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Posts tagged “Satire

Fright Fest: Fido (2006)

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What’s Wrong, Boy? Is Timmy Being Eaten Alive?

What if Lassie hadn’t been man’s best friend but instead, a flesh eating zombie? In this post zombie apocalyptic world, director Andrew Currie, re-imagines not zombies, but society’s place for them. “Fido” tells a campy tale about a family needing to fit into suburban life in an over-the-top 1950’s satire.  Continue Reading

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Creature Features in Review: Cabin in the Woods (2011)

Wes Craven’s 1994 New Nightmare was a movie ahead of its times. In that I mean, the way the story was told, the significance of something we make-believe into being real (knowing it is actually fictional) and having it given back to us as this make-believe thing made real by our own imagination. That was kind of the genius of Craven’s New Nightmare. Freddy wasn’t real, but we pretended he was, as we do with all characters we watch on the big screen, small screen, or even in print, and yes even the horrorish ones. New Nightmare played on that, trapping the imaginative character Freddy in the make-believe world until the “movies” ended and thus releasing the bonds that kept imagination captive. Suddenly Freddy is real because WE made him real. Very clever, if you sit for a spell and think about it. Unfortunately, much like Jason Goes to Hell, audiences, and fans of the Nightmare on Elm Street series were expecting…well…what they have been accustomed to and not this metaphysical metaphor of fantasy meets reality through a sort of cognitive mythological construct. Not all movies fall prey to being ahead of their time. Take 2011’s Cabin in the Woods as a perfect example of the right kind of out of the box thinking movie coming out at the right moment in our social environment, which is to say at the very least uncertain.

Cabin in the Woods

By: Jeremy Flagg

I was raised on 80’s slasher films. Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween filled my nights, and as an adolescent, they may have altered my childhood. However, these classic horror films provided ample education. I learned at an early age, you never separate from your friends, you never skinny dip, you never get drunk, and by all means, never lose your virginity in a sketchy locale. While a multitude of movies have attempted to recreate these classic tactics of terror, few have ever lived up to the original.

In walk Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard with Cabin in the Woods.

Horror movies have a recipe. With an ample suspension of disbelief, a movie builds tension, redirects our fear, and then in a moment of complacency, it scares. This recipe is repeated with variation for a little over an hour and somehow, at the end, our “final girl” perseveres by eliminating the big bad. We are put again into suspense as the credits end and claws emerge, or a hand rises from the grave, or a mask is picked up. There is a formula we’ve grown comfortable with, when it is tampered with, we get uneasy. However, Cabin in the Woods examines this formula, uses it, stomps on it, laughs at it, uses it again, and at the end, we’re left blinking in an entertained disbelief.

It starts with scientists talking about child safety cabinets and how only they and Japan remain viable options. What? Isn’t Cabin in the Woods a movie about a group of people going on a mini vacation to a vacant cabin in the middle of the, well, woods? Cue title scene and then onto the movie we expect.  A fun flirty vibe, filled with sunshine, dreams and the need for relaxation. We have all the expected character tropes necessary to make a mediocre horror film; the jock, the overachiever, the stoner, the sexy girl and the kind of nice guy who we instantly forget is in the movie. Everything about this post screams “middle of the road.” Or does it?

True to form, we’re ten minutes into the film and the group of soon to be killed young adults have met the old man who gives foreboding advice. However, in every scene, we see a hint of something. A man following them reports to his superiors. The old man makes a phone call asking for approval. A flying eagle crashes into an unseen wall. A room in the cabin holds a one-way mirror. There is a horror movie laid on top of something, perhaps a conspiracy? We’re barely into the movie and we already know we’re being played with and it’s not being subtle. Are we seeing hints of a twist? It must be a twist because goodness knows every movie has to have an obnoxious twist at the end. That’s how horror is done.

As the screen zooms out, we realize the scientists are watching the five young adults. Wait, that’s not how horror goes? These goons are watching them, luring them into this horrific situation. Lowering inhibitions with chemicals and increasing their libido, we have no idea to what end, but we know they’re setting them up for disaster. It’s only made more comical as they take bets on how the group will die. We have no idea why this is happening, but we know that the scientists can only lead them to a dangerous situation. The group must begin the catalyst that will set them up for death.

Now let’s recap, cause from here on out something serious changes in this movie. We know it’s a horror movie. We know the scientists are setting the scene for this horror movie. We know death is coming, but we’re still not entirely sure why. As they are led to the basement where a variety of talismans and treasures are stored, we discover they will choose their fate. Zombie redneck tortured family. Meanwhile, a similar fate is befalling a group of Japanese school children, a scenario competing with our movie for victims.

The movie adds a new element, horror movie as a spectator sport. However, the darker, and even more genius aspect is that we, the viewer are part of the movie. Much like the scientists watching their hidden cameras, we are rooting for the body count to begin. As danger looms on the horizon, we are hoping for a massacre. We want those partaking in dangerous activities such as drinking, drugs, or sex to fall victim to the classic horror deaths. And when the sex kitten is about to pull off her blouse, we want her to die. Then she resists and plays coy and we, along with a room full of watching spectators groan. Then science jumps in, releasing a pheromone mist.

Wait, does this potentially explain why in every horror movie stupid stuff happens? Were deranged scientists aiding Jason and those campers were all just victims of a mastermind game player? Did chemicals being pumped into the bedrooms of teenagers bring on Freddy as a hallucination? I’m left pondering if everything I’ve been told is a lie. But wait, I’ll worry about that later, because redneck zombies are about to start killing people. Did I just cheer? Maybe.

!!! Spoilers Below !!!

As redneck pain-loving zombies achieve their first kill (a girl about to get her groove on) we’re introduced to a new piece of the puzzle. Somehow, the scientists are culling the blood of the victims in some sort of ceremonial effort. Our next clue comes from the drug-addled hippy that is so used to altering his mind, the chemicals created by the scientists do little to affect him. Cue more classic death scenes, often times paired with comedic lines from the viewers in the bunker of scientists. When the victims refuse to split up, scientists manipulate the scene forcing the classic tropes to align to their 80’s horror counterpart.

Cabin in the Wood teaches us that a healthy addiction to Weed can save us in a horror movie.

The movie gets, even more, meta as the remaining two survivors find themselves in an elevator going down into the bunker hidden beneath the cabin. Locked in cages, we see a variety of classic horror monsters. Werewolves, giant bat things, even a unicorn are kept in cages, waiting to be called upon to slay the innocent. As the fool, our high-as-a-kite unlikely hero and the virgin unleash havoc on the underground bunker, releasing hordes of b-rate horror atrocities, we find ourselves cheering on the death yet again. We’re not quite right in the head.

As the final showdown begins, we’re not given a Final Girl showdown of immense proportions. Sigourney Weaver says that if the heroes live, they will destroy the world. The heroes, the ones we’ve been rooting for, either die, or we all die. I’m not sure if I’m annoyed or I commend them as they decide to live, thereby destroying the world. But, you know, it happens.

