, and something Lieberman deserves definite merit for, are the scenes of exposition, which are usually where low-budget 70s horror films falter. He loads the "connective tissue" of the film with a palpable sense of paranoia, conspiracy and menace which makes the film something of an offshoot of the Pakula/Coppola/Pollack conspiracy thrillers. However, I find nearly all the scenes of actual "freak-outs - the would-be centerpieces of the film - to be campy and overwrought. People suddenly going on murderous rampage could perhaps be effective (despite its reputation, I'm a fan of Romero's The Crazies), but Lieberman shows how hard it is to pull of successfully, as it often looks and feels like what I imagine a PCP freakout on a 70s cop show would be like. The real highlight of the film comes early, as King surveys the scene of one of these rampages. In a preview of the 80s/90s obsession with serial killer profilers, King not only recreates the crime, but inexplicably relives it in great physical detail. Red-herrings like this litter the film, but Lieberman could have gone farther; for a film about bad acid, its unfortunately short on the hallucinatory. This is especially true of the finale, with is far too conventional and pat for all the unanswered paranoia that precedes it. A movie like this needed something far more mindblowing to cap it off; I would have loved the film to have gone off the rails Phase IV style, but that's damning the film for something it's not. Ultimately, as a study of the Peace-Love generation trying to refit itself into middle-class normalcy, it pales in comparison to Shivers or Kaufman's Body Snatchers. This is ultimately a film that weaves a conspiracy for something to proves to be anticlimactically straightforward. The worst thing is that Lieberman seems more than capable of pulling it off, if he just pushed a little harder. The rare film where talent outpaces ambition, take that as you will.

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Steven H
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#932 Post by Steven H » Tue Nov 20, 2012 10:32 pm

I went back and rewatched Hellraiser recently. It was so much better than I remembered from having seen it when I was a teen. I love how the most warped and depraved ideas of how chains, nails, body parts, and sexual pleasure could meld together were left to your imagination (yet, at the end, you got a "hint").

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

#933 Post by knives » Tue Nov 20, 2012 10:39 pm

The hint really doesn't register as such either being left as an open door to a room with all of the lights turned off. The film is in many ways the opposite of the genre it resides in. Instead of pornography attempting to be scary (like the Friday series stupid beheadings replacing the cum shots style of non-suspense) we get truly creeping and affecting imagery that under normal circumstances would be horrifying gain some slight intimacy. Obviously the film isn't a romance, but as far as considering violence as pornographic its pretty much the definitive text (unless there's some secret Cronenberg I'm not thinking of).

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#934 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Nov 20, 2012 10:47 pm

The Walking Dead (Michael Curtiz, 1936): At first glance this seems identical to the later, excellent Karloff mad-scientist vehicle, The Man They Could Not Hang, with Karloff being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, only to be revived through through a Frankensteinish scenario and take his revenge. Although The Walking Dead isn't as satisfying as the later movie it so resembles, it's more strange and, in some ways, more interesting. Karloff's avenging angel seems to have no agency in his murders; they're actually somewhat inexplicable deaths, neither wholly accidents nor wholly murders. There is a lot of implication around them but nothing concrete enough to make their machinations coherent. It has the odd effect of allowing the justice in the movie to be free of revenge, and lets Karloff's character remain innocent and accusing, almost a vessel or a totem. It makes an interesting contrast to Karloff's many other revenge films, where his wronged character eventually becomes the monster of the story. Despite having risen from the dead during a laboratory light-show reminiscent of Frankenstein (the presiding doctor even gets to shout 'it's alive!'), despite having two streaks of shock white hair much like the bride of Frankenstein, and despite moving around in a hunched, shambling gait, Karloff's character is the opposite of a monster: divinely enlightened and totally simple--that is, free of pettiness. Like a saint. It's such an odd characterization. The movie's not among my favourite Karloffs, but I was consistently surprised by it, and that's rare for something like this.

