Author Topic: October Marathon: Horror!  (Read 30198 times)

Najemikon

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Suspiria *****
« Reply #45 on: October 26, 2008, 04:32:25 PM »
Suspiria
5 out of 5




An American girl arrives late at a German dance academy in time to see a girl running away, who is murdered soon after. Other strange events follow and she finds out about the mysterious history of the school and that it used to be a front for a coven of witches before being destroyed in a fire.

Here's me, finally dipping my big toe into the murky, bloody waters of Italian horror. I've wanted to see Suspiria for a very long time as it is spoken of with great reverance.

It didn't disappoint, though it did take a little getting used to. It is at once faithfully developing and adhering to old techniques of genre film-making, while also pushing it to its very limits in ways even the independent spirit of 70s films would find impossible to match. As such, it is genuinely shocking, even today, with one scene in particular making a complete mockery of the entire Saw franchise. It's too easy to be snobbish though, so to put it in context, it was released the same year Spielberg invented the blockbuster in Jaws, three years after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and two before Alien. 

Horror is the most visual of the original genres, developed from German Expressionism where Gothic architecture and ominous shadows became the essential building blocks of any scary movie. The school is a perfect setting for a classic horror then, with everything from huge halls, creepy attics and secret rooms.

But what's changed over the years in general is that those core elements have softened; either audiences have become desensitised to the OTT visual style of old-school horror, or studios prefer something more generic and so soften the edges.

Dario Argento doesn't follow that thinking at all. He takes his typical Gothic mansion and enthusiastically drenches it colour. Every set is dazzlingly different to the last, in both decor and lighting. Even the narrative alludes to it, with a teacher conducting lessons in either the "red room" or the "yellow room". There is a blue room as well and Argento uses those primary colours along with windows and reflections to emphasise a hidden world just behind what we can see.

This is perhaps demonstrated best in a memorable scene when all the students are forced to abandon their rooms and have to sleep in makeshift beds all together in a hall that the teachers have hastily prepared. Sheets are hung from the ceiling to form a barrier inside the hall. When the lights are turned off, instead of the expected darkness, we get a deep dark red with shadows moving along the sheets.

Brilliantly effective, Argento never takes the obvious route in this film and defies convention whenever possible. This assault on convention and the senses is also in the soundtrack from Goblin. I'd forgotten about their wonderful, brief theme in Dawn of the Dead and this is similarly bonkers. It sounds like they threw everything into it! There's even a voice screaming "witch!" in the mix. At times, I found it a bit much, but then I wasn't expecting such a visceral experience overall and repeat viewings will let me appreciate it properly. When the girl is departing the airport at the very start, the music is only heard when the doors at the front open. Nice gag and underlines the idea she's stepping into a new world.

So it's all very pretty in a foreboding way, but these Italian films are known for their blood soaked murders. Suspiria opens with one of the best movie murders I've ever seen and has one or two more that are very powerful indeed. Not so much for their aesthetics, but just because they get under your skin and again challenge what you may expect to be the norm. Continuing the notion of hidden worlds, a lot of windows get smashed during these scenes. The first victim is suffocated against the glass before it finally breaks.

(click to show/hide)

What really surprised me is the lack of gore though. It's used in the right place at the right times to best serve the story. I've come to think that Giallo is a term thrown around without much understanding and is actually a more subtle genre. In fact, remove the murders, lessen the tone and you have a typical fairytale. Harry Potter and the Bloody Nasty Witches, perhaps?

This is possibly the films masterstroke, because despite the very adult tone, it's set in a child’s world of simple black and white morality and therefore gets to the root of our fears. The teachers who are really witches/robots/aliens (delete as applicable) is a common story, that thrives on that idea of hidden worlds (the big scary adult world usually). The idea that all the students think the teachers go home every night, but one realises the footsteps go in the wrong direction is a very childish notion, and I mean that in a very, very good way.

The DVD I found a bit odd. It has a fantastic DTS soundtrack, but only in English. The original Italian -which I would normally prefer- doesn't have a subtitles option, so it's impossible to watch. However, it did look like dubbed Italian anyway, and the English was very well done. Was this and perhaps other Italian films recorded in the same way as many Hong Kong films, in that they're dubbed, even in their own language?

I'm very impressed overall. Thanks to Jimmy for the encouragement, and I can see the next time I plan to dip a toe, it will be more of a mushroom dive while yelling "Geronimo"! ;)
« Last Edit: October 26, 2008, 04:40:26 PM by Jon »

Offline Jimmy

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Re: October Marathon: Horror!
« Reply #46 on: October 26, 2008, 05:13:26 PM »
Happy to see that you've appreciated your first encounter with the Italian "horror" genre  ;D
Continue to try them, sure you will find a lot of bad movie (usually the name Bruno Mattei is a good hint) but you will discover many gems. Explore and you will get hours and hours of pleasure. Just not try only the obvious one like Argento or Fulci or Bava Sr., try Antonio Margheriti, Joe D'Amato, Ruggero Deodato, Aldo Lado, Sergio Martino, Massimo Dallamano, ...