The snappy dialogue mixed with this meta look at horror creates something entirely new to the genre. We find ourselves cheering on the heroes, only to condemn them, and wanting more mayhem. We learn quickly that we, the viewers of this disaster, are really quite twisted. Most of all, we’re really excited that we got to watch a unicorn slaughter a man. At the start of the review, you had no idea a unicorn would be whom we cheered on. Cause you know, it’s a horror movie.

Jeremy Flagg is no stranger to Machine Mean, having reviewed for us Final Girls during our Freight Fest series, he also is the author of the CHILDREN OF NOSTRADAMUS dystopian science fiction series and SUBURBAN ZOMBIE HIGH young adult humor/horror series. Taking his love of pop culture and comic books, he focuses on fast paced, action packed novels with complex characters and contemporary themes. For more information about Jeremy, visit www.remyflagg.com.

Order Morning Sun on Amazon for $0.99!!!


Fright Fest: The Final Girls (2015)

 

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We find comfort in the predictability of 80’s slasher flicks. We know as the blonde runs into the house, she’ll head toward the inescapable attic or head to a basement filled with body parts and chainsaws. Before global conspiracies or villains looking to end the human race, Jason, Leatherface, Mike Meyers, and even Freddy had one goal in mind, kill the group of people trespassing on their turf. While these movies remain classics, we the viewers have grown up and now mock the victims, fueled by the knowledge that if it were us, we would make it out alive. Or would we?

Cue Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes and the opening sequence of Final Girls. The film stars Max (Taissa Farmiga) a young woman who lost her mom (Malin Akerman), the star of the cult classic Camp Bloodbath, in a tragic car accident. Now years later, Max still struggling the death, attends the anniversary screening of her mom’s slasher flick. When a fire breaks out in the theater, Max and entourage escape through the projection screen and find themselves trapped inside the movie.

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Your expectations of this unheard of the film are low, lower when you realize director Todd Strauss-Sculson is most well known for “A very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas.” I’ll admit, my knowledge of the movie was nil, and at the time hadn’t even heard of the concept of “the final girl.” I figured while being forced to watch this movie I could check my email, tag photos in Facebook, and aimlessly shop on Amazon. Opening Scene – nothing else but this movie mattered. I put my phone down for the entire movie and those Halloween themed PJ pants I so desperately needed to be remained in my cart.

The opening reveals the trailer for Camp Bloodbath being viewed on our protagonist’s phone while she waits for her mom to return from an audition. As they drive away, the majestic and experimental camera angles instantly tell you that this is going to be a movie filled with visual eye candy as complex and entertaining as the movie within a movie plotline. As the car is t-boned by a mac truck, we are left pondering the plot, the tone, and even the genre of the movie.

Is sarcastic horror satire a movie category? Cabin in the Woods taught us that horror with an underlying sense of humor blended with complex multilayered plots can create a success. I would say the creators made the movie for me. It held my #1 horror slot, but Final Girls with its dripping sarcasm, it will forever own a place in my heart.

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Through a series of events, Max and her friends (the fanboy, the secret crush, the best friend, and the mean girl) find themselves inside the movie itself. Caught within the opening scene, they are baffled, and every 92 minutes, the opening scene begins again. The fanboy decides they must partake in the plot if they’re going to make it out alive. Instead of having the “magical black man” reveal the key plot points, Duncan the fanboy (Thomas Middleditch) explains they will only make it out when the movie ends. This means Billy, the crazy killer needs to die at the hand of the Final Girl, a character in the movie.

When Duncan dies, they try to flee the movie, but find themselves constantly returning, “It’s the movie, the movie won’t let us leave.”

As they sit in a circle with the camp counselors the expressions say everything. The counselors sing Kumbaya in a loving fashion why Max and friends stare horrified. The movie’s Final Girl, Paula, appears. They think by staying with her, they have a chance of making it to the final scene and surviving the movie. As the plot begins to change from their meddling, Paula meets a tragic death, changing the ending of the movie.

While Max attempts to keep Nancy, the character played by her mother from having sex and getting herself killed, the ominous trademark sound “Chuh Chuh huh huh” alerts them Billy is nearby and death is imminent.

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At the mention of Billy’s name, Nancy begins to tell the legend of how little Billy Murphy died. Oozing fluid descends from the ceiling and Max and company find themselves in a flashback. “Why am I color blind, am I having a stroke?” “No, it’s a flashback.” They roll their eyes as the narrator of the legend talks and even the font denoting the year is stepped over in a big of outlandish ridiculousness.

As they emerge from the flashback, covered in blood, the counselors freak out. Those attempting to run die in an outlandish manner. It’s then Max reveals what is happening and that the characters in the movie aren’t real. The levels of meta run deep as the characters contemplate their existence. We watch the characters try to understand their role in the movie. The dumb slutty counselor has her clothes duct taped on with great lines like, “Why does he hate my boobies?”

The mean-girl, Vicki (Nina Dobrev) decides they need to formulate a plan and they elect the new Final Girl, Max. Using their knowledge of the movie, and drawing from every horror movie they’ve ever seen, they make a stand.

Their modern sensibilities are heightened as they talk to the male whore, eye roll at the slutty blonde, and fall in love with the token black man. The over-the-top characters of the slasher flick may be lost in or seen as goofy on their own, but Max and friends are us, and we mock the film in unison.

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They have more depth than one would expect. Characters explore their roles in the world, trying to grow in a plot where they’re reduced to nothing more than basic tropes. Max is forced to confront her mother and gain closure during a montage of characters arming and setting booby traps plays out. Even mean girl Vicki makes amends with the cast explaining why she pushed them away knowing she’ll eventually die. “I’m the mean girl in an 80’s horror movie and we’re past the midpoint, I’ve overstayed my welcome.”

The deaths are amazingly funny. We assume, knowing we’re in a horror movie we would make it out alive. Our smarts and our strength would keep us alive until the closing credits. Of course, most of us wouldn’t have luck unless it was bad luck. The irony is tragic and even the best-laid plans go wrong and in this case, it all goes horribly wrong.

The final scene leaves only Nancy and Max alive. Max tries to keep her mom alive, hoping she’ll come back with them when the movie ends. But without the powers of the final girl, the movie won’t end. In a sexy dance scene luring in Billy, Max’s mom sacrifices herself never quite understanding their bond. With that death, Max awakens with the power of the final girl. In their attempt to change the outcome of the movie, they have fallen victim to fixed rules of 80’s horror.

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Now we fight to the death.

The movie maintains levity throughout the entire thing. Even in moments of seriousness and character development (and there are many) you can’t help but sit back and laugh at the hilarity of the situation. The dialogue is top notch, mixing the classic bad 80’s horror scripts with the snappy comebacks from this day. It only gets funnier as each era of characters mocks the other group’s differences.

