Monday, 31 October 2022
He sure wasn't killed by the flu!
I unironically luuuuuuuuv Space Vampire, and if it wasn't an affront to God and explicitly illegal under Northern Ireland's draconian and frustratingly-specific laws on marriage, I would join in holy matrimony with it and make the Heavens tremble with our love. And no, a civil partnership with it is not the same.
Sadly, I can't find the fantastically bonkers electronic suite for the episode anywhere on Youtube, so have some of the SPACE ROCKERS OST instead, being the original home of Johnny Harris' "Odyssey: Part 1", which damn near made me flip my wig when it appeared on the original Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas soundtrack, so it's a nostalgia double whammy.
Sunday, 30 October 2022
Which one is the ugly one?
OCTOBER 24th - THE LAIR (2022) is a joint by Neil Marshall, and if all you've ever seen of his work is cult classic Dog Soldiers, you'll know what to expect in this military horror if you replace the werewolves with Venoms. A fun movie despite being made by reputedly dreadful people.
OCTOBER 25th - SCREAM (2022) is funny in that, when series writer Kevin Williamson was a young man, the movies were about the truly frightening things that young people were worried about: Do my friends actually like me? Can I trust them? Do my university friends hold my baggage against me? Is everyone looking at me? Does my childhood trauma really have to define the rest of my life? Will being stabbed hurt? Now that Williamson is a cranky old man, the series is about how The Young Folk And Their Pesky Computers are all being turned into crazy psychopathic killers by social media - even though this is a movie series that's been going for a quarter of a century now, its central premise being that The Young Folks were doing bad things 25 years ago before everyone was even on social media. Scream as a movie series has been about toxic fandoms right from the very start, so it's amusing to see Old Man Williamson put on his crank hat and blame social media for somehow pulling this kind of thing into existence.
Scream 2022 is also Not Very Good.
It rehashes a lot of the same story beats as before, the same killers, the same motivations, and even the same commentary about social media attention-seeking. There is nothing new here, and no amount of the film copping to it by going on rants about soft reboots and requels can hide that. It's well-made, but so were all the others, and the first three at least could pretend they had something to say, something new to bring to the horror/slasher genres. It passed the time, I guess.
OCTOBER 26th - CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF has likely birthed more than a few reviews along the lines of "a movie in which Oliver Reed plays a man who goes drinking and turns into a monster? LOL talk about typecasting etc", but it's actually an enjoyably camp monster romp that remains on my PS3 hard drive to this day, hence its inclusion here.
Oliver "I quite like screwing" Reed is actually pretty good as the perpetually-tortured wolfman cursed from birth to a life of tribulation because of the misfortune of his parents, or... something - it's actually pretty unclear why he's a werewolf, as the film goes to almost comedic lengths to pile on one bad omen after another, from his mute mother stabbing her abusive baron to death (which I'm not sure we're supposed to see as something entirely bad, as the old bastard absolutely has it coming) to his troubled birth described as "an offence against Heaven" to leering gargoyles reflected in a pool of holy water at his Christening as a thunderstorm rages outside the church.
This poor kid never gets a break to the point you're still kind of rooting for him when he goes on a murder rampage, a feeling probably helped along by the fact that young Reed is a bit of a snack, even as a foaming-at-the-mouth blood-drenched monster, to the point I can believe most of the audience at the original screenings were thinking "yeah some of this is bad optics but I could still fix him" even as he chewed on the throat of some random soak.
The brownface actors are probably a bit problematic these days, if only because some of the make up - especially Catherine Feller's bizarre sheen - looks weird on HD tvs, but the oversaturated colours are a big part of the sense of artificiality that lends this and other Hammer Horror productions their legendary garish charm. Great fun while it lasts.
OCTOBER 27th - CRAWL is a horror that brings the experience of being a black person in New Orleans between 2004-2022 to America's white middle class, and follows the relatable misadventures of a pretty white girl who has to deal with insurance write-offs on her dad's mortgage, looters, and good and helpful cops just doing their job. Oh, also there are some alligators who show up and tear people apart. I liked this, even if it is, as mentioned in jest, very, very white.
OCTOBER 28th - THE RATS ARE COMING! THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE! yes I watched it because of the title. A cheap-ass horror that tries to keep you guessing what kind of monster is at the heart of things despite having the title that it does, as - SPOILER WARNING - the creepy family at each other's throats are not secretly rats. I hate movies and tv shows that think they're keeping you guessing about an upcoming twist, so tv episodes or movies where I figure it out early or have it spoiled for me before it starts just feel like they're wasting my time, and I wasn't really in the mood for being strung along by this, either, but it's at least entertainingly horrible seeing these dreadful people making each other's lives miserable, even if this never looks less than super cheap.