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (José Mojica Marins, 1964): So, Brazil's first horror film. Not at all what I was expecting. It's almost a morality play on the effects of toxic masculinity and anti-social behaviour. Or would be, anyway, if anything Coffin Joe did had plausible motivations. He blasphemes, tortures, rapes, and murders for no good reason, really (except that he's Coffin Joe, I guess). The plot is basically that the local undertaker, Coffin Joe, is a gigantic prick who likes to terrorize his small town. He gets it into his head that having a son to carry on one's bloodline is the only reason to live, so he offs his barren wife and goes after another girl. Soon he's offing everyone while the townsfolk get increasingly annoyed and a witch prophesies his doom. The odd part is that there's no one for the audience to side with besides Joe. Usually in a movie like this there's a wholesome couple to oppose the villain and earn your sympathy, but here Joe dominates the narrative so thoroughly that no protagonists have a chance to emerge. You're basically watching a real asshole just be assholish for eighty minutes. That said, there's some genuine power to the scenes where Joe screams his own atheism into the night, challenging the non-existent spirits and gods to strike him if they can. Indeed, the anti-superstitious element seems to be taking things in interesting directions before it all gets a banal, moralistic resolution. I was kind of indifferent to the movie. Props to Marins for his wardrobe choices, tho'. Coffin Joe is one of the more memorably dressed villains you'll see.

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

#935 Post by knives » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:04 pm

Thanks for watching my avatar, the next film is infinitely better though some of the 'problems' you have here are also present there though he is given a larger stature turned into a myth which might null some of your questions. He's really there to stand in for all of the pressure of Brazilian society (which if it is anything like Mexican makes his beliefs and reactions understandable). He's pretty clearly a fascistic villain, but one who's anger comes from an understandable place making the traditional hero sort of pointless, at least for me. The whole of society with its bizarre combination of native and Christian superstitions is in such direct opposition to Coffin Joe that every character is some point of opposition for him. If I were to suggest any forefathers to him the first would be Dr. Mabuse who I have to believe Marins knew about. The other forefather would probably be Lugosi in Murders in the Rue Morgue where the fight against society's stupidity by someone clearly deranged and the villain makes for a very complex morality. Marins himself seems very interested in native superstition especially as applied to the arts (he's more or less the ultimate method actor living a life to the extremes of Jodorowsky and Allan Moore) so I wouldn't say he agrees with everything Coffin Joe says, but at the same time it's clear he at least admires that brazen reaction to the christian suffocation. The point of the films seems to me to be to level Christianity down as an equal to the religions and myths it has swallowed up. All dogma is equally powerful in this world if you let yourself believe it for just a second.

If that's not enough to convince you to see the second film than hopefully the fact that it features a colour scene in low budget hell will. If nothing else Marins knows how to make for an interesting visual on no budget.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#936 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:19 pm

I don't disagree with anything you've said, my dear Zé do Caixão. That is sort of what the film seems to be going for, although it's kind of offputting that the movie both clearly venerates Joe for his brazen individuality while simultaneously having him embody some of Brazilian society's worst aspects (aforementioned toxic masculinity culminating in murdering women who cannot procreate and giving the highest place to male offspring) and just plain doing heinous things. His crimes are more vile than delicious, so I didn't really like the movie trying to put me in such a schizophrenic position. The movie's aims are kind of incoherent.

I actually thought this was the one with the technicolour descent into hell, so I was disappointed when it ended just with some flashes of light and a bit of wind. I'll definitely have check out the sequel.

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

#937 Post by knives » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:37 pm

The film is definitely incoherent at least in terms creating a taxonomy of Latin behaviors and applying them logically to the characters. While most of the characters seem to make sense of the stereotypes that are assigned to them Coffin Joe is very much an awkward mesh of youthful rebellion and ancient superstition. Though in that last bit I think some (if not absolute) coherence can be achieved. Ze isn't so much a well intentioned extremist or some such as an absolutely vile sociopath rendered practically schizo by the way the culture pulls you between the native and European. His insufferable misogyny taking the form of this weird form of eugenics (which is elaborated on in a grotesque way in the sequel) is basically the only stable medium he can find. In his blasphemy he basically is turned into something ancient like a hedonistic pagan. With the exception of the witch in this first film I honestly doubt anybody in the series is in reality as religious as Ze. What terrifies the populace is that he is more or less honest about things they only act with. He then becomes a reflection of Brazil with everything warped and backwards, but also the same. So he reaches a violent genuine hatred of women because that is how it is in Brazil (I can't remember how in depth his racism is revealed at the moment, but if memory holds up it is equally as ugly if less a mixture of religious dogma and science). Everything he says is what the Brazilian people (or at least the old guard) does and everything he does is in some fashion what they say. This makes everything particularly interesting in his latest escapade since much of this old Brazil has died and been morphed into something a tad more anglo. The Brazil that could birth Ze is no longer.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#938 Post by terabin » Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:46 am