The movie is smart, and visually, it’s quite a sight to see. I would say it’s a classic 80’s horror flick re-envisioned through the eyes of an artistic director who wasn’t told no to any of his vision. Even as the after credit (to Camp Bloodbath) scene appears and they find themselves in the opening of the sequel, it leaves us hanging, wanting an actual sequel. Will we get it? Probably not, but we can hope that something this witty and sarcastic comes along and forces us to re-examine our passion of 80’s horror.

jeremyflagg

Jeremy Flagg is a high school graphic design and marketing teacher, at a large suburban high school in Massachusetts. Working as a high school educator and observing the outlandish world of adolescence was the inspiration for his first young adult novel, “Suburban Zombie High.” His inspiration for writing stems from being a youth who struggled with reading in school. While he found school assigned novels incredibly difficult to digest, he devoured comics and later fantasy novels. Their influences can be seen in all of his work. Jeremy took the long route to becoming a writer. For a brief time, he majored in Creative Writing but exchanged one passion for another as he switched to  Art and Design. His passion for reading about superheroes, fantastical worlds, and panic-stricken situations would become the foundation of his writing career. Jeremy participated in his first NaNoWriMo in 2006. Now he is the NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison to theMassachusetts Metrowest Region. Jeremy also belongs to a weekly writing group called the Metrowest Writers. You can check out Mr. Flagg’s impressive work on Amazon.

And as always, if you enjoyed what you’ve read here on Machine Mean, please subscribe to our mailing list by clicking on the FREE BOOK image below where you will not only receive updates on articles  and new book releases, but also a free anthology of dark fiction.

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Fright Fest: Parents (1989)

 

parentspsoterIt’s my personal opinion that the phrase ‘cult classic’ is overused. It’s a phrase often applied to movies that are mainstream successes, purely because they happen to be a bit odd. For example, I find labeling anything David Lynch has been involved in from Twin Peak on as ‘cult’ just… well, wrong. I like David Lynch’s work, a lot, as it happens. But cult? Dude’s a mainstream success, albeit one who has managed to do that without compromising his artistic vision. Which is utterly awesome, and all respect and praise due.

But it’s not cult.

Cult, IMO, needs to be small. Obscure. Flawed. If everyone on your friend’s list has heard of it, it’s not cult. It’s just a cool thing you like.

And basically, I’m not a cult guy. My ear isn’t to the ground enough for that – I’m too busy failing to  skim off the cream of the mainstream offerings out there, in any popular culture genre, to have any realistic chance of finding some deserving second or third tier band or movie or TV show to enjoy. By the time I come across something, in other words, it’s generally by the above definition no longer cult – it’s broken out, reached a critical mass, if you can dig it. It may have been ‘cult’, but by the time I find it, chances are good it’s graduated simply to ‘classic’.

Except then, they’re Parents.

Parents released back in 1989. It was made for $3 million and grossed $870,500 box office. It got a brief US DVD release, and so far none at all in the UK. It stars Randy Quaid, in I think his best screen performance, and probably no-one else you’ve heard of. And by sheer fluke, I saw it on TV in the UK, as part of a horror movie season on one of the broadcast networks – BBC2 or C4.

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Now, Parents is undeniably a goofy movie. It’s set in the 50’s, in whitebread suburbia, and that’s an inherently goofy setting. Randy Quaid, is, well, Randy Quaid, and though he exhibits a level of restraint in this film that becomes actively creepy, there’s still an essentially goofy quality to, well, him.

The brilliance of Parents is how it recognizes a great but underexplored aesthetic truth – goofy is only a very thin sliver away from creepy.

I mean, think about it for a second and it immediately makes sense. Grotesque is what happens when you twist caricature up just another half inch. Turn the volume up to eleven on an old cartoon and the distorted sound will become harsh, grating. The tragedy is when I stub my toe, comedy is when you fall down a manhole and die.

That said, I’m struggling to think of a movie that gets and exploits this better than Parents.

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It start’s with Quaid, for me. That 50’s buzz cut, the serious glasses, and his early, misplaced humor with his son. It’s a brilliant performance, by turns utterly buttoned down, the kind of icy calm that makes you instinctively nervous, through to behavior so exaggerated past comedy it turns into creepy, without ever landing on ‘normal functioning human’. When we look back of the culture and advertising of the 50’s, there’s an inherent eerie, pod person aspect to it these days, especially when it comes to the rigid enforcement of gender norms, and totalitarian representation of the nuclear family as the irreducible final form of society, of humanity. Parents nails that vibe perfectly, creating a suburban environment where every smile looks like an upside down scream, where the perpetual sheen of sweat on Dennis Quaid’s forehead seems to give the lie to his preternaturally calm voice – and yes, where the increasing insistence of Michael’s parents that he eat up the unidentified meat they serve him for dinner takes on an almost screamingly sinister tone, even as the actual words and actions could as easily be those of exasperated parents as… well… as what, exactly?

It’s not clear, of course, and it remains unclear for most of the film’s 81 minutes running time. It’s the internet age, so you can look it up if you want, but I’m not going to spoil it here, and my firm advice is that you shouldn’t either, if by the end of this you decide to give the film a spin (spoilers: you should ). One of the reasons I think this movie deserves far more attention and love than it gets is precisely the way in which it spins out the central tension of what, exactly, the hell is going on in this family, well past the point where most movies would have come down on one side or the other.

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A lot of that ambiguity is possible because of the kid. Michael, played by Bryan Madorsky, is about as far from a Hollywood leading child actor as you could have found in ‘89 (though he wouldn’t have been out of place one of the gangs in Stranger Things). He’s a quiet, shy, pale, awkward kid, with a vivid imagination that leads to some fairly spectacular nightmares. These sequences are beautifully shot, and yeah, they are a lot less impressive post The Shining, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still effective. Steal from the best, and all that.

Beyond the very good, and occasionally actually brilliant direction, the kid turns in a superb performance. Mirroring the wider ambiguity of what the hell is (or is not) going on with his parents, Michael is straddling that line between quiet and withdrawn, imaginative and disturbed (as I write that last, I wonder if that even is a line, or just positive and negative spins on the same phenomenon). He’s certainly a misfit, which in the hyper-conformist atmosphere of the 50’s setting places the viewer in a constant state of anxiety for his wellbeing. This is further amplified by intentionally showing us a sequence where his parent’s behavior is understandable to the viewer but incomprehensible to him, further fueling his imagination and nightmares, and for the audience heightening our anxiety as to what the truth of his situation might be.

The other strength, for me, is the movie doesn’t cop out. It plays out the tension as long as it can – indeed far further than most movies would dare to – but ultimately, the ambiguity is utterly dissolved, leading to a final fifteen minutes of high-stress horror. Again, the cast performances in this sequence are brilliant, as are many of the directorial decisions – the film didn’t have a massive budget, but some very imaginative choices with camera positioning and movement really help elevate some of the closing scenes.

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In summary, Parents is a movie long overdue a critical reappraisal – it’s a smartly made, well acted, quirky horror movie, and one where most of the horror is based on psychological tension, generated by the potential gap between the kid’s perception of the world and reality. It’s not perfect, and it’s certainly not a gore fest, but if you’re a fan of 80’s horror in general, and this one passed you by, I think you could do a lot worse than treating yourself by hunting it down and checking it out.

