Monday, 7 October 2019

A dear friend has started drinking in moderation and all hell is breaking loose

I shall be spending the month of October watching horror and supernatural-themed movies and television on top of my usual diet of utter garbage, and I will be keeping a rough diary here on the blog to keep me honest and prevent any blogging slippages for at least a bit.

1st OCT - OCTOPUS is a cheapo horror flick made in 2000, apparantly, and I say "apparantly" because it's been sitting on my PS3 hard drive since 2013 and I figure it's time I watched it, if only before my beloved corporate hardware finally dies and I'm left using machines with vastly inferior media players - not that I'm mentioning any names like the piece of trash PS4 or anything.
The movie is about a young CIA honkey analyst who can't shoot a gun at people but who still ends up escorting an English terrorist-for-hire via a nuclear submarine captained by a lone wolf who doesn't play by the rules but always gets the job done etc and the sub gets attacked by a giant octopus created by the toxic monster juices transported to Fidel Castro in 1962 by the Soviet Union, and there's also a cruise ship on the surface that's being hijacked by terrorists as well, so the octopus attacks that, too.  It is a bit silly and not very good, the cgi octopus effects being about as impressive as you might expect for a low-budget creature feature made in 2000, but it is eventful, which I like, it's just a shame that the material wasn't in more capable hands.
OCTOPUS?  More like erm... PLOPtopus!  HA HA YEAH that's right, I went there.  I'm like the blogosphere's own Oscar flipping Wilde over here.

2nd OCT - THEM!  The b-movie classic.  Not one for twists and turns, this is the definition of meat and potatoes schlock, not hanging about before throwing giant ants at you.  Hard to know what to say about this that others haven't said already, but I know some people have made a fist at associating the film with atomic panic and while I would say that is a fair enough reading, it's only in the sense that all creative works are informed in some way by the sensibilities of their age.  It's really just a goofy monster feature played with a straight face and if by some miracle you haven't seen it, I would reccomend you do so.

3rd OCT - TRILOGY OF TERROR is a made for tv anthology from 1975 that is fondly remembered by many of a certain generation, but it's hard to see why apart from its pretty good final shot.  The stories are not very good, and I'm not saying you will guess the twist in the story about twins immediately upon watching, I am saying you can probably guess what it is just from me saying the word "twins".
Karen Black looking - if you will forgive my momentary lapse into the contemporary juvenile parlance - "Fine AF" plays the leads in all three tales, all of which are from stories written by the prolific Richard Matheson, and bar the lack of a host or any connective gimmick to tie the tales together, it feels a lot like his work on the Twilight Zone from a decade earlier: a mix of goofy and serious, with the final screwball chase sequence featuring a murderous idol coming across as very Tom and Jerry-eque.
Coincidentally, I am also partaking of THE NIGHT GALLERY, Rod Serling's copyright-bothering follow-up to Twilight Zone.  A contemporary of Trilogy of Terror, it's a clone of Serling's earlier anthology series to the point it isn't funny, right down to his turn as the unnamed host.  The tone is considerably more uneven than in Twilight Zone, with some painfully unfunny skits stinking the place up between the more intense stories, but it does also have Leslie Nielsen cosplaying as Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid 4, and Henry Silva in a turban, either of which are worth the price of admission, but here you actually get BOTH.

I'm only about halfway through so far, and the standouts have been Pickman's Model, a very loose adaptation of the HP Lovecraft story of the same name which also incorporates elements of The Shadow Over Innsmouth to create something very close to what I imagine an adaptation of Lovecraft would have been like if it had been undertaken by Hammer Studios - though it does so without Hammer's gore and busty wenches - and Brenda, based on a short story by Margaret St Clair, about a mean-spirited young girl who encounters a shambling creature in the woods around her isolated island home.

