Tom: Some thing are better left buried. For instance, your recollection of Near Dark as a stylish contemporary Western-themed vampire adventure directed by action auteur Kathryn Bigelow. If that’s how you remember it, hold that thought and watch something else instead.
After the jump, at least they don’t sparkle. Continue reading →
Chris: In a clear and steady hand, Harry Angel writes the name and adds a question mark. He underlines it twice. Shortly after, Angel meets the man who belongs to the name. A lawyer pronounces the man’s name clearly, twice even. There’s no mistaking the cadence of the first and last name, and we’ll hear it again before long. The man has a strange appearance. There’s a familiar symbol on his ring. He speaks bemusedly of contracts and collateral. “I have a feeling we’ve met before.” Within 10 minutes we’ve figured out who the man is and we have a good idea of who the detective might be, and what their relationship to one another is.
After the jump, Mephistopheles is such a mouthful in Manhattan. Continue reading →
With the recent release of the Internet Archive Historical Software section, the gaming world has access to some, er, classics that can be emulated straight into a browser. The library isn’t so big right now, but new titles are coming all the time. Looking through the archive, I see some games that could easily qualify for a spooky night of videogaming. In 1982.
After the jump, won’t you take me to spookytown? Continue reading →
Chris: It’s all here, really. In 30 minutes, Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist script creates the archetype for anyone wanting to follow him along with making horror films in suburban settings for the modern age. He establishes the normal familiarity of the setting, the relatability of the characters, and the mundanity that’s part and parcel of a middle-class suburban family and neighborhood. And then like a little kid making sandcastles on the beach, he gleefully, almost joyfully kicks it all over by introducing menacing evil spirits from beyond the grave.
But, after the jump, just how menacing are they? Continue reading →
Tom: The Thing was the pinnacle of horror special effects before CG came along. Even if your latter days eyes can’t see past the latex and syrup, there’s no denying the imagination that went into these effects. I’ve seen things in The Thing that I have never seen before or since, except for when they’re aping The Thing. Never were the words “you have got to be fucking kidding” so appropriate.
After the jump, John Carpenter is not kidding. Continue reading →
Tom: This is goofball Larry Cohen’s early New York guerrilla filmmaking at his best (i.e. it’s better than God Told Me To). Not to say Q is good filmmaking. It’s not. I can’t help but guffaw at the wings drawn over the helicopter shadow as this movie’s excuse for special effect. But Q has something unique. It has an absolutely fascinating performance by Michael Moriarity, who demonstrates that when an actor is really invested in a role, he can transcend writing, direction, and claymation. I would love to adapt Q as a stage play. I promise I am not joking about that, because at the heart of this movie is the stuff of good drama: a character making decisions. All it needs is an actor as talented and committed as Moriarty.
After the jump, that’s one hell of an omelet. Continue reading →
Tom: Could this be the last great werewolf movie? Or even the last non-awful werewolf movie? Because since then, I can’t think of any decent werewolf movies. I can, however, think of some real howlers (get it?). Jack Nicholson peeing on James Spader’s shoes in Mike Nichols’ Wolf. CG Anthony Hopkins dog vs. CG Benecio del Toro dog in a CG burning building at the end of The Wolfman. Lichens in the Underworld series. Taylor Lautner.
Chris: It’s literally been 20 years since I’ve seen it, but isn’t there some sort of widespread underground affection for The Howling? I saw that before I was old enough to really appreciate anything other than the coolness of werewolves ripping people up. Does that movie pre-date this? I’m having trouble thinking of any werewolf movies before or after this one I’d rather see. I think this could be the only great werewolf movie.
After the jump, have you ever talked to a corpse before? Continue reading →
Chris: The late 1970s and early 1980s gave us a slew of what I call, for lack of a better term, lunkheaded ghost movies. The most famous example is The Amityville Horror (which was based in turn on a lunkheaded ghost book), but there were others. The Changeling falls squarely into that category, but has ambition to transcend it. It probably doesn’t. As an effectively creepy haunted house movie it succeeds, but don’t spend too much time analyzing it. It is the Citizen Kane (or at least How Green Was My Valley) of lunkheaded ghost movies.