If for no other reason than it unambiguously qualifies for the title ‘cult classic’. And it’s probably the only one I’ll ever be able to recommend. 🙂

PS – If you HAVE seen the movie, and want to hear me in conversation with a couple of other film enthusiasts pulling the movie apart in gleeful detail (including some quite dark suppositions about what the central themes might be metaphors for), check out They Must Be Destroyed On Sight! Podcast episode 70 http://tmbdos.podbean.com/e/tmbdos-episode-70-tommy-1975-parents-1989/ . In fact, check them out anyway. They’re brilliant.

 

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Kit Power is no stranger to Machine Mean. He was reviewed for us both The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and the forever classic Monster Mash Pinball Game. Mr. Power lives in the UK and writes fiction that lurks at the boundaries of the horror, fantasy, and thriller genres, trying to bum a smoke or hitch a ride from the unwary. In his secret alter ego of Kit Gonzo, he also performs as the frontman (and occasionally blogs) for death cult and popular beat combo The Disciples Of Gonzo. He is the published author of such works as,GodBomb!, Lifeline, and has contributed to numerous anthologies, including The Black Room Manuscripts, Widowmakers, and upcoming Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers. You can read Kit’s review of Bridehere.

And as always, if you enjoyed what you’ve read here on Machine Mean, please subscribe to our author mailing list by clicking on the FREE BOOKimage below to not only receive updates on sales and new releases, but also a free anthology of dark fiction.

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Universal Monsters in review: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Lock your gates. Shut the doors. The monster has returned!!! And I’ll keep my little intro here brief as our esteemed guest writer today has given us a magnificent opus on what many consider to be James Whale’s masterpiece, The Bride of Frankenstein. The Bride certainly has it all, social satire, horror, wit, comedy, and perhaps even a nuance of sexuality (homosexuality, to be bold). While Whale’s private may have private, not surprising considering how homosexuality was believed to be a mental disorder by the majority of Americans up until the 1970s, in Bride we get a little glimpse of satire to his hidden persona. Many symbolism’s I’m surprised survived the sharp blade of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship goons, now known as the MPAA, especially the scene in which the Monster is hoisted up in a near crucifixion pose.  However, I do not wish go too deeply into this topic, as there have been tons of scholarly paper written in its regard. If you are curious to dig deeper into what I’ve mentioned above, feel free to check out the following site I found, the research I found to be quite interesting, here. So, without further delay, let us see what our guest has in store for us today!

Would You Like To Hear What Happened After That?

By: Kit Power

 

So basically, this’ll be the ‘ignoramus’ portion of this blog series.

You see, I know nothing about the Universal monster series. Absolutely bugger all. Never one to let ignorance stop me writing (as those familiar with my work will no doubt attest), when Thomas S. Flowers approached me to take part, I lept at the chance – it felt like an opportunity to make a long-overdue correction, and fill one of the many many embarrassing gaps in my cultural knowledge.

Having been advised that the ‘marquee’ debut pictures were all already spoken for (The Mummy, The Wolf Man, Dracula etc) I was given a choice of over fifty titles. Scanning that list, Bride Of Frankenstein lept out at me immediately.

Because of the pinball table.

No, really.

See, of the many, many displacement activities I have to distract me when I really should be writing, pinball is one of the most consistent. The Pinball Arcade, a company dedicated to digitizing real world pinball tables to produce painstakingly realistic simulations pretty much owns a portion of my soul. Fortunately, all this play happens on the PS3 – if I was a Steam gamer and could readily see how many hours of my life have been sunk into the quintessentially pointless activity of using (digital) flippers to propel a (digital) steel ball around a (digital) table to make (digital) lights flash and bells ring, I suspect there’d be very little reason not to just end it all.

Anyhow, one of my favorite tables is ‘Monster Bash’, a 1997 table from Williams that features the Universal monster menagerie – specifically, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, The Creature From the Black Lagoon… and The Bride. If I tell you that ‘The Bride’ mini game consists of hitting a series of ramps, causing her digital counterpart to whack Frankenstein’s monster over the head with a frying pan while ‘Here comes the bride’ plays on a heavy metal guitar, you’ll perhaps get a flavour of how seriously the source material is being treated. That said, it’s a genuinely fun and well designed pinball table. My high score is in the 800 million range (more on this story later in the series).

So ‘Bride…’ felt like an obvious choice. A quick Amazon search to confirm that it was available in the UK (it was, as part of a BluRay set of 8 Universal monster movies for under £20 – sold!) and I was in.

I watched Frankenstein first, just to try and get some context, before settling down to Bride. I noted that Boris Karloff didn’t get a named credit in the original movie, but is absolutely star billing in the sequel. And I mean, fair enough, because he was fairly awe inspiring in the first movie, but it’s still interesting the degree to which this has become the Boris Karloff show.

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The opening five minutes didn’t inspire me with a huge amount of confidence, I have to say. The actor playing Byron is operating like we’re on the back row of a 1,000 seater auditorium, and at least to a modern eye, he’s camp as ninepence. It’s not a serious problem, but I did find myself trying to frantically readjust my sensibilities to 1935 settings.

And then the movie proper started, and none of that mattered.

I found this film to be so thunderingly good I watched it twice, and I’m still not sure I’m going to be able to do full justice to it. After all, there’s a ton of elements that go into making a good movie. When a film is actually great – as I think this one is – each of those elements could fill an essay in their own right. I’m going to try and talk about most of the elements in the order they occur in the film, but that won’t always be possible. I will also talk spoilers, for both this movie and it’s predecessor, Frankenstein, so  please, please, if you haven’t seen these movies yet, go away and come back when you have, okay? On the other hand, if you’re an aficionado, apologies in advance for my no doubt shocking stupidity and ignorance.

The first thing to note is that it’s an immediate sequel, in the style of Halloween 2 or Hellraiser 2, beginning where the drama of the first movie ended, with the burning mill. And it looks brilliant. I mean, there’s a gorgeous effects shot of the outside of the mansion that the prologue is held in – crashing thunder, torrential rain – which logic dictates has to be a model shot, but… well, I guess back then they knew how to sell a model shot. The burning mill is similarly spectacular, the black smoke against a grey sky, the roaring timber frame collapsing.

And there’s a weird thing about the acting. Because on one level, for many of the performers (cf. Byron, above) there’s a clear sense that these are stage actors who simply don’t get how film acting is different. So there’s a lot of what we might charitably call broad performances, especially from some of the bit players, like the burgermaster, and the maid. And you can absolutely chalk that up to the fact that it’s 1935, and ‘talkies’ have only been a thing for 8 years, especially with the older performers.

Except then, there’s Karloff.

And I mean, sure, the makeup does at least some of the heavy lifting. It’s absolutely iconic. It’s so good that I’ve seen it a million times, from Halloween masks to coasters to T-Shirts to  pinball tables to, shit, everywhere, same as you. And still, the moment that he stands out of the water and that face fills the frame is genuinely chilling. And that’s not all the makeup.

There’s something in his eyes.

There’s this terrifying blankness, with just a hint of… something. Some spark.

BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Colin Clive, Elsa Lanchester, Boris Karloff, Ernest Thesinger, 1935

The movie wastes no time in reestablishing the monstrosity of the creature, with him committing a swift double murder of the parents of the child he killed in the last movie. There, of course, it was out of a tragically misguided sense of play. Here… well, he’s a wounded, terrified animal, cornered and burned, and righteously pissed off. And it’s not like he knows who he’s fighting with, or why.