This has been asked before, but I'm curious whether any Fritz Lang falls under the horror category for you and your lists? Just rewatched Testament of Dr. Mabuse and it will definitely be on my list. The reveals done of Mabuse throughout the film, whether in a soft-focus figure or with the cut-out, and the lead up to these reveals have a terrifying feel to them that falls under the horror genre for me.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#939 Post by swo17 » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:48 am

Curiously, I was all set to include Testament on my list, but rewatching it recently on the great MoC Blu-ray, I felt it wasn't enough of a horror film to qualify (at least for me). This could of course change with another viewing.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#940 Post by knives » Wed Nov 21, 2012 2:04 pm

I see it listed as a horror film often enough it should count, but I've never felt it to be that way.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#941 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:50 pm

I've always thought it to be a crime film, so I won't be voting for it personally. But, as always, if you think it's horror, vote for it.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#942 Post by zedz » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:56 pm

I think of it as a thriller with supernatural elements, but plenty of films everyone would no doubt consider "horror" could be described in exactly the same way. Maybe the difference with this film is that it's generally considered in the context of Lang's oeuvre, which is very heavy on thrillers and very light on straight horror films. But I think it's easily accommodated within the genre. It's weird how these projects can lead to such cases of genre-reassignment therapy.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#943 Post by domino harvey » Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:04 am

YMMV as always, but I don't think so on Testament. Having seen them all, I'd say the only post-immigrate Langs I'd consider "horror" are Secret Beyond the Door and House by the River, neither in any danger of making my list!

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#944 Post by terabin » Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:30 am

Just testing the water. Testament is a mix of genres, probably more crime thriller than horror but as I noted above, the way Lang handles the supernatural reveals of Mabuse at different points along the way make the film horror enough for me for it to be eligible in my book. The reveals hover over the whole film for me; indelible and uncanny images that stick in my mind.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#945 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Nov 24, 2012 6:06 pm

The Stone Tape (Peter Sasdy, 1972)

This 90 minute BBC drama (apparently shown on Christmas day of 1972!) involves a team with the latest high tech equipment looking to do research into new recording mediums moving into an old building, which they then find out has a haunted room. One of the team, a computer programmer played by Jane Asher, sees the ghost of a Victorian chambermaid screaming at the top of a flight of stairs, an action that the ghost goes on to repeat and seems to have repeated in a continuous cycle for the last hundred years. When the ghost becomes apparent to the rest of the team, the manager sees the opportunity to analyze the ghostly occurrences to see if they will provide the breakthrough in recordable media that they have been looking for...

This is a problematic production which features a really great central conceit. The problems first - the production is very much of its time both in terms of the high tech equipment used to analyze the ghosts and the rather broad (over)acting on display (some of it is understandable, as when characters are terrified by the ghost. But other moments, such as the one during the sequence of celebrating their company having beaten the Japanese to a new recording medium when a character makes a pair of buck teeth out of paper, pulls his eyes back and does an "I'm so solly" speech, are just indefensible!). Some of the 'scary' moments are rather over-egged (such as Asher being spooked by two vans reversing at her in the opening moments of the film, which seems tailor made to allow people to be able to tut and roll their eyes over silly women drivers!), and some of the scenes are rather poorly edited (such as Asher reacting to hearing the scream of the ghost with a clenched fist to her mouth in extreme close shot, followed by a wider shot of her just standing there, hands by her side, actingly casually!). Also a lot of the comic relief and team camaraderie stuff, which takes up a fair proportion of the first half of the film, is extremely wooden!