OCTOBER 29th - MAGGIE... my mum died of liver cancer last year, and it's been weighing on me around this particular season because we just had her year's mind a week or so back, so a movie about someone dealing with a disease that slowly eats a loved one from within and makes them increasingly unrecogniseable over the course of the last few weeks of their life probably wasn't a good choice on my part for inclusion in a series of blog entries where I flippantly talk about meaningless ephemera that usually just sort of washes over me. This one was difficult to process, especially given the limitations of Swarzeneggar as a leading man in an intimate character piece, though "guy who can't quite express himself in a satisfactory way, even with the clock ticking" was a concept that I personally thought he handled quite well. I think it was the tiniest hints of denial here and there that really sold me.
I don't know that I can say I enjoyed this, but I appreciated what it tried to do. I probably won't watch it again.
OCTOBER 30th - HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS - being the movie version of a gothic soap opera I have tried to watch a couple of times, but I gather this condenses the most popular/memorable arc from the series, which centered on the murderous vampire, Barnabus Collins. Campily enjoyable, it seems like it's packing in a whole bunch of plot arcs and feels like a bit of a roller-coaster ride, with some of the characters feeling like they could be fleshed out a bit more - I didn't even realise that one character was the protagonist of the film, as another character who takes an early bath (literally as well as figuratively) feels like they have far development, though this also makes their being suddenly killed-off before the final reel feel like more of a shock. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of some of the arcs, particularly the doomed vampiress who's tracked down and dispatched by suspiciously effective police officers, with help from a doctor of science who has a medical bag which contains - as standard - a medically-sterilised wooden stake and large mallet and seriously, I knew American health care was the worst in the Western hemisphere, but even so holy crap.
Sunday, 23 October 2022
just think of me as a man who went berserk one summer day and was never right again
OCTOBER 17th - THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES is another Youtube find, a low-budget sci-fi horror born of the prodigious career of Roger Corman and infamous for various reasons such as its non-union status that led to Corman directing most of it across several days on a single sound stage before anyone could stop him, and its being sold on the back of a lurid and hastily-assembled lobby poster that had little to do with the finished film, a sticking point for the distributors to the extent they went back to the edit to bring it more in line with the poster and ended up building and shooting a monster for less than 200 dollars which only appeared in several seconds in the final reel, and which still bore no resemblance to the monster on the poster.
All of which is probably more entertaining than the film itself, which is a bog-standard b-feature about a psychic alien who tries to conquer the Earth by controlling the mind of one good dog, and one very horny mute. I did like the abstract nature of the menace the protagonist family faced, its agency doesn't really manifest in any real way until about halfway through the film when the family dog, Duke, goes bonkers under psychic duress, but he's just so dang lovable and clearly the best thing in this turkey that when he's dispatched offscreen with an axe, the film lost me. How dare you give us this beautiful boy and then just take him away, The Movie?
OCTOBER 18th - ALIEN, because it's quite a while since I saw this and I thought it would make a nice companion piece with...
OCTOBER 19th - (Halloween events paused for mum's year's mind)
OCTOBER 20th - ALIEN: RIVER OF PAIN, an audio play featuring the likes of Anna Friel, Colin Salmon and Alexander Siddig doing voice duties in a story that runs concurrent to the events depicted in...
OCTOBER 21st - ALIENS, and to complete the multimedia event I also played the unofficial Aliens sequel...
OCTOBER 22nd - ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES (PS3), the much-hated videogame that got a barrage of abuse upon release for its infamous array of technical issues and underpowered game engine, but I'm only here for that sweet, sweet Aliens sequel action in the cut scenes and linear/scripted voice-acted segments of the game and so planned to just sleepwalk through the shooty-shooty bits except NO FLIPPING KIDDING THIS THING IS JANKY so it was a bit of a slog. So yeah, I am all Aliens-ed out this Halloween.
There is little I can say about ALIEN and ALIENS that has not already been said, but here is my hot take, nonetheless: all this time, writers and directors have been trying to make a sequel to the wrong movie, and instead of making a new Alien, they should be making Aliens 2. Going backwards was a mistake for the franchise, as evidenced by every new Alien sequel searching desperately for some hook that "adds" something to the central premise of a monster terrifying the residents of a confined location but ultimately just ends up changing what that location is and calling it a day, and "It's Alien, but in (x)" has now been the setup for Alien 3 ("Alien, but in prison"), Alien 4 ("Alien, but in a space station"), Alien 5 ("Alien, but in a prequel") and Alien 6 ("Alien, but Alien"), and now I'm just over it already and just want them to do another Starship Troopers knock-off.