After the jump, rosebud was a medallion! Continue reading →
Tom: Well this was an unexpected delight. Unexpected because I haven’t seen The Shining in probably over ten years. Probably more. Not since I was old enough to appreciate it. And a delight not because I think it’s a good movie. I kind of don’t. It’s just as stilted and occasionally overblown (“Here’s Johnny!”) as I remembered. But it was a delight because I had no recollection that The Shining is about what it’s about. I feel like I’ve discovered something thrilling that was there all along, like finding a twenty dollar bill in a pair of jeans you’ve put through the wash.
After the jump, I’m not going to hurt you, Wendy. Continue reading →
Chris: By 1979 there was no bigger name in horror in any media than Stephen King. His run of work in that era–The Stand, The Shining, and a short fiction collection–made him a household name. The film version of his first novel, Carrie, had been a tremendous success with critics and at the box office, and so adapting more of his work for the screen was a no-brainer.
One of the problems with doing that–setting aside creative issues–was the sheer length of King’s other works of that era. As a novel, Carrie comes in at under 200 pages, and not a lot happens between a couple of big events. King’s later works would nearly quadruple that word count, making adapting for the screen a problem for the studios. They’d be required to either significantly adapt the work for the screen, or make 3 hour films. With Salem’s Lot, the first post-Carrie attempt to film King, they tried that latter approach, turning it into a two-part miniseries for CBS.
After the jump, how’d that work out? Continue reading →
Tom: As most horror movies progress, they lose their mystery and therefore their impact. The exposition bubbles up and molds itself precisely into whatever template the movie is using. Oh, it’s aliens, radiation, the devil, a ghost, etc. Now I see. Phantasm is a movie without a “now I see” moment. Even the ultimate reveal in the antique shop is more of a “so…uh?” moment than a “now I see moment”. This sort of batshit absurd senseless implausibility is a precious commodity.
After the jump, let me break it down for you. Continue reading →
Tom: Depending on how much of a zombie purist you are, you can make the case that Invasion of the Body Snatcher is not really a zombie movie. But it belongs in the discussion. You can see the lines of continuity and the cross-pollination. The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956 was an allegory about communism, very much in keeping with Who Goes There, which would turn into The Thing (the John Carpenter one, not so much the James Arness as a giant carrot one). The original Invasion is creepy, but entirely clean and antiseptic. Plus, we prevail, as we were wont to do in the 50s. But the idea is that the people we know and love have been taken over. They’re still themselves, but different, and ultimately hostile to our way of life.
Then along comes Last Man on Earth (based on a 1954 book), which has your friends and neighbors coming out at night and trying to break into your house en masse, but with a certain amount of lethargy, as if they know they’ll get in eventually and there’s really no hurry. They were called “vampires” in that movie, and they would call out to you by name, asking you to come outside. Vincent Price would venture out by day to hunt them. The scenes of night falling and the zombies — err, I mean, vampires — surrounding the barricaded house will look instantly familiar. Four years later, with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, George Romero will basically codify zombies as we know them. They’ll be slow and lethargic, in no particularly hurry, but they won’t talk.
After the jump, the next shambling step. Continue reading →
Tom: Time and tropes have not been kind to Halloween. John Carpenter’s dialogue and all his actors are terrible. Even — especially? — Donald Pleasence. “He’s gone! He’s gone from here! The evil is gone!” At least it’s a joy seeing P.J. Soles. Her “see anything you like?” scene, which has a wholesomely 80s quaintness to it now, certainly blew my adolescent mind back in the day. But the slasher template established in Halloween is so played out, and so thoroughly deconstructed, that Halloween itself has become inadvertently hilarious.
After the jump, what really breaks my heart. Continue reading →
Chris: Here’s a movie that I had figured out from the start. The Haunting Of Julia is clearly going to be a very British drizzly afternoon stately haunted house movie. Put on a spot of tea, have a scone, and settle in for 90 minutes of perfectly telegraphed nonsense about seeing the ghost of a dead loved one and having a bittersweet epiphany about letting go and moving on. All I really knew about this movie going in was that it was based on one of Peter Straub’s earliest novels. I couldn’t believe he’d write something so mawkish and obvious and gentle.
After the jump, he didn’t… Continue reading →
Chris: From the very beginning of the film, you can visualize the pitch meeting that created The Omen. It feels like the kind of movie created by clueless studio execs who thought the credits rolled on Rosemary’s Baby just when it was getting good, or who felt like what The Exorcist really needed was more quasi-religious mumbo jumbo. Everything about it feels like a derivative idea we’ve seen executed more skillfully before. I was ready to snark this movie up and down the street.
After the jump, the sincerest form of flattery Continue reading →