Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween 2010: October 25

My friend JD naturally joined me for another movie marathon today. Before settling in for a night of spooky sights and screams, we also stopped by My Little Horror Shop, a really fantastic local place. As unlikely as this is, but if they're are any readers in the Winchester VA area that still haven't checked this place out, you really need to.

Witchboard (1986)
As far as late eighties supernatural slashers go, I rank this one pretty highly. It has a legitimately interesting mystery, some actual character development for its cast, and very good pacing. The swooping, “Evil Dead”-style direction adds some tension to the attack scenes. The cast is pretty awful, admittedly. (Even if Tawny Whitesnake provides some fantastic eye-candy.) It’s really different from the rest of the horror output we’re us to seeing from this time, while also belonging completely to that decade. (7.5/8)

The Exorcist (1974)

There really is so much to say about this movie. First off, having just watched “The Omen” the other night, its fun to compare these two devil flicks. While Satan pretty much reigns supreme in “The Omen,” “The Exorcist” is much more hopeful. It’s a straight-on tug-of-war between good and evil throughout the whole film. Freidkin’s use of subliminal images is so successful. Moreover, this movie is really scary. I’m not exactly sure why or how it pulled it off, but many scenes continue to be legitimately unnerving. I honestly think the sound design has a lot to do with it, maybe more then anything else. As the countless rip-offs showed, it’s not so much a little girl getting possessed and vomiting pee soup that is disturbing, but add a truly odd, ravaging, clicking soundtrack and it becomes weird. How great are Max Van Sydow and Jason Miller? It’s sort of interesting to know that Sydow was only in his fifties but really pulls off being much older and frailer. I do prefer the Theatrical ending to the Extended cut, but the Spider Walk scene makes that cut very much worth owning. (Ouija boards seems to have unintentionally become the theme of the night.) (9/10)

Fright Night (1985)
Charley Brewster is really a nerd. Something I picked up on this time is his car. It’s a nice model, but suffers from a splotchy paint job. Even when he’s trying to be cool, he comes off as a total dork. Something the upcoming remake has all ready fucked up, is Amy. Amy actually looks like the kind of girl that would date a massive nerd like Brewster. I mean, in the opening scene, she’s wearing overalls, for Christ’s sakes. Making her resemble Jerry’s old love is a good idea. Being a vampire, Dandridge could obviously get any girl he wants (And does get much hotter woman throughout.) So why would he go after Marcy Darcy if for no other reason then to spite Brewster?

And Jerry is a fantastically petty character. While other vampires might be ancient, unknowable evils, when pissed off, Jerry destroys Charley’s car, tricks and fools the police and his friend, and then kills some bouncers in a dance club. He’s was the perfect vampire for the eighties. Maybe it’s easy to read the actor’s personal life into his performance, but Evil Ed is totally gay. He jokes about giving Charley a hickey, wears a woman’s wig at one point, and, when Jerry tries to talk him into becoming a vampire, gives Evil a speech about how nobody understands him. Reading too much into it? Possibly, but the subtext is pretty blatant. I love Charley’s hilariously clueless mom and when wasn’t Rodney McDowell fantastic? Chris Sarandon’s performance is completely over-the-top (“Ami-AH!” is a running gag with me and my friends.) and his death scene if fantastic. This is a vampire that’s actually hard to kill. I also love that instead of just turning into a regular bat, he turns into some sort of monster-bat the size of a Doberman. Basically, I like this movie a lot. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call it my favorite vampire movie.

Phantasm (1979)

First off, I think this movie might have more “Oh shit!” moments then just about any other horror film. In-between the sphere in the head, the graveyard nightmare, the midget in the bushes, and that final scare, this one has got scares in spades. What’s maybe most endearing about this film is its truly homespun feel. This really does feel like a bunch of friends just getting together to make a movie. (Probably because it pretty much was.) That slapdash feel both works for and against it. In the for column, it leads to an appropriately dream-like pacing, as pretty much any crazy idea Costerella had was thrown into the mix, from yellow blood, to evil jawas, to alien-flies, and much more. It also works against the film for much the same reason. (Just were the hell did the Tall Man’s thug come from? I guess the Tall Man can’t run a mortuary all by himself but him hiring someone seems pretty silly. Imagine the job interview…)

But it’s a smart movie too. Just read John Kennith Muir’s excellent essay about it in “Horror Films of the 1970s” in which he smartly deconstructs the symbolism. As the nightmare of a young boy, the movie is ultimately about that boy’s fear of death, abandonment, and equal revulsion and curiosity about sex. I suspect this was mostly unintentional on the director’s half but, whatever, it works. So “Phantasm” is a crazy, truly unique slice of homemade late seventies horror. “If this one doesn’t scare you, you’re all ready dead” indeed.

“Kolchak: The Night Stalker” “The Werewolf”
The werewolf here is maybe the goofiest monster make-up from the entire series. (Which is saying something.) He looks less like a traditional werewolf and more like Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy (which I guess isn’t completely illogical, but still…) That the camera freeze frames during his attacks for some reason just calls more attention to the weirdness here. Despite the goofy monster, Kolchak’s interaction with the cruise passengers and captains almost makes up for it. This probably has the funniest dialogue out of any episode. It also features drowning as a way to kill the werewolf, something I’ve certainly never seen before. Hey, how about a Kolchak/Werewolf crossover? Surely that fanfiction exist! (6/10)

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