So why is this worth a look? For the way that the ghost is approached as a set of data of a horrific incident that has imprinted itself into the stone of a building and the impetuous way that the researchers go about trying to 'trap' or 'understand' it which culminates in the 'electronic exorcism' sequence, which takes the form of kind of degaussing of the ghost from existence.

For the good performance of Asher as a woman who has a sensitivity to ghosts (very like Theo in The Haunting); is besotted with the project leader (Michael Bryant), who starts an extra-marital affair with her when he thinks that he can use her to get to the ghost but immediately drops her (and even tries pimping her out, by asking other team members to take her off his hands!) once the ghost has apparently been 'wiped' (and then gets his moral comeuppance at the end); and who gets to ask some of the more probing questions that have ever been asked in a ghost story, such as whether a ghost is self aware or not and, if they are aware, how horrible it must be to carry out the same limited actions of playing out your death over and over again for many years.

And for the 'ancient evil' ending of what has been uncovered once the first ghost was wiped, and whether the replacement of one ghost with another might placate it.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1982)

I watched this film just after The Stone Tape because Nigel Kneale, who wrote The Stone Tape, apparently had a hand in the initial script for this film, which was then eventually changed a lot by Wallace (Wallace in his commentary track on the film says that the final film is "60% Kneale" and attributes the murderous masks and the evil prankster toymaker to Kneale. While Kneale himself on the commentary track for The Stone Tape talks of the way that the murder scene with the dril was added to his script. And apparently the ancient sacrificial evil of Stonehenge finale, despite being very Kneale-esque in the way The Stone Tape and Quatermass and the Pit go into similar territories of uncovered ancient horror, was actually not part of Kneale's original draft)

I had never really been a big fan of this film - not because it is the strange outlier of the Halloween series, being the one that doesn't feature Michael Myers at all, but really just because of that incredibly irritating advertising jingle! I know that the jingle is intended to be obnoxious by the filmmakers, but it succeeds much too well in that job!

However on watching the new Blu-ray edition (the first time I had seen it in its proper widescreen ratio too, which I think helped a lot), I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much the film has grown on me. I particularly like the opening titles, which are very much in the style of the first two films, just with an early 80s computer age twist! I also think that the location and day-and-date titles, harking back to the original film, are used really well here, speeding up the opening section of the film as the days zoom by, as well as expanding the story out neatly across the entire country during the end section.

Compared to Halloween II, which I savaged a little earlier in the thread, I think Halloween III, for all its lunatic plot twists, is beautifully paced (I did wonder on watching the film this time whether the opening scenes in the hospital were Wallace's comment on Halloweeen II! The hospital room where the murder takes place is laid out in almost exactly the same way that Laurie Strode's room was in the previous film! Whether this was the case or not, a moment that I particularly appreciated was the way that the nurse who discovers the murderer just after the killing is not killed herself. I was surprised, and quite pleased, that this minor character wasn't just used for a gratuitous death scene to spice up the early section of the film). Wallace in his commentary talks of holding a little too long on certain scenes and perhaps would have edited out of scenes faster for the sensibilities of a modern audience, but one of the best aspects of the film is the way that he holds on scenes of aftermath as if in shock at what has happened, such as the aftermath of the car exploding in the hospital carpark, or the drill murder. Neither really feel to be lingering to revel in the gory aftermath, or show any extra gory details, but more to just be a kind of pause for a moment to take in what has happened.

Of course one of the exceptions to that is the scene where Marge accidentally lasers off her face, where the film does return to show the horrifically gory aftermath, but even that moment of extreme gore is perhaps necessary to introduce the method of murder that will soon happen on a grander scale and it being necessary to have to show something utterly and uniquely bizarre rather than only just talking about it!