4th OCT - SHARK EXORCIST is not one of the more highbrow horrors I have seen in my time.
Recounting the plot is a bit hard, as I try to remember it and it sort of blurs and evades my attempts to pin down specifics, but I have generally avoided the cynical subgenre of horror that this kind of movie occupies and which is normally well-served by the output of shark-fixated production company The Asylum, in which the films are so bad that this becomes the attraction in and of itself, but whereas The Asylum does actually try to produce the best product it can and with a straight face - the decidedly self-awareness of the company's Sharknado series is far from indicitive of the rest of their output - Shark Exorcist is deliberately bad, and as a result is often just embarrassing to watch, and occasionally troubling, as in the scenes featuring an actress either playing a small child or someone with developmental problems, and the character is the target of prurient sapphic overtones meant to tittilate, so... yeah, there's that.
It's one of those films that you should by all means own and have in your collection so that you say to people HA HA HA LOOK AT THIS I HAVE A MOVIE CALLED JESUS CHRIST VAMPIRE HUNTER IN MY DVD COLLECTION but under no circumstances should you or anyone else actually watch the film and collapse the waveform, and instead just leave the possibility dangling in the mind about what such a film might be like.
There's an interview somewhere with the head honchos of The Asylum and they're pretty frank about their rationale and process, but basically it boils down to "streaming companies want to be able to say they have a movie called Attack Of The Shark Nazis so they pay us to go and make it in like two weeks and they don't care what the end product is like as long as the tone is serious and not self-effacing" and while I appreciate that means a stream of duff movies is guaranteed to flood the market, I also appreciate that this model - or at least the closest approximation of it that Roger Corman managed to practice from the 1960s onwards - is what led to the careers of people like James Cameron and Jack Nicholson.  So I guess the next auteur might conceivably come from these quarters, I just wish he'd hurry up and arrive so these companies can stop doing this.

5th OCT - DREAMCATCHER , which is a title foisted upon director Lawrence Kasdan by the studio, as they felt that "Attack Of The Bum Worms From Space" was not going to fly with the famously high standards of the American filmgoer.
True story: I was once getting on quite well with a lady in the bar and she told me that she worked as an usher in the local cinema and had to see the movies over and over again and the only one she enjoyed every time was Deuce Bigelow: European Gigalo and lord knows I am not a judgmental man but this was the precise moment I knew this was not going to work out but anyway, has there ever been a more devalued and meaningless phrase in the English language than "Based On A Story By Stephen King"?  Nonetheless, any film that features an eight foot alien monster clawing its way out of Damien Lewis' ass onscreen can't be all bad - not that Dreamcatcher doesn't try.  Actually, that cheap and obvious gag is a little unfair, as I thought this was okay - not a classic, not even something I would watch again, to be honest, but I did enjoy it, and it had some tense moments once it got past kneecapping any attempt at a consistent tone with all the fart gags.
The flashbacks to when the cast were kids gives it a similar air to the recent IT, and while not a big Stephen King reader myself, a mate who is far more versed in such things once explained how there was a lot of overlap in King's work, both in the plot elements (psychic powers, small towns, racial tensions, etc) but also in how a lot of his work takes place in Maine/Derry and features malevolent evil beings that may or may not be aspects of the monster from IT - apparantly IT appeared in that JFK time travel thing based on a King novel, and some fans posit that Mr Grey from Dreamcatchers is also IT, though he clearly isn't in this movie.  Anyway, it's over now, and so is this review.

6th OCT - GHOSTS OF MARS, which is me cheating on the horror watching because I don't need spooktober as a pretext to watch this, as it is one of my favorite John Carpenter films.  It just looks so dang cheap even though you know they spent plenty on it, with dozens of actors and huge sets and oh yeah they dyed the desert red so they could pretend it was Mars.  This thing was not cheap, so Johnny C done went and made it look cheaper than it was in some crazy asthetic choice and the result is something that still looks and sounds unique, featuring some bizarre performances from the cast, including a mouth-breathing turn from Jason Statham and Ice Cube being just remarkably terrible to the point you know it's deliberate.  It makes me think of what a huge-budget Doctor Who might have been like before the BBC discovered CGI effects, with its anachronistic technology and  setup of a mining town digging up a cursed tomb and unleashing savage body-snatchers on an unsuspecting Mars - the premise arguably continuing Carpenter's love of Nigel Kneale.  The guitar rock score is pretty cheesey, and some of the visual tics are weird, but I love the way the film compounds anachronism upon anachronism to create something distinctive.

7th OCT - SILVER BULLET is another cheat, because I don't need an excuse to watch this.  It's just a great little werewolf flick Based On A Story By Stephen King which transplants the beast's reign of terror upon the occupants of a small town from the traditional setting of a European village full of yokels to a small American town in the South circa 1976 full of yokels with guns who mob up not at the start of act 3 but at the end of act 1, so they're slaughtered and the smart survivors get the Hell out of Dodge in the middle of the second act.
I noticed the names Terry O'Quinn and Bill Smitrovich in the credits because they also appeared in the credits of Chris Carter's MILLENNIUM, of which I am doing a rewatch because what the heck, 'tis the season.  It really wanted to be then-popular serial killer movie Se7en, but it's dated quite a bit and some of the dialogue has not matured like a fine wine.  I do recall the law of diminishing returns as the seasons of the show progressed, with some disastrous misunderstanding of the common criticism that the show's universe seemed devoid of light or human compassion leading to some - admittedly good - comedy episodes rather than a more balanced tone or human characters you could warm to, but even now the pilot is impressively bleak.

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