At this point in the property's life cycle, people are not interested in the subjective takes of an auteur like Ridley Scott or David Fincher or whatever the "original core vision" of what an Alien movie or franchise might actually be, they're just going to the cinema to keep current with what's going on with the established brands of the day - or at least, people who are actually going to the cinema who don't fear THE DEATH VIRUS THAT STALKS AMONG US are going to the cinema to keep current with established brands, and I don't just mean the endless Marvel movie parade, I mean the Fast And Furious-es and the Star Treks and the Whatever The Hell Jump Scare Piece Of Crap Horror Series Is In Vogue Right Nows-es, as cinema has been colonised by corporations for a while now because Oh God I'm ranting about capitalism again, does it ever end? Look, people know of the Alien brand and they will watch any old load of bollocks attached to it, which Ridley Scott proved beyond question with the abominable Prometheus, so I'm begging you here to just give me an Aliens sequel already. Leave Ridley Scott to make his space gods prequel movies and hire himbo auteurs like Michael Bay or Zack Snyder to churn out muscular military science fiction in an alternate cinematic universe like the one the Aliens Versus Predator movies presumably exist within.
The original two movies are classics, so I can offer you little insight to those, but the audio play - RIVER OF PAIN, available on Youtube, should you wish to search for it - is quite amusing, even if it falls apart the closer it gets to events in the original movie canon, with some of the expository dialogue that "organically" fills you in on what's happening through audio cues being entertainingly blunt to the point it may bring you out of the fiction, but it's still more fun than almost all of the Aliens comics I've read. Technically, it's preceded by another audio play that tries a similar trick of weaving events in and around the space between two films, but life is short, daddio. You may as well expect me to play - or at least watch the cutscenes from - ALIEN: ISOLATION, which also does the whole "between movies" thing, but instead of an atmospheric haunted house in space stealth game with gorgeous retro-aesthetics channeling the sci-fi design sensibilities of the 1970s, I went with the far less impressive ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES, a stiff sci-fi shooter with gorgeous retro-aesthetics channeling the sci-fi design sensibilities of the 1980s.
A first person experience that borrows liberally from the Alien/Aliens canon to pad its linear and uninteresting narrative experience with lore, it just ain't great, despite some good environment models and atmospheric sound design. The sudden appearance of Michael Biehn's Hicks dangles the possibility of something interesting happening except he immediately dismisses that by responding to questions about his activities between the end of Aliens and his reappearance in this game with "but that's not important right now" because - of course - you have to buy seperate game content to get that story, because capitalism is inescapable and destroying everything it might once have claimed to have created and holy crap I'm doing it again. Anyway, I literally bought this game for four quid from the local CEX, so if you're curious, it'll cost you buttons to check it out, but as mentioned, it ain't great.
So I guess there wasn't a lot of insight or content to come from the whole Alien multimedia event bit of the horror marathon, huh? I thought it might be a good idea, too - diversify the subject matter away from just watching a movie a day. Ah well.
My one takeaway, I guess, is that the longer the Alien franchise goes on, the worse the plots and scripts got, until all you're left with is some background lore for the storefront to an online service, and this isn't even me slipping into the Capitalism Bad thing again, this is literally all that's left of Alien - or any other piece of art - after its dystopian capitalist hell crept up on us in the dark until we were consuming in a way that didn't even require we have something physical to show for it, like a copy of a film or game or book that we could put on a shelf, even when those things have become increasingly cheaper as people offload them to glorified pawn shops in favor of streaming services. The last piece of Alien lore I saw was the Colonial Marines menu screen telling me to log onto their store to buy new levels now that I'd finished the rather short game campaign.
We don't "buy" anymore in the sense that we work towards owning something, instead it's become the norm to pay a tithe to a corporation for temporary access to media that we already paid for, to television, to movies, to games, to healthcare, to water, to shelter - to food, even. Our corporate future has arrived and it has taken even the concept of aspiration from us and we embrace it and tell ourselves it's better than what we had, making peace with the concept of owning nothing much like the peasantry of the post-Enclosure era made peace with their new reality. Why do I mention this? Well, because the dystopian hell future of the Alien franchise never predicted this, so its capitalist version of the future, meant as cautionary and frightening, is actually optimistic, because within that fiction, characters at least had an end goal, even if it was only to own shares in the corporation that treated them as disposable. In our world of 2022, we only really work to keep the lights on, and somehow we got convinced this is better. That's probably something we should be scared about.