The other exception is the murder of the rather broadly played low class family as they get used as test subjects for the masks. I remember on first watching the film I found this scene to be rather gratuitous and unnecessary. But on this viewing I think I did not mind the scene as much, mostly because I suddenly began to think of the film, and Dan O'Herlihy's prankster toymaker with his own factory staffed by animatronic robots, as being a twisted take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! If that is the case then the seemingly strange and sudden introduction of a bratty kid, over indulgent mother who is badly dressed and obsessed with money, and the plump, sweatily over friendly father in a giant gas guzzling RV make sense as being similar to the kinds of characters that Willy Wonka took the greatest pleasure in despatching in various bizarre ways! (And it also gives the scene of them being given a tour of the factory, with our heroes tagging along, an extra resonance!)

The Willy Wonka theme is the big one of the film I think, although Wallace also points out his homages to the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A scene is filmed in the same square where the trucks were being loaded up in Don Siegel's film, and the final moments with the heroine go the Body Snatchers way! Although the final scene with the heroine seems to be just as much influenced by the death of Ash in Alien! (I wonder if there were also some intentional allusions to Psycho in those scenes taking place in and around the motel cabins and front office) Another big influence that I would guess at would be Westworld, with the animatronic puppet killers bleeding strange waxy gloop instead of blood (another great little touch is when the hero gets captured after killing one of the guards, he seems rather detached from the shock of being captured and more concerned with wiping his hand down of the gloop covering it!)

It is quite amusing that the way the filmmakers find to tie Halloween III in with the previous films is to have Halloween as the film playing on the TV just before the advert that will kill everyone plays! The hero at one point ends up tied to a chair with one of the deadly masks on and the TV tuned in to Halloween as the last film he will ever see! While this is only produced rather than directed by John Carpenter there is the same kind of attitude to television here that turns up later in They Live - it is lulling everyone into a false sense of security until they suddenly get killed by it! (The hero screaming down the telephone at the end of the film to "turn it off! Stop it!!" makes this attitude towards television needing to be stopped, but also being impossible to totally shut down, very obvious too!)

It might just be my imagination but I wonder if the filmmakers relished having the hero save himself by kicking the television in (also destroying the image of the original Halloween film!) and using the broken pieces of glass from the screen to cut himself free of his bonds!

I also like that, although it is nominally about strange Irish pranksters stealing Stonehenge and doing druidic rituals involving the stone and electronics, it is really about our hero and his relationship to the women in his life. He has an ex-wife that he has arguments with so that she ignores his pleas when he tries to get through to her and children that he ignores his duties to until it is too late; has a relationship with the lab technician where she obviously cares for him but he can't see it (see is the one who gets surprisingly moving drill murder!) and the one new sexual relationship he has with the heroine of the film is doomed to end in tragedy too!

So a very strange but fascinating film. If you can get past the annoying advert jingle and the way that the film unfortunately is part of the Halloween series without having anything to do with the rest of the Michael Myers mythology, it is surprisingly rewarding. I'm as surprised as anyone that I have ended up liking it a whole lot more than I had done on previous viewings!

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Mr Sausage
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#946 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Nov 25, 2012 3:12 pm

Frankenstein 1970 (Howard W. Koch, 1958): As far as I can tell the movie is set in the fifties. So there's that. Also, private citizens can buy atomic reactors apparently. Boris Karloff does his admirable best to drag the film kicking and screaming out of the pits, and doesn't succeed. Out of the eighty minutes in this thing, the monster is in about five of them, and he spends them bandaged from head to foot so this may as well count as a mummy film, too. Karloff plays a descendant of the original Baron Frankenstein. He'd been tortured by the nazis and now rots away in a castle. When a television crew shows up to film an anniversary special in the castle he decides to put together a monster out of the crew's body parts. Cue the cackling and evil glaring. Despite the futuristic title, this is clearly a throwback to the Universal films of the thirties and forties. That it came out at the same time as Hammer were putting together their elegant, vivid reimaginings of the Universal stable would not have done the movie any favours at the box office. It looks creaky, cheap, and old fashioned, and feels twice as long as it is. Sad to see Karloff reduced to this kind of material, but, as always, he gives a game performance. Also, I think this is the only time he actually played a Frankenstein.