Still, it’s uncomfortable – a genuinely grizzly fate for a blameless couple that have already suffered more than anyone should. It was an interesting decision to link the beginning of the movie so explicitly to the most horrific sequence of the original. It’s a clear statement of intent, but also reminds us how dangerous the monster really is.

From there we are acquainted with Dr. Henry Frankenstein, and his suspiciously young bride –  and I can’t tell if it’s comforting or depressing to know that even 80 years ago, actresses would get swapped out from one movie to another, but there it is. It’s also interesting to me to note that the technique of having the characters explicitly talk about the themes of the story via argument/dialogue, which has really been in vogue in a lot of TV writing of the last few years (I’m thinking particularly of Moffat era Doctor Who, here, but I’m sure you will have your own examples) was, again, clearly standard practice in 1935. In once sense, of course, that’s really a happy accident – likely if I’d seen this movie ten or fifteen years ago, there’s every chance this scene would have felt far more clunky and old fashioned that it does now. On the other hand, I found it surprising to find that modes of storytelling like this can apparently be both fashionable and cyclical, such that a film from 80 years ago can feel almost anachronistically modern.

And I guess this is a good time to talk about Colin Clive as Dr. Henry Frankenstein. I mean, the headline is, he’s brilliant, but it’s worth unpacking why, I think.

For starters, there’s a real range to his character. In this scene alone, he goes from romantic lead, to remorseful, to wistful dreamer, to a hint of the manic driven scientist from the first movie, then back again. In a single short monologue. The way Clive plays it is really clever, fluid, transitioning from one to the other smoothly, generating real unease in the process. Given the title of the film, and the tagline on the poster (‘The Monster demands a bride!’), there’s no real suspense about where the story is actually going. Nonetheless, the conflict evident in the character serves well to re-establish him as sympathetic, as well as laying the groundwork for the inevitable tragedy of his temptation and fall.

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And then of course, there is the agent of temptation himself – Dr Pretorious himself, played by Ernest Thesiger.

Again, you really could do a whole essay just on this guy. Possibly even a book. He really is that good, the performance that deep. There’s elements of Peter Cushing, for me, albeit camper and less restrained. It’s a fascinating performance – I mean, morally speaking, he’s unambiguously the villain of the piece, the snake in the garden tempting Henry back to the forbidden fruit of even more forbidden knowledge. He compares himself to the devil at one point, so you couldn’t fairly call it subtle. At the same time though, it’s not quite the flamboyant villain of, say Rickman in Robin Hood, (or, for that matter, the cold calculated villainy of Die Hard). He occupies a strange space, suave, but not too suave, persuasive yet sinister. It’s a fine line to walk, and for my money he walks it to perfection. It also reinforces my point earlier about stage vs. screen actors, because this guy has absolutely gotten the memo – so much of his performance is in his face, his eyes.

As befitting the Devil, he also gets all the best lines – ‘A new world of Gods and monsters’, of course, but even more striking to me, perhaps because I hadn’t heard it before, ‘Science, like love, has her little surprises’. The scenes with the two doctors talking, one by turns pleading and manipulating, the other drawn in against his will reminded me strongly of the classic ‘Doctor vs Davros’ conversations from Doctor Who (if you don’t know what I’m talking about get out. No, really. Get. Out). While the power dynamic is of course quite different, there’s still that tension of intellects being attracted even as the divergent morality creates repulsion. it’s potent stuff.

I’m conscious that I haven’t talked much about one of the absolute crown jewels of the movie yet; namely, the direction. In this regard, it’s instructive to watch this movie back to back with the 1931 original, because one of the things you realise is just how much technique improved in just four years. Not that the direction for Frankenstein is bad – quite the reverse. But here, less than half a decade later, director James Whale has improved his already considerable skills dramatically.

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I mean, you can take your pick, really. As in, put the movie in and scene select at random, I guarantee you’ll see something within five minutes that, if you know anything about film making and what it must have been like in the ‘30’s, will just blow your mind. There’s an effects shot involving little people in jars at one point, during one of Dr. Pretorius’ seduction attempts, and I just flat out do not know how it was done. I mean, I know how you’d do it now, in 2016 – piece of piss. But 1935?!? It’s insane.

But in some ways, it’s the things you don’t notice that are the most powerful. Like just how amazingly well lit Dr. Pretorious face is, especially in a few pivotal dialogue free scenes. Or how – and this I only spotted second time through – almost all the shots it the lab have the camera at a slight angle, creating a subtle sense of disorientation, dislocation – an unease that you can’t even quite put your finger on. It’s powerful enough that they’re still using techniques like this today.

But I’m getting a bit self conscious, to be honest, because I have no doubt that a real film buff will see a hell of a lot more than I did, so I guess I’ll attempt to quit while I’m ahead on the direction, and just say that if you want to know more, I’m sure there will, again, have been many books written.

Getting back to the story, there’s an interesting runaround where the monster is found, captured, then escapes again into the woods. In a modern film, you’d cut between these scenes and those of Dr. F and his old friend having their ‘will they/won’t they’ chats, but it doesn’t detract from the storytelling that they don’t do that – indeed, it’s a pleasure to spend such an unbroken amount of time in the presence of Karloff’s monster, because it’s an amazing performance.

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Especially in this sequence. Because, after a bit of good old fashioned growly rampage, we get to one of my favorite sequences in this exceptional film – the blind hermit. It’s lifted straight from Shelley’s novel – the blind old man in the woods who befriends the monster because he cannot see his monstrosity. And again, as ideas go, not exactly subtle, right? But what sells it is the performances from both players. The old man is superb – ernest, yes, but with a drive to kindness born of desperate loneliness and desire for companionship. And of course, the monster responds to that kindness (after some initial understandable suspicion) with a joy that’s just heartbreaking.

One of the reasons it’s so powerful is because it highlights again one of the core traits of the monster, which is that he is innocent. Not good – he kills from rage, and indeed killed a child, albeit from a misguided spirit of play – but innocent nonetheless. And innocence is a term we normally associate with either goodness (as in children) or blamelessness (as in victim). To have an innocent murderer, an innocent monster… I mean, never mind 1935, that’s a sophisticated and difficult idea in 2016 to put out there. There’s echos of it in other movies – King Kong, most obviously (I can’t be the only one who cries at the end of that picture), and even The Incredible Hulk, to a lesser degree, but I can’t think of a purer expression of it than the ten minutes or so of screen time where the blind man teaches the monster to talk, to smoke (!). When the monster grins and yells ‘Friend!’ while grabbing the woodsman’s hand and shaking it, your heart creaks a little. When the woodsman tucks him in, and the camera fills the frame with Karloff’s scared, discoloured face, and the tears start to flow from the monster, overwhelmed by simple kindness… I mean, that’s pathos.

Because, of course, it can’t possibly end well, and when a couple of hunters inevitably turn up and attack the monster, he’s left in a burning house as his blind friend is dragged away.

There’s an incredible effects shot here as a ball of fire rolls out the window of the burning cottage, and I’m no expert, but it looks bloody dangerous to me.