OCTOBER 23rd the Dun-Dun-DUNNNNWITCH HORROR, starring an oddly-flat Dean Stockwell, who I am more used to seeing in an animated state in his acting roles, though to be fair, his rolling eyes do a lot of the heavy lifting in this one. I kinda liked this slice of atmospheric 1970s eldritch cheese based on one of HP Lovecraft's less noticeably racist works, but the presence of a mustachioed Stockwell - welcome as it is in any and all circumstances - just made me think of fellow 1970s horror cheese offering "Whisper", one of the better episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, in which Stockwell delivered a similarly detached performance in a story not a million miles from HPL's cosmic horror ouvre. If these reviews seem scattershot and in desperate need of an editorial pass, it's because I write them while I'm drunk. Being a high-functioning alcoholic with adult ADHD is what really scares me these days.
Sunday, 16 October 2022
I'm too tired to be depressed
OCTOBER 10th - CREEPSHOW is total garbage. I gather it's actually well-regarded by horror fans, but as I have mentioned on many occasions, I am not a horror fan, and as time goes on and I discover more about the joys of living with previously-undiagnosed neurodivergence, I understand that people of my disposition generally tend not to get along with the genre, which is something I probably could have done with knowing well before now. Anyhoo, this is an anthology by the late George Romero, who even I like because of that time he just flat-out said he never put any social commentary into Day Of The Dead and people had just read what they wanted into it over the years, which is probably biting the hand that feeds you - there's a zombie joke in there somewhere - but it's still treated as some kind of anti-capitalist cinematic masterwork anyway, even though George kept trying to make people see that he just wanted to make blood-spattered nonsense in peace and not have smelly nerds asking him about capitalism at DISMEMBERFEST '97 when he's just there as a thank-you to the legions of 13 year olds who kept him in business. Bless him, I do hope he's not in Hell.
I didn't really like this anthology thing he did, though. Some nice creature effects, but to be honest, I'm on the side of the dad who throws the comic book in the trash at the start of the movie, as if this was the quality of stories in that comic, he's doing his kid a favor.
OCTOBER 11th - OLD is M Night Shama Lama Ding Dong's latest film, and it's... kinda okay? I gather there were lots of objections to it at the time of release and it certainly isn't perfect, but I enjoyed it as a Twilight Zone style romp, possibly because I don't remember his other films too much, so don't have that lingering disappointment that many other critics of his work seem to use as a lens through which to view everything he does. I recall his tv thing with Matt Dillon or whoever it was - I am not kidding when I say I can't remember his stuff - was entertaining, especially when it throws in curveballs like killing off the protagonists halfway through a season or spelling out its central mystery halfway through the first season rather than teasing it out forever, but apart from that, I'm drawing a blank. I think I liked The Village, and I can remember Last Airbender being pretty poor, even for a kung-fu movie - and I like kung-fu movies.
Anyway, back to OLD, which I thought was alright. Some decent gross-out moments, and I'm willing to overlook problematic depictions of mental illness given the latter reveal of the film - which isn't great, but is at least self-contained and doesn't require constant unpacking and nitpicking long after the credits have rolled. I've seen worse. The recent Twilight Zone reboot, for example.
OCTOBER 12th - PANIC, an 8-part teen drama - so you know this day was well spent - on Amazon Prime about a motley crew of very horny small town "high school students" who are clearly in their 20s and 30s competing against each other in an illegal and high-stakes version of Truth Or Dare in which participants face individually-tailored scenarios meant to frighten them into dropping out of the game - so kind of like a backyard version of Fear Factor.
It's okay, I guess. No big shakes, but for a show whose narrative arcs hinge on the negatives of small town wealth inequality, there's surprisingly little in the way of seeing how this manifests for the various participants in the titular game, so it's unclear what their stakes actually are. It does that usual teen drama thing where we're told that poverty has impacted a character, but we don't really see how it does so, it's just implied that they don't have access to some of the benefits of a capitalist society, even though when the plot demands it, a top of the range smartphone just drops out of the sky for them, or when they're painted into the plot corner of being homeless after one of the many soap opera threads padding out the running time, a character lets them move into their spare room on a massive farm, or when someone needs hospital treatment, they just get it, which is something that doesn't even happen now in the UK where healthcare is free, let alone a dystopian third world shithole like America. The obvious joke here is "I expected a more substantial critique of capitalism from Amazon", but apparently they're killing that over on The Boys, so... eh. What do I know.