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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#947 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:53 pm

Here's a My World of Flops piece on Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

I'm not ashamed to admit that I have a copy of this film (complete with the "watch for the spooky subliminal messages scattered throughout the film!" warning at the beginning), which is a perfect example of a film made tolerable and even slightly entertaining by its commentary track. The piece above goes into the terrible mistake of casting famed documentarian Joe Berlinger to capture more of the same handheld cinéma vérité style of the original Blair Witch film, but the way Berlinger explains his choices in the commentary always makes me wonder whether he actually had any conversations about his visions for the film with the executives before starting.

For example Berlinger talks about hating the shaky cam style of Blair Witch, saying that real documentaries are usually well composed and shot, which really suggests that he wasn't really the best choice for a sequel to the most famous amateur video footage film ever made! Bizarrely, but slightly intriguingly, Berlinger ties the Blair Witch sequel into the mythology of his Paradise Lost documentaries - from the use of Marilyn Manson and aerial shots across dark woods to the 'goths and wiccans could perhaps be decent people too' premise and the film's subtitle Book of Shadows apparently coming from a phrase used in Paradise Lost. I'm not sure whether this tie-in works - it doesn't really add anything to the Blair Witch mythology, and it kind of denigrates the real events and people in Paradise Lost to have some of the moments used for their documentary plundered for a fiction film (Berlinger doesn't just plunder his own works for imagery though. Apparently the asylum force feeding scene is a homage to a similar scene from Titicut Follies)

The final film is weird and doesn't really hold together at all but does provide a couple of striking moments, such as a scene following all the characters blacking out where they wake up in a 'snow storm' of paper, or the pre-miscarriage nightmare of the pregnant character wading without pause into the middle of a river and pushing a package that she is holding underneath the water while a babies cries are heard. That scene is one of the few to have an interesting off-kilter sense of development to it, as it seems normal at first until the character wades into the stream - many later scenes try to throw the audience off by suggesting things happened differently than they were first portrayed, but rather than creating a developing dreamlike atmosphere as in the stream scene, they mostly try to go back and re-write events.

I suppose that the film is also worth a look for the unintentional amusement of what first seems to be a rock or football crashing through a window, but which turns out to be an owl(!)

Berlinger talks of the way the studio tampered with the film, by for example including flash frames of gory murders intercut with the opening credits (which is strangely similar to the way Last House On Dead End Street was re-edited decades earlier), which he says interfere with the sense of questioning reality that he was trying to create. But there are so many other problems with the film that studio interference, while it doesn't help (or make the film any more commercial), is the least of it!

Berlinger has since returned back to documentaries with Paradise Lost 3, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and recently Under African Skies (about Paul Simon's Graceland album)
Last edited by colinr0380 on Wed May 06, 2015 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

#948 Post by zedz » Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:08 pm

Two contemporary horror movies that were variously recommended and I got cheap:

Kill List - I'd previously seen Ben Wheatley's Sightseers and thought it was a rather lazy and derivative piece of work, the best bits of which had already been delivered much more effectively on television (e.g. Nuts in May, Nighty Night, plenty of funnier and more concise skits on sketch shows). Still, there was a modicum of efficiency in the direction and the buzz around Kill List promised a much more ambitious film.

Well, it sort of is, but it's also lazy in its own way. I liked the idea that the film shifted genre every half an hour, from domestic drama, to hit man thriller, to 'proper' horror, but things tended to fall apart in the execution. The domestic drama at the outset, for example, was pretty mediocre and superficial, making clumsy stabs at much more proficient exemplars of a major British genre, and it seemed like most of the actors realized they were just in a holding pattern until the film proper began. The thriller material is better defined and mixes its moods with a bit more skill, and the horror stuff is quite sharp and efficient. But the problem is, if you're going to be performing this particular keep-em-guessing stunt, you really need the narrative and tonal shifts to click together in a satisfying way at the climax of the film. Instead, the screenwriters fudge the entire issue by keeping the nature of the organizing conspiracy extremely vague, never revealing the mysterious back-story, and refusing to flesh out any of the secondary characters. This 'strategy' gives them plenty of room to manouevre (and sure, it's easy enough to infer a reasonably banal plot, based on what we've seen in other, better horror movies, that can account for all of the film's incidents) but it's no substitute for the surprise and satisfaction of a genuine, chilling reveal.

