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.

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