The circumstance that brings Dr. Pretorious and the monster into contact does seem suspiciously convenient in retrospect, but I have to say it’s not something that jumped out on either of my viewings. I think the performances are a big part of why – Thesiger is on fire in this scene, moving from imperious and overbearing with his hapless graverobber flunkies, to drunken revelry when he thinks he’s alone, to the look on his face when he realises he isn’t. From there, his interaction with the monster is just superb – you can almost hear the gears in his mind turning as he reacts to the creatures’ newfound ability to talk (which he later casually takes credit for as he confronts Henry Frankenstein, in a deliciously subtle character moment).

And of course, on the other end of that equation is Karloff. It feels dumb, if not outright surreal, to be talking about the emotional arc of a creature in a 30’s monster movie, but what the hell, we’ve come this far, right?

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Because this is where the tragedy of the monsters innocence plays out, in the process again highlighting the difference between innocence and goodness, and the inherent exploitability and danger of innocence wedded to strength. The monster here is traumatised, desolate even – having unexpectedly been given, all too briefly, something that had been outside of his realm of experience – kindness, friendship – only to have it inevitably snatched away again. His desire to rekindle that is as palpable as it is desperate, and the way both Karloff and Thesiger play it establishes the true depth of Pretorius’s callousness in a far more profound way than his causal pronouncements about the nature of good, evil, and science ever could. His manipulation of this innocent creature reveals him to be by far the darker and more evil monster. Similarly, the desperation of Karloff’s repetition of the word wife, the awful hunger in his voice, manages to elicit sympathy and fear in equal measure.

From there, the inevitable dragging of Henry Frankenstein back to his ‘extreme stitching’ antics (aided and abetted by the monster kidnapping his wife, of course) is handled with commendable pace – though the scene where Henry is confronted by the monster, and the Doctor’s reaction to his creation having rudimentary language skills, is wonderfully played by all concerned. Similarly, Clive’s performance as he returns to his laboratory is superb – the manic, driven scientist of the first movie is there, but more haunted, desperate… and, when he remembers, guilty and remorseful. A more pitiful and accurate portrayal of a regretful addict, succumbing to their demons despite the voices of his better nature crying out, you will not find. I’ve generally avoided metatextual knowledge here, but I can’t help but note that this was a struggle Clive was all too familiar with, as by the time of making this picture, he was already deep in the throes of the alcoholism that would kill him just five years later. I didn’t know that when I watched his performance, of course, but it surely makes sense of just how well he nails that desperate energy.

Then we hit a sequence where it just all comes together – the direction, the acting, the lighting, the sound, the set design, the effects – In a set piece that, 80 years on, is still thrilling and mesmerizing – the awakening of The Bride. I mentioned earlier the slightly off-kilter camera angles, but it’s something I only noticed second time around, because there’s so much else going on, and none of it remotely that subtle. There’s the enormous crashing and booming of the storm, for starters, and maybe it’s just my BluRay remaster, but it’s a glorious cacophony, especially mixed with the static bursts from the machinery in the lab. The lab set itself is enormous, and tall – the gurney that lifts the Bride up into the storm must be 70 or 80 feet, maybe more, and it’s amazing watching it go up, with all the thunder and lightning crashing around, under the fixed stares of the two Doctors, their faces underlit to perfection.

And so, at last, we reach the portion of my notes labelled simply The Bride.

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There’s a genius cut, first of all, where they start with the bandages, and reveal the feminine eyes, before jumping to her fully unwrapped and robed. It means we as the audience have no time at all to get introduced to her gently, instead being given the full-on impact of a full length shot of her awesome weirdness with basically no chance to prepare.

And, I mean, bloody hell, it’s an amazing piece of costume/makeup/effect work. The Bride in on screen, all told, surely no more than ten minutes (I suspect less) but that initial shot alone is enough to understand why this creature is so utterly iconic. To the extent that there’s an excellent chance, bordering on near certainty, that you already know exactly what I am talking about – can picture her clearly in your mind’s eye right now. And in the unlikely event that you can’t – firstly, I’m envious, but secondly, go watch the damn movie, okay?

It’s possible what you may not be as familiar with is how she moves – and here, Elsa Lanchester earns her stripes with a truly remarkable performance. There’s a fragility, utterly at odds with the solidity of Karloff’s monster, but at the same time, underneath is that same blank innocence, that same animal fear. She is uneasy on her feet. Her head snaps about, eyes flitting, like a bird about to take flight. The score swells with wedding bells as Praetoris declares ‘The Bride of Frankenstein!”, but they are discordant, cacophonous, eerie.

A fade cut, and the monster is introduced to his bride. Karloff’s desperate hunger here is palpable, his instant infatuation heartbreaking. And I mean look, there’s something about this scene and how it plays out that I think connects to a fundamental element (of at least the majority of) the hetrosexual male pyche, so I’m just going to lay it out here: I think most straight men, when we are around a woman we desire, kind of feel like the monster. We feel clumsy, inarticulate, ugly, undesirable. Inadequate. This is irrespective of how the lady in question feels about us, incidentally – this is about especially the moments before first contact, when we’re torn between our desire to reach out and our abject terror at being rejected. We are all, in that moment, the monster. And Karloff just nails it. Agian. His dopey grin as he lurches towards her is – there’s that word again – heartbreaking.

As is her reaction.

Because she’s an innocent too. Everything that applies to the monster applies to her. Moreso for her, in fact, since at this stage it the story she’s effectively maybe an hour old. And it’s fascinating, because there’s a moment in the story, right here, where the whole structure, the type of story being told, is hanging by a thread. If this is ultimately a comedy, in the classical sense (and the film is not devoid of humor, making this genuinely plausible)  it will end in a wedding, after all.

“Friend?” The monster asks, hopefully. Her reply is a sharp short noise, a maybe-laugh, and a maybe-grin. The monsters’ smile wavers, grows. he staggers towards her, as she lurches on the spot, uncertain, her actions unclear. He reaches for her arm.

Then she screams.

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It’s a powerful moment. Heartbreaking, of course, for the monster, but perhaps even more chilling for what it tells you about the Bride. All at once, it is clear that, despite all the callous assumptions of the arrogant men around her, she is a creature of independent thought and mind. And she does not like what she sees. In some ways, it’s an inversion of the blind man sequence; there, a man with no sight could, with mindfulness, find the innocent inside the monster, and speak to him. Here, an innocent has only her eyes to guide her, and her response is as predictable as it is chilling.

Chilling, because it brings home the horror of what the doctors have done, in their arrogance and the kind of stupidity that only very intelligent men can manage.

The rest of the courtship is brief, and excruciating. When the monster reaches out to embrace the Bride, and she screams again, Karloff’s face moves from fragile hope, to despair, and then to blank resignation.

From there, the end is swift.

And really, I kind of know how he feels. I’m sure, without checking Amazon, that books will have been written about this movie – at a guess, a lot of them. To come in as a green observer in 2016 and try and find anything original to say about it was always going to be an act of  folly, doomed to failure. Nonetheless, it’s been a privilege to take the journey. I hope this inspires people to rewatch this movie, because it’s a film the deserves to continue be seen and talked about.