After that give a chance to the Spanish industry too.

Hope that you will like Mario Bava too.

Najemikon

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Re: October Marathon: Horror!
« Reply #47 on: October 26, 2008, 05:30:40 PM »
Happy to see that you've appreciated your first encounter with the Italian "horror" genre  ;D
Continue to try them, sure you will find a lot of bad movie (usually the name Bruno Mattei is a good hint) but you will discover many gems. Explore and you will get hours and hours of pleasure. Just not try only the obvious one like Argento or Fulci or Bava Sr., try Antonio Margheriti, Joe D'Amato, Ruggero Deodato, Aldo Lado, Sergio Martino, Massimo Dallamano, ...

After that give a chance to the Spanish industry too.

Hope that you will like Mario Bava too.

Thanks for that! By Spanish, I assume you mean specifically Spain, rather than the language and beyond Del Toro and associates?

Maybe I can return the favour, though I doubt you'll thank me. :hysterical: Check out the next review, coming to a thread near you very shortly indeed!

Najemikon

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The Cars That Ate Paris **
« Reply #48 on: October 26, 2008, 05:41:56 PM »
The Cars That Ate Paris
2 out of 5




Two brothers are travelling through Australia looking for work when they have an accident on the outskirts of a rundown town called Paris. One brother is killed; the other is embraced by the community, especially the Mayor. He comes to realise that the town cause the accidents on purpose to loot the wrecks.

This is about as odd as odd gets. The story is pretty good and inherently scary, a bit like Stepford wives, where the whole town is in on the racket. There are a couple of decent touches, but overall, it’s amateurish and too whimsical to have any substance. The lead character, Arthur, is a perfect example. He doesn’t do anything and he’s a wet wimp while doing it. Well, “wimp” implies cowardice, but even that would take too much effort. It’s a very strange early effort from Peter Weir who would go on to produce very dependable films like Dead Poets Society.

It’s sort of a play on the spaghetti westerns. Stranger comes to a town split by two distinct factions. Here it is the teenagers in their customised cars that are the other gang, so to speak. To be honest, it’s a huge stretch, but it’s one the film itself is making, not me! There’s a scene late in the film where they use music that sounds like it was done by Morricone’s not so talented tone-deaf cousin.

It showed early promise. Seeing the residents -including the elderly- greedily sorting through people’s belongings (and the people!) for anything of value was very funny and a bit creepy. I also liked the hospital with a ward full of survivors (I assume), but were now “veggie”, “half-veggie” or “quarter-veggie”! And Bruce Spence (Mad Max II) was the single cast member worth watching as the simple-minded Charlie who makes one hell of a cock-up near the end.

But The Wicker Man, this is certainly not. I think the final scenes of utter carnage were better with some brilliant modifications on the cars (check out the cover), but I’d really lost interest by then. Luckily as piles of shit goes, it’s a small one.

Maybe I’m being unfair. I’d really like to know Jimmy’s thoughts on this film because it seems off-centre enough for his tastes. ;) And my copy was in a boxset along with The Fall of the House of Usher (Vincent Price) and The Legend of Hell House, written by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Duel, The Raven), so it’s worth getting that set if possible.

Najemikon

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The Omen ****
« Reply #49 on: October 26, 2008, 06:21:25 PM »
The Omen
4 out of 5




Gregory Peck stars as Robert Thorn, a powerful politician whose wife has just given birth to a stillborn son. He keeps it from her and on the hospitals suggestion, swaps for a newborn orphan baby. But dire warnings and mysterious deaths suggest that the child, Damien, may be nothing less than the Anti-Christ.

I’ve seen this quite a lot over the years, but it’s never lost any of its power. It’s a great story, well grounded by Peck’s solid performance. It must have been particularly shocking at the time, featuring such an actor, best known as Atticus Finch, the most dependable of heroic everyman types.

I’m a sucker for any story that uses religion like this. The best example is still The Exorcist (possibly Dogma… ;D), but this, probably riding that films wake just three years later, is a very close second though far more comic book, genre filmmaking. The Bible comes with weight and reputation, so if it’s used well in albeit a romanticised fashion, a story like this can seem very legitimate. It’s also good that it involves several countries (American family, British home, Italian monks, Middle East history and artefacts) as that emphasises the world conquering prophecy.

And when it’s played out without a shred of hyperbole or exaggeration, that legitimacy can only increase. Richard Donner has always been a dependable, workman like director, who relies on the characters and script to make the impact, even in Superman. I think Lethal Weapon is him at his most ‘flashy’. Here there are no attempts to make the audience jump. The story is strong enough to linger without short-lived jumps. Scenes like Kathy being knocked off the landing by the little bastard are very clever in their simplicity. Sending the poor goldfish ahead gives a very tangible sense of peril without resulting to a single note of music or gratuitous zoom.