Diverting enough, and not so long it outstays its welcome, but it felt like some of the "stunning plot reveals" could have had a bit more thought put into them, as there's at least one revelation that happens because a character finds a random bit of paper with a criminal mastermind's name on it just laying around.
OCTOBER 13th - ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER - is what I imagine could happen if someone gave the Asylum enough money or creative talent to actually make good on one of the shit-meets-wall pitches for their awful films instead of just knocking something out as quickly as they can with whatever ex-wrestler really needs a paycheck that week. It's actually pretty entertaining, even if it does that usual "this ain't your granny's vampires!" thing where it cherry-picks from the various versions of vampire lore which rules are or aren't applicable to its particular strain of bloodsucker, but that just helps underscore the feeling that what you're watching is a kind of live-action superhero anime, and that your expectations regarding acting and dialogue quality should be adjusted downwards accordingly. Fun while it lasted.
OCTOBER 14th - HALLOWEEN ENDS is another garbage sequel to another garbage reboot of a garbage string of sequels to an effective but bafflingly-influential pair of slasher movies from the late 1970s. I hadn't seen any of the Halloween movies until recently, but I had seen people say with a straight face that the Rob Zombie reboot and its sequel weren't the worst in the series, and then I saw those movies and thought "I never need to see any more Halloween movies if these are considered "not the worst" by the series' own fans" but I did anyway and honestly, I now couldn't name the worst Halloween movie if you asked me to, because at some point they all blur together into a sludge and even the notorious Halloween 3 isn't that bad anymore because at least it tried. I liked that Michael Myers was just a sad old man living in a hobbit hole, with barely any murder left in him, but even that gets abandoned rapidly in the final reel as he just becomes a supernatural killing monster again.
Anyway, this sucked. There were themes and visual callbacks in the film that illustrate there was a lot of talent and creative thought involved in the production, but that just means this movie is interesting as well as terrible.
OCTOBER 15th - VAMPIRE ACADEMY is yet another Superhero Hogwarts teen drama, this time about a school for Nosferatus instead of whatever the last bunch of these things have been about - magic or witches, usually. I dunno. I am happy to say that Vampire Academy is at least a good addition to this crowded field, but sadly that doesn't mean it is true.
Vampire Academy is terrible, terrible television, and if you told me someone made it for a bet after being told that there is no such thing as a show so bad that someone won't at least watch it ironically, I would believe you. It starts - as all of these YA shows do - with breathy voicovers infodumping, and it doesn't get any more original from there. It's an "apart from that, how was the play, Mrs Lincoln?" kind of deal, as the show is good apart from the acting, the script, the effects, the worldbuilding, the plot, and the central premise - fix all of those, and you might at least have had something that was merely tosh. As it is, though? Unwatchable.
OCTOBER 16th - HELLRAISER (2022) is the FLIPPING HECK eleventh entry in the increasingly-ropey series based on Clive Barker's short story/novella The Hellbound Heart, and while I liked that first and second movie, I feel that if anything brought forth from the mind of Barker onto the big screen should have spawned endless sequels of diminishing returns, it should have been NIGHTBREED. This franchise? I am not so keen, to be honest, but a reboot might invigorate things with fresh perspective on the concepts.
Except not so much. I did like the conceit of the main character turning down their heart's desire purely because they've seen enough Twilight Zone episodes to know that if someone offering to fix it so you "never feel pain again" also happens to be an avatar of an eldritch abomination made of clockwork parts and rotting flesh, they may have a different interpretation of that seemingly straightforward brief than you - someone who prefers their skin attached to their body - would, but otherwise we're in familiar Hellraiser territory: someone opens the box, the Cenobites come, people get torn apart with rusty chains arrgh arrgh my eyes please don't take my eyes arrgh my eyes they've taken my eyes arrgh god help me I can still see arrgh, then someone closes or destroys the box, the end, "or is it?", the end. It's well-made if nothing else, and while that alone sets it apart from all the films in the series that came after Hellraiser 3, it's otherwise by-the-numbers in terms of plot, and the whole thing is pretty much just cruising on brand recognition. Given cinema has entered the age of the Franchise, I suppose that will be enough to bring it success.
Sunday, 9 October 2022
My only mistake was trusting a Frenchman with the fondue
Halloween is the best holiday, because unlike Christmas - with its forced comradery, a shallow and unconvincing association with a religious ceremony (Oxford comma) and rampant celebration of consumption, is more a distilled version of all that's wrong with Western civilisation than it is an actual holiday - you get to opt in or out of Halloween, making this is the absolute best month of the year.