Thanks for the opportunity, Thomas. Hope I didn’t stink the place up too bad.

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Kit Power lives in the UK and writes fiction that lurks at the boundaries of the horror, fantasy, and thriller genres, trying to bum a smoke or hitch a ride from the unwary. In his secret alter ego of Kit Gonzo, he also performs as front man (and occasionally blogs) for death cult and popular beat combo The Disciples Of Gonzo. He is the published author of such works as, GodBomb!, Lifeline, and has contributed to numerous anthologies, including The Black Room Manuscripts, Widowmakers, and upcoming Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers.

 


THE GREEN INFERNO: movie in review

Never have I been more excited to hand some teenaged clerk $10.50 to see a movie. And I’m not quite sure why. Maybe its because I’m the guy who typically buys candy bars and packs of gum in the checkout line when I see a “On Sale” sign. I’m the guy who watches commercials and gets really excited when they’re flashy and funny. Basically, I’m an easy sale. It really doesn’t take much, sad to say, to get my gear going. My wife has often told me I’m a marketing teams wet dream (in more or less words, wink wink). Now, this in no way is a critique on the quality of film, per say. I’m just wondering, after-the-fact, how I got so enthusiastic for movie? Well, considering the above disposition to cheap gimmicks, there should be no wonder at all, as The Green Inferno pulled no stops on ad space. And lets be real here, its a film designed after the great cannibalistic films before its time. This was marketed as Cannibal Holocaust 2.0, wasn’t it? Indeed. But did Eli Roth pull off what Ruggero Deodato did back in 1979?

greeninferno2

Lets see…

Here is your quick fire synopsis:

New York college student Justine, who’s daddy so happens to be a big shot UN lawyer, meets a student activist named Alejandro, who you’ll find has his head way up his ass, when he goes on a hunger strike on behalf of underpaid janitors. After she becomes traumatized by a college lecture on female genital mutilation, Justine pleads to join with the student activist group undertaking a new project: to stop the destruction of an indigenous Peruvian tribe’s ancestral home, Occupy Wall Street Style. The group of young, dumb, and full of bad ideas college brats travels with privileged upper class American exceptionalistic fanfare, marveling at the local scenery while also mocking a few of the customs carried on down in South America. Justine soon learns to regret her decision in joining this band of “one face” wannabes when their plane crashes in the Peruvian jungle and she and the rest of their group are taken captive by a tribe of hungry cannibals.

So that’s a basic set up. From there, the movie guides you through some very realistic and hilarious insights into this slacktivist quandary. And while the acting was choppy at times, especially in the beginning between Justine and her roommate, it is a forgivable let down that quickly fades away into the obscurity of gruesome violence. I felt the film was a honest homage to Cannibal Holocaust while also retaining its own voice. In Cannibal Holocaust, we are forced to question just who are the savages, the tribe or the film crew (who are exceedingly cruel to the locals)? With The Green Inferno, we are forced to ask what good the slacktivist movement does. While Cannibal Holocaust had a broader subversive quality, The Green Inferno brings us into a more localized phenomenon. For those of us watching the news and seeing kids in white V is for Vendetta masks and wondering what good does all that do? Garner attention? Sure. Anything else? Unlikely. And it seemed even more repugnant when some groups attempt to parallel their own movement to the likes of say, Arab Spring, or even worse, The Civil Rights Movement, where in the 1960s college students laid claim to fame for nonviolent disobedience while riding buses and sitting at lunch counters, working in the rural south to get black citizens to register to vote. To me, that is real activism, working to help. Not just chaining yourself to some building or bulldozer and then having a good laugh about it later that night at Starbucks. As the movie progresses, we see just what it was Alejandro was after, fame. Nothing more what a bunch of re-tweets and re-posts on social media platforms to, as he said, bring in more student activists. He had no intention of stopping anything, and in fact, knew he could do jack shit. All of the tag-a-long slacktivists seem okay with this, or worse, expected nothing less. Justine is furious. She thought she was going to cause real political change. Her naivety in the story showcases, I think, Roth’s impressions on similar groups in America. Dumb egomaniac kids with the best intentions.

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Things begin to heat up, no pun intended, when their plane crashes in the jungle, and very soon after, the local tribe captures the lot and imprisons them in a pig pen. Here, and among other scenes (including a very gross “stomach problem” scene and a “stoner” scene in which the cannibal tribe gets the munchies…get it?), Roth injects a certain amount of humor amid the gore. Giving the film a very satirical vibe. Perhaps adding to the subversive nature of the film. Understanding Roth’s social commentary aim and sitting down and looking at the film itself, there are a few fantastically horror moments, and there are a few letdowns as well.

The movie had a fantastic vibe building up to the eventual encounter with the indigenous savages. Plenty of foreshadowing to make your eyes roll. When the first student is served on the chopping block, it felt like a shotgun. Roth cleverly used Jonah, the not so token but certainly guileless black guy, as his “first” item on the menu. And it is a fantastically cringe worthy scene, very brutal and terrifying to watch. With something has intense as Jonah’s death, we have to wonder just what lays in wait for the remainder of the film. Understandably, the gore cannot keep the same momentum or the audience could actually grow desensitized to the violence. You want to keep people guessing and on the edge of their seats. So you pull some punches, and that’s okay, because again, you cant just keep hitting people with a hammer and expect them to react the same way as the first scene. But when it comes to the finale, you’d think, okay here it comes, the last hurrah.  Its going to be really gross and awesome….!

And then…

Nope, sorry.

End film….

Seriously!!

This particular scene would have really sold the movie for horror fanatics and given the film a bit of tragic-delirious injection of irony. If they’d just gone ahead with the genital mutilation, it would have sent the movie easily as one of the best horror films because it would have captured all of the intentions of the best horror stories: taboo, gore, and subversive. However, Eli did not go through with it. Maybe he knew the ratings board would have shit a brick if he kept it in the film. Either way, the pulled punch did not destroy the overall dread-esk abeyance of The Green Inferno. It was still really fun and had plenty of goretastic moments. If you’ve been waiting for nerds like me to give you the approval, you have it, in spades. Its a fun, perhaps over-hyped, film for maybe not the whole family.

My rating: 4.5/5


Halloween Horror Movie Marathons

The month of trick or treat is upon us, and, no doubt, folks have already started making plans for Halloween parties and horror movie marathons. For the non-deranged, horror movies might be something usually reserved for this particular month of macabre and everyone has their favorites they like to watch. But if you’re going to start somewhere, you ought to start with the classics. Reserve the newer additions of horror for later in the night and kick start you’re party (or month, if you’re one of us depraved individuals) with one of the classics. Obviously, being a fan of horror, there is absolutely no way I could select just one film as said classic; instead, i’ve selected a few films from several popular categories, such as: zombies, slashers, demonic/supernatural, creature features, satire/comedies (including musicals), and even family friendly sarcastics. Enjoy!