I just called Damien “the little bastard”, but that’s a bit misleading. Perhaps not on that very last famous shot. Then it’s justified, but until the landing scene his role is quite ambiguous. As such, he is terrifying, like a teddy bear hiding a grenade! But in the final sequence, he’s still a child after all and that makes this an agonising spectacle. It’s Mrs. Baylock, the apostle, who is the real threat for the viewer though. Her and her dog (who have hilariously expanded roles in a rightly deleted scene on the DVD!).

The Omen films are strangely similar to the Alien ones: excellent, old-fashioned first instalment; more visceral, next generation sequel (though Omen II is more silly fun); crap third part that tries to close the trilogy in a commendable way; and a part 4 that ranks amongst the worst films ever made, with utterly ridiculous plot ideas. Thank the Anti-Christ there hasn’t been a remake! I mean, what would be the point? ;)

Alright, games up, I know there’s a remake. I haven’t seen it, but I don’t want to. Everything I’ve heard suggests it is almost literally a carbon copy. And every shot I see of the new Damien suggests they really, really missed the point. He looks sinister, which he should never be.

Offline Jimmy

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Re: October Marathon: Horror!
« Reply #50 on: October 26, 2008, 06:22:44 PM »
Never seen it but I know the title, hard to not remember a title like it. I've place it on my wishlist, but usually I don't really like Australian film with some exceptions like Fantasm and Patrick.  

Najemikon

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Wait Until Dark ****
« Reply #51 on: October 27, 2008, 01:20:41 AM »
Wait Until Dark
4 out of 5




Audrey Hepburn plays Susy, a blind woman whose husband is passed a doll at an airport. He’s away on business and three criminals come looking for the doll, manipulating Susy into telling them where it is.

This is a cracking thriller that’s going right near the top of my Best Films I Never Heard Of list. It doesn’t deserve to be on such a list, mind. I discovered it by accident while browsing HMVs sale and I encourage everyone else to try and have the same accident. Why it isn’t talked about more, I can’t say.

The setup is deliciously simple, as all such thrillers should be. Blind woman, trapped in an apartment while thugs tease her into revealing the location of a doll. Terence Young, director of several early Bond films, must have relished such an idea. It’s one of those wonderful plots that must be like building a domino display; put all the work in early then flick one and watch it all unfold.
 
 Apart from the start and a couple of brief outdoor shots, all the action is based in the apartment. Even the first meeting between the three criminals takes place there while Suzy is out. She returns briefly and they try to hide, but quickly realise of course, she’s blind. It’s a fantastic scene as she moves around the apartment and has no idea the three men are there!

Audrey Hepburn is fantastic as Suzy, who has been blind for about a year and is still struggling to be fully independent. Sam gives her a lot of tough love to help her do so. She has a couple of hysterical moments and she’s great showing how her character realises she’s got to help herself and stay strong. The three thugs (Richard Crenna, Jack Weston and Alan Arkin) are all good too, especially the psychotic Arkin, a master of disguise.

The middle part of the film is concerned with setting up the rather complicated hustle. Crenna pretends to be an old wartime buddy of Suzy’s husband, Sam; Weston is a detective and Arkin a man building a story around the doll that suggests Sam was having an affair with a recent murder victim. This section isn’t particularly tense, though knowing she’s on her own and unaware of the danger she is in is certainly unsettling. It’s very satisfying though to see her prove she’s not as daft as they think and it setups all the little bits and pieces that will come into play, like potential weapons and noisy items that give away locations. It’s fun spotting things like that.

It really works its magic in the final act as Terence Young pushes that first domino! As all the pieces come together and she’s worked out the plot, she tries to fight back. Her trick is to smash every light, therefore making them as blind as she is. At times in this sequence there is no light at all and it is pant-wettingly nerve wracking while you stare at a pitch black screen!

I can’t recommend this enough. It’s old fashioned, but would fit in well with the Fox Film Noir series, except it isn’t by Fox and it isn’t film noir, though that never stopped Fox. :laugh:) It’s a setup that works so well in cinema, something I could imagine Hitchcock using, I’m surprised it hasn’t been remade. The only modern equivalent I can think of is Panic Room (there’s even a kid in this one who helps, but isn’t trapped with her). However, Wait Until Dark is far superior.

The only thing that spoilt it for me was wondering where the heck I’d seen Jack Weston before. So it doesn’t spoil it for you, he was Oscar, who would “not get away” in Short Circuit 2!  :P
« Last Edit: October 27, 2008, 01:22:32 AM by Jon »

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: Wait Until Dark ****
« Reply #52 on: October 27, 2008, 07:47:38 AM »
Wait Until Dark
4 out of 5




Audrey Hepburn plays Susy, a blind woman whose husband is passed a doll at an airport. He’s away on business and three criminals come looking for the doll, manipulating Susy into telling them where it is.