The seasons of the year have moved away from days of being bombarded by nightmarish global warming-induced heatwaves to days of nightmarish global warming-induced Arctic winters which are made all the worse by it now being too expensive to turn the heating on so WOOOOOooooOOOOOooooo - that's my spooky sound effect for something scary, fyi - now Halloween really is a terrifying holiday, as it marks the point where your bills get too expensive for you to survive. WOOOOooooOOOOoooo time to get a third job delivering food in your increasingly expensive car during your diminishingly fewer off-hours while pooping and peeing in a carrier bag oooOOOooooOOOoo and so on.
Yes, for one month, we can make-believe that the world is a terrifying place only because we've decided to pretend it is, and not because of the economic collapse and mass die-off of people in our social circles that are dropping dead from overwork, mental health issues, or even - oh yeah because that's still a frigging thing - the god damned pandemic that is absolutely still in full swing and creating a backlog in the still-underfunded NHS so bad that even serious conditions unrelated to the global death virus are going unchecked. I caught it like two months ago, my dad caught it yesterday - it's still a thing. The pandemic is still a thing. Like four, five months ago I had to go to two covid funerals in one day. I had to skip the walk from the chapel to the cemetary behind a guy I once worked with so I could wait around for another service. Good times.
Anyway, I spent one October a few years ago watching nothing but horror-based media for the entire month, and I thought I would do it again this year. Why? No idea. Do I need a reason for an act of indulgent whimsy? We're closer to nuclear annihilation than we've been in decades, so why not forget that and just watch some movies about werewolveses and gobbalins? It's my dang blog, I can do what I want. When I actually post on the bastard thing, that is.
Despite being my all-time favorite movie monsters, there are very few objectively good werewolf movies, and 2021's WEREWOLF CASTLE is not one of them.
High definition really does no favors to cheap period-set horror movies, as within the first minute or so we're watching "medieval villagers" in machine-stitched clothing running around their pristine village of brightly-coloured signs rendered in recogniseable fonts and affixed to houses built of factory-produced planks - occasionally consulting multicoloured laser-printed maps - before scant seconds later, we're watching a kid encounter a dude with long hair and fangs who tells the child "My name is Wolf Stan. My friends call me Wolf." and maybe I'm jumping the gun here but I am ready to call it on who the werewolf is. Also this film may not be creating an entirely convincing illusion. We'll see.
Obviously I am being faecitious and unkind for the purposes of satire, and I actually liked the straight face with which all this was delivered combined with the obvious camp of the two-piece werewolf costumes - yes, costumes, not CGI - that look like off-model Chewbacca cosplayers. Yes, you can see the very pixels that join together the componant elements of every composite shot and the stitches in every costume so there is absolutely no chance of not seeing how naff the monster costumes look up close, especially in the day-for-night sequences and those scenes where the director or camera operator has decided to just let the auto focus on the digital camera do its thing, but all the way up to the inevitable final swordfight in a castle with tarmac on its roads and aluminim safety rails on its battlements, it's a schlockfest in the best spirit of the season. Maybe calling it complete trash is unkind, but I'm struggling to think of a way to acknowledge the cheapness of proceedings while also mentioning that I did, in fact enjoy the film, even if I might never watch it again.
OCTOBREEEEEE 2nd - The Munsters (2022), a remake of old tv sitcoms The Munsters and The Munsters Today, a while back the trailer was leaked and people devoted almost a whole four hours on Twitter to rubbishing it, which is practically an eternity in internet years, and to be fair, in isolation those clips that made it into the trailer made it look like a catastrophe to the point that the dreadful RedLetterMedia made a whole video about it, but watched as a whole, the actual film is quite enjoyable camp in the style of the old shows, right down to the terrible jokes, comical misunderstandings, funny noises when someone falls over, and mugging actors - though one thing it has that the shows didn't was access to an eye-searingly garish colour palette, which is actually kind of fun and nice to see in an age when almost everything has to be dour and visually desaturated.
It's really old-fashioned in that Saturday morning movie kind of way that those of a certain vintage who remember terrestrial UK television will understand. There's no gore, nudity or foul language - it's basically the least Rob Zombie movie that Rob Zombie has ever made - so it's perfect entertainment for kids. Or at least it would be if the little devils didn't all have the attention spans of a gnat thanks to social media exposure atomising their ability to focus. If they were still capable of sitting still and watching something that didn't have screaming goats or exploding heads in it, though, your kids could absolutely watch this without you having to worry about them for an hour and a half - yes, a movie that's less than two hours long. I warned you it was old-fashioned.