  • Classic Universal Studios Pictures 

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If you’re going to start somewhere, why not begin the night (or month) with a classic black and white from Universal? Some of my personal favorites from this era include both Frankenstein (1931) and The Wolfman (1941). Excellent tales that explored the question: who is the monster? Another plus is watching the late great actor Boris Karloff in one of his best pictures. Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman is also enjoyable. Lawrence Talbot is just such a terribly tragic character and Chaney Jr. played him perfectly; he looked so sad, you really felt sorry for the guy. The Mummy (1932) is also good. Nosferatu (1922) & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) are some of the best silent horror films from the German expressionist movement.  Or, if you’re more on the artistic side, why not check out my personal favorite from this silent film era, The Phantom Of The Opera (1925) with Lon Chaney, senior.

  • Zombies

If  the Universal Studio Pictures monster movies doesn’t do it for you, then perhaps you might enjoy a classic zombie flick! Nothing says Halloween then walking, biting corpses shoveling across you’re yard, banging on the front door, looking to borrow some brown sugar. However, if you’re interest is peaked with said undead, why not start with one directed by the guy who started it all, George A. Romero? Any of his three original “dead” movies would suffice, which includes: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), and Day of the Dead (1985). However, if you’re more into spoof zombie movies, the only recommendation I could honestly give, keeping a clear conscience, is Return of the Living Dead (1985). Just avoid the sequels, please…seriously, you’ve been warned! But what if none of the above zombie movies isn’t enough? Have you considered Re-Animator (1985)? Trust me, you will not be disappointed. Its serious, but not serious. There’s gore and dark humor a-plenty. Re-Animator has to be one of Jeffery Combs greatest movies, his level of wit and concentration are disturbingly funny!

  • Slashers

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One of the most popular horror genres among Halloween movie marathoners would probably be the slasher. And why not? Slasher movies have enjoyed a long lived and celebrated history as a horror trope. And lovers of this particular genre have plenty of classics to choose from. Seriously, there are more slashers out there than any other typography of horror. So, where does one start when selecting a slasher movie? You could go with the movie that defined John Carpenter’s legendary career, Halloween (1978) (a movie many horror historians consider the granddaddy of all slashers). You could also go with Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), every child’s favorite dream killer! There is also Friday the 13th (1980), Scream (1996), Child’s Play (1988), or even The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), though technically more savage cinema than slasher; iconic villain Leatherface has, for the most part, been considered a slasher-esk monster.

  • Demonic & Supernatural

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Okay, so maybe masked killers are a bit too kindergarten for you. Looking for something more dark or haunting? Well…have you given any thought to a demonic or supernatural inspired horror movie? There are almost as much of these as there are slashers. For the demonic inspired marathon, consider Clive Barker’s moody epic, Hellraiser (1987), following the tale of a man escaped from a sadomasochistic hell, chased by leather clad demons with hooks. Not you’re cup of tea? You can always watch this movie about a innocent young girl, sweet as can be, and possessed by a demon. The forever classic: The Exorcist (1973). Like ghost stories? Poltergeist (1982) is good haunt, Amityville Horror (1979) is decent enough to fill your dreams with nightmares about home ownership.  Salem’s Lot (1979) is almost (almost) as good as the book. Sleepy Hallow (1997) is an interesting take on the Ichabod Crane legend. And Evil Dead II…well, you can’t really celebrate Halloween without watching this amazing movie at least once…or twice, whatever the case may be! 

  • Creature Feature

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Alright, so Frank, Bub, Jason, and Ash aren’t doing it for you. What else is there…what else is there, are you kidding me? Plenty! I’m guessing you for the creature feature type, well…look no further my friend! Horror’s got plenty of nasty’s out there to help keep you’re party going! Dig shark flicks? Jaws (1975) would be my only recommendation, and as Spielberg’s dip in the horror pool, incredible cast and awesome music score, Jaws is an amazing picture worth watching with plenty of nauseating sequels to keep you feeling nervous about swimming in you’re parents pool at night. Feeling more extraterrestrial than killer fish? No prob! How about Ridley Scott’s legendary film, Alien (1979). Trust me, everyone at you’re party will know at least one particular dinner scene from the movie and if they don’t, well…then they really shouldn’t be at you’re party, right? Or, you could always skip Alien (blasphemy!) and go for James Cameron’s take on the series, Aliens (1986) and folks will the drunkenly laughing, “Game over man, its game over!” Okay, okay, so you’ve been there, done that. Well, if you’re going to watch anything with creepy aliens, John Carpenter’s, The Thing (1982), is really the only way to go (sorry Ridley). For me, what really makes The Thing one of the best are its (before their time) special effects and the overwhelming terror of not knowing which of the characters is who they say they are, and not a shape-shifting nightmare.

  • Satire

rocky horror

Not the serious horror movie type? Like to take you’re gore with a dash of wit? Then perhaps you’d be more interested in some “horror” satire instead. There are plenty of classics from this trope to choose from; you could even go all musical, if you’e brave enough. But how could one really go wrong with watching Tim Curry go full drag in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)?  Trust me, if you’re party is a party worth showing up, there will be at least one person dressed as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. No? Okay…well, assuming there are actual people at you’re party, then you could always pop in Little Shop of Horrors (1986), or maybe Young Frankenstein (1974) with the distinguished Gene Wilder. Creepshow (1982) is worthwhile, especially for Stephen King and Romero fans. And last, but not least, the most recognizable horror satire, everyone ought to know, Ghostbusters (1984) should be watched at some point during the night (or month, whatever the case may be).

  • Family Friendly

hocus pocus

So maybe you’re party isn’t that kind of party. Maybe you’re hosting a family friendly event and before you can get you’re drink on, you need something for all the kiddos to watch. Don’t worry, we got you on this, and not really that surprising, there are lots of family friendly horror movies to choose from. Most of these will more than likely be playing on some channel on cable at some point during the month. There is the ever popular, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966). Or there’s, Casper (1995)…no comment. The Addams Family (1991) is another 90’s Christina Ricci film bearable enough for adults to enjoy. If you’re kids are a bit older, try my childhood favorite, The Monster Squad (1987). This PG-13, teenage friendly flick has all the classic Universal monsters, plus a group of Goonies-esk friends who work together to stop Dracula’s plot of, i’m assuming, world domination. Last but not least, you can sit you’re kids down for cable’s go-to-film, Hocus Pocus (1993), where after 300 years, three sister witches are resurrected in Salem, Massachusetts during Halloween night. Plus its got Bette Midler, how could you go wrong?!?

As I said before, there could really be no “one” horror movie to go with, but hopefully i’ve given you plenty of options to choose from; if you haven’t already decided. Halloween is an amazing holiday worth celebrating. Why? Because its fun, it doesn’t take itself too serious, unlike some other holidays (cough-cough, Christmas, cough). When it comes to horror movies, its hard to go wrong. It really just depends on you’re particular tastes and mood you want for you’re party. If you’re wondering which horror movie i’ll be starting my month with, and if you don’t count episodes of The Walking Dead (i’m catching up with season three), Carpenter’s masterpiece The Thing (1982) will be my choice of terror. I do not have a definitive favorite horror movie, I simply cannot pick just one, i’m too much of a fan of the genre; but, The Thing comes damn close!