Martyrs - This one's for mfunk (and he can have it). Again, the problem here is a certain, cynical laziness that means the film has to be filed under 'nothing special'. Technically, the filmmaking exhibits a modicum of competence, of the sort you'd find in a (very) average policier, but Laugier understands all too well that nobody pays attention to (very) average policiers, and evidently also understands that he's not going to make a splash with his visionary filmmaking skills or devastating intellect, so he makes his mark in the traditional way, by engineering notoriety.

Basically, if a film contains enough squirmy slashing (thus, straight razors-a-go-go in the fight scenes, even though something with a bit more range seems like the more sensible option in most cases) and explosive gore (thus, a double-barrelled shotgun, even though you'd think that if you're going to take down a whole household you might want something you don't have to constantly reload - and you might think of packing more than one pair of cartridges per family member plus 'one for the pot' - but logical niceties are overridden by the primary storytelling principle of maximum splatter) a certain number of international sales will instantly follow. So far, so good, but Laugier knows full well that he'll need to go further to really have a hit, he'll need to get transgressive and, even better, he'll need to plaster some pretentious conceptual figleaf over the whole sorry mess so that a slightly more self-aware audience will be able to kid themselves that they're not just there for the gory spectacle.

I guess making the climax of your film twenty minutes of a young woman being bound, beaten, humiliated and tortured is always going to guarantee you some kind of an international audience - if you're not fussy about what kind of audience you attract. I will say that the stunt work was good - it really did look like that girl was getting smacked around - so, hooray for that, I guess. I'd call that entire sequence gratuitous, but the laughable payoff of the film is so transparently intellectually bogus that it renders the entire film gratuitous.

Earlier in the thread, there was a discussion about the film's big twist (as it had been related to us) being theologically dodgy, but now that I've seen the film, it's so flimsy and so dodgy that it doesn't even really qualify as theology. It's little more than an amateurish screenwriting scam, along the lines of positing your main character as a composer of genius while scrupulously avoiding any evidence of his music on the soundtrack. Basically, the ending of the film (spoiler? not really - there's literally nothing there to spoil) amounts to: we've discovered something incredibly profound and life-changing, but we're not going to offer any coherent hint of what it is. Instead, we're going to have one character whisper it to another and you can imagine whatever you want. (In the writing room: "Whew, dodged a bullet there, huh guys?" High fives all round.) Now, of course you're not going to be able to reveal a life-shattering ultimate truth with absolute clarity in a movie, but there are plenty of films that do manage to hint at, rough out, imply or otherwise part-way deliver metaphysical revelation (see any number of films by Tarkovsky, Kiarostami, Dreyer). It's not that Laugier and his team have strived but failed; it's that they were never interested in their MacGuffin in that way in the first place - it was simply a way to blow off the audience and provide a weak, high-minded alibi for all the transgressive shit. It's not that this is an evil film, or even a particularly terrible one - it's really not that distinguished - it's just a thoroughly, dully cynical one.

EDIT: Oh, I nearly forgot to mention the film's other, howlingly trite and utterly obvious 'twist' in the first half:
SpoilerShow
the monster that's trying to kill her is, like, all in her mind, maaan

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swo17
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#949 Post by swo17 » Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:34 pm

zedz wrote:It's little more than an amateurish screenwriting scam, along the lines of positing your main character as a composer of genius while scrupulously avoiding any evidence of his music on the soundtrack.
I don't know though, I generally consider this preferable to actually showing something that the characters are going to describe as genius, profoundly moving, or what have you, and having it be fairly mediocre. See, for a recent example, Carey Mulligan's song in Shame.

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mfunk9786
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Re: The Horror List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Projec

#950 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:57 pm

zedz wrote:EDIT: Oh, I nearly forgot to mention the film's other, howlingly trite and utterly obvious 'twist' in the first half:
SpoilerShow
the monster that's trying to kill her is, like, all in her mind, maaan
Did you ever think it wasn't? I thought it was pretty deliberately obvious from square one.

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