OCTOBER 3rd - NOPE (2022), being Jordan Peele's third directoral outing, and very enjoyable it is. Best gone into cold, in my opinion, but it's to be commended for making UFOs not just spooky again, but outright terrifying.
OCTOBER 4th - today's frightful offering was 2003's DEAD END, a film about a family stuck in a car on a seemingly neverending road, and not only will you guess the ending in the first five minutes of the film, but you've probably guessed it already from what little I've told you of the premise. Don't let that put you off, though, as this was well-made and acted even if some of the character notes that the actors had to work with were a little too broad. If nothing else, it's nice to see Ray Wise deliver the line "I forgot the number for nine one one."
OCTOPOPOPOPOR 5th - PUMPKINHEAD 2: BLOOD WINGS starts off poorly, with a physically-deformed man being beaten, stabbed and hung before being dropped into a well by a drunken teenage mob as his mother screams in agony as she feels every blow inflicted - and all this makes it kind of hard to defend the horror genre as goofy camp fun, because this sequence is just unpleasant to watch, and sadly a paradigm of what is to come in the following 90 minutes. It's a shame, because the titular Pumpkinhead is an impressive practical effect, created by the late, great Stan Winston, only slightly let down by the director deciding to keep the cabling and wires used to work the full-sized creature clearly visible onscreen, and particularly easy to pick out because of some garish lighting choices.
Despite the usual "I expected a higher class of entertainment from a film about a giant killer homunculus called Pumpkinhead who spends his time murdering rednecks in a series of increasingly cheaper and more violent sequels" ripostes from facetious losers still writing blog entries in the year of our Lord 2022, I do kinda expect these things to be aware of their own level and not quite so po-faced that the gruesome things they depict just become a chore to be endured. Well anyway, I didn't really like this, and it has Andrew Robinson in a mustache, so you know I tried.
OCTOBER 6th - 1933's THE INVISIBLE MAN introduces its central hook pretty early on, but then it's got a brief run time of 68 minutes as well as that title so I guess hanging about or being coy was never really an option. All the same, I liked that it took a few minutes to establish some semblance of mystery as to the condition afflicting the main character when he turns up covered in bandages one cold winter night on the doorstep of a rural inn, but within 10 minutes he's stripping naked and vandalising the village while laughing maniacally, before finally calming down and deciding that if he wants to stop giving people the impression he's some sort of crazy man, he needs to do a series of random murders. "We'll begin with a reign of terror." He says, rocking back and forth in his chair. "A few murders here and there - murders of great men, murders of little men. Just to show we make no distinction. We might even wreck a train or two." Yeah, I am not sure how this guy created an invisibility formula, to be honest, he doesn't strike me as much of a thinker, even before he announces "I had to kill a policeman to keep warm", and I am not a brain scientist by any measure - you only have to peruse the contents of this blog to see that - but even I know that this is not how thermodynamics work. I did find his "reign of terror" rather quaint, as he goes about throwing random hicks down hills and derailing Thomas The Tank Engine while the cops sit around a big table scratching their heads hoping for a snow day.
Not very terrifying by modern standards, but entertaining hokum.
OCTOBER 7th - Technical difficulties arise as I accidentally watch SAVAGE DAWN (1988) thinking it was some other film I had lined up, but I continued to watch it afeter realising it was something else, as it has Lance Henrikson kicking bikers in the head for 90 minutes in a contemporary retelling of Shane, and I am, if nothing else, a man of simple pleasures. Not even remotely horror-related apart from, of course, our man Lance's lengthy career as a genre player in classics (such as Near Dark and the original Pumpkinhead), as well as starring in complete trash (like the original Pumpkinhead), but an entertaining distraction, if only for the fight scenes, which seem unchoreographed to the point they look like Lance and the lads throwing down for a laugh after kicking-out time at their local pub more than they do action scenes. Utter tosh, but amusing. To me.
To keep the horror marathon going, I had to pull double time by watching Sh! The Octopus, a 1937 comedy mystery you probably know as the origin of a certain gif that did the rounds on Twitter a while back. The central mystery is about whether or not a crime mastermind called The Octopus is at large in a lonely lighthouse populated on a stormy night by a cast of the usual characters, but also there is an actual octopus in the film because I guess they were worried that moviegoers might feel cheated otherwise. And also there is a witch. It's... actually pretty entertaining, and you can watch it if you type the name and year of release into a Google or Bing search, as it's rather obviously fallen into the public domain since 1937.
OCTOBER 8th - THE MUMMY (1959) oh yeah, baby, gimme some of that sweet Hammer House Of Horror action. It remains inexplicable that Britain retains a reputation for classy cultural entertainment when it gave the world a studio so dedicated to producing utter trash full of gore and tits, but to be honest, most of British comedy is just telling a dick joke using words of five or more syllables and somehow the country has still ended up being seen as the world's primary source of enlightened witticisms rather than a holding area for horny dads perpetually retweeting Marina Hyde articles into my Twitter timeline.
Likewise, British horror still projects an image of gothic melodrama in period costumes despite the best and most memorable examples to hail from these dismal isles of wailing spirits being utter nonsense like this racially-insensitive zombie revenge flick featuring (then) living meme Christopher Lee as an "Egyptian" priest revived to take vengeance upon the Englishmen who disturbed his resting place. The obvious problem with this setup is that considering how many cultures the English have plundered, I, like many others these days, was on the mummy's side and thought the colonising grave-robbing fuckers had it coming. This is - unusually for British media of the time - actually called out by one of the characters, but we're explicitly supposed to view him as a cultist and zealot, so it rings as hollow as the rebuttal from Peter Cushing's character that if the British didn't dig up sacred graves, how would they ever find out about their contents? Specifically, if those contents would look nice in the British Museum, or mounted in one of the Queen's billion pound hats.
There's a lot of coincidences in this film, too, from the protagonist's daughter being the spitting image of an "Egyptian" princess despite being a caucasian English woman, and the resolution of the central mystery as seen from the protagonist's point of view hinges on hearing a non-white has moved in next door. I mean, yes, he's described as "an Egyptian" by the working class Joes of the English home counties and even the actual protagonist of the film offers "this is simply too great of a coincidence!" but... yeah, this is actually a Heck of a coincidence given the specific Egyptian curse-related shenanigans going on, especially as this is also a remarkably specific ethnic identifier even for a culture as potty for all things Egyptian as late 19th century Britain was, and I know from living in London that he would almost certainly have simply been identified by a far more generic slur beginning with the letter P and no-one would have been joining any dots between that and a spate of reanimated corpse-related murders. There's a bit where Peter Cushing just spends about five minutes insulting the Egyptian dude in his home that I thought was going somewhere, like he'd figured out that this was the guy who'd been directing the mummy to commit murders and was trying to goad him into tipping his hand, but afterwards he goes home and makes it clear that he doesn't know either way and had just gone into this guy's home and called Egyptians a bunch of backwards savages with a stupid religion. I can't prove it, but I think this character is supposed to be Winston Churchill's dad.
I'm waffling now, but I did enjoy this, just like I enjoy most Hammer offerings for the lowbrow unpretentious fare they are. Good fun all round, especially if you're white and don't let brownface and general cultural insensitivity bother you too much, and luckily for me, I am an utter clod.
OCTOBER 9th - WEREWOLF BY NIGHT (2022), the latest Disney/Marvel product, and it's as boringly competant as all the rest, this time rather blatantly stripmining the classic Universal Monsters franchises of their most discernable characteristics, seeing as the actual Universal movie studio, when it recently remade many of the original monster movies such as The Mummy and Dracula, decided not to use any of those movies' most discernable characteristics to sell their brands and instead went with the usual washed-out colours and CGI spectacle. Werewolf By Night instead tries to go retro, but with only marginal success as it still retains all the positives and negatives that make a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie so identifiable, most notably the over-designed characters, which is quite a trick to pull off when your main draw is a guy who looks like the old wolf man - in that he's just a dude with hairy shoulders and a set of those glow in the dark fangs that they used to give away with British comics all the time. The human who transforms into the wolf man has lots of face tattoos, and these appear on the wolf man, too. They just had to make a classic design more fussy than it needed to be, I guess. Maybe it's a legal thing. Eh.
I did enjoy it while it lasted, so don't mind my ragging on it too much, I'm just trying to fill the blog inches here. The standard Marvel Studio type of "boring competance" that everyone keeps complaining about is plenty good enough for me, to be honest, and I'm not sure what people want when they say "I wish they'd try something different from the standard formula that's made these movies the most lucrative entertainment franchise in the history of human civilisation", like maybe they want Iron Man to be played by an elephant, or for dialogue to be recorded and re-dubbed backwards. Who knows? Marvel can keep churning this stuff out and I'll keep watching it like the uncultured dog I am.