I've seen most of this one a few times, but every time I've found it on television, I've missed the beginning.  I think the last time I watched it, I only missed about 10 minutes.  It is a very good movie and I'll probably try to find the DVD at some point.

Offline goodguy

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Re: Suspiria *****
« Reply #53 on: October 27, 2008, 04:47:58 PM »
Suspiria
5 out of 5


I saw this once on the German/French TV channel arte (uncut, original audio), but I couldn't get past the, well, less than stellar acting, the bad dialogue and the IMO horrible choice of music. And while I liked some of the visuals, the Chirico-like city shots for example, I wasn't too impressed overall.
Matthias

Najemikon

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Re: Suspiria *****
« Reply #54 on: October 27, 2008, 05:31:59 PM »
Suspiria
5 out of 5


I saw this once on the German/French TV channel arte (uncut, original audio), but I couldn't get past the, well, less than stellar acting, the bad dialogue and the IMO horrible choice of music. And while I liked some of the visuals, the Chirico-like city shots for example, I wasn't too impressed overall.

The acting and dialogue struck me as rather childish, which I certainly didn't mind as it added to the fairy tale structure and was part of the main appeal for me. The music I'm still not fully sold on, but at least it matched the decor; loud and abrasive! It's a challenging film, but rewarding.

Najemikon

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Very Bad Things ***
« Reply #55 on: October 28, 2008, 12:37:51 AM »
Very Bad Things
3 out of 5




Five friends go to Vegas on a stag do (sorry! “Bachelor” party). An accident results in a dead hooker and soon the bodies pile up as their lives disintegrate.

I really don’t know what to say about this one. Third time I’ve watched it, still laugh like a drain, but this is the most depraved mainstream film I’ve ever seen! I have no idea what it’s actually about, except maybe a commentary on being trapped in the suburb rat race? Whatever. Doesn’t matter. It’s gory in places and bloody. Bloody funny too!

The five guys are played by some of the best character actors around today, including Jeremy Piven, who’s had to wait for Entourage for his talents as a motormouth to be recognised, but he’s in full flight here. Also stars the other classic motormouth, Christian Slater at his best, channelling Nicholson, and Jon Favreau putting a twist on his own Swingers character. I’m sure Peter Berg knew exactly what he was doing just two years after Favreau’s great debut. This could easily be a screwed up Swingers 2 and Favreau’s buddy Vince Vaughn would have fitted right in.

Screwed up doesn’t come close. It’s a sick puppy of film. Ok, there are a lot worse. It isn’t Hostel levels of gore. But dressed up as a romantic comedy? Not many. Wedding Crashers via Shallow Grave perhaps? Plus it has no moral compass what so ever. None of these characters are redeemable. If it wasn’t for the quick-fire dialogue (it’s very talky) and blacker than black gags, it would be utterly depressing, like the current torture porn trend. But it is funny, so that’s alright then. I think.

It’s got some fantastic set pieces, like the initial accident and the mini-van argument. It has some great lines, especially from the neurotic Cameron Diaz, constantly blackmailing Favreau, her groom. ”Stick him in the crapper and get your ass upstairs!” :laugh:

It does start off like Shallow Grave on speed and resolves with similar issues, but continues to descend into complete depravity until the final scene, which may make your jaw drop in astonishment at the audacity.

I like it, so obviously I have some issues I need to talk through and get to a happy place. That's the sort of advice Slater's character would give anyway! You’ll need a shower after watching this film. And remember, if you laugh, you’re sick. Sick.

Najemikon

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Re: Wait Until Dark ****
« Reply #56 on: October 28, 2008, 10:24:58 AM »
I've seen most of this one a few times, but every time I've found it on television, I've missed the beginning.  I think the last time I watched it, I only missed about 10 minutes.  It is a very good movie and I'll probably try to find the DVD at some point.

The great thing is, you probably didn't lose much. You can almost feel the film being annoyed at itself for not being in the apartment already and having to show an establishing scene. ;)

Pete doesn't like women being weak in his movies, so I had meant to stress how Hepburn's Suzy is one of the best screen heroines for striking the perfect balance. But I forgot.  :-[ I since found this quote on www.1000misspenthours.com and it sums it up nicely:

Quote
"Also worthy of note is how strong, intelligent, and resourceful a character Susy proves to be, without ever compromising the vulnerability that is essential to maintaining the film’s tension. To anyone who has ever been disgusted by the passivity and ineffectuality of most horror movie heroines, but who finds the Ripley of Alien3 or the Barbara of the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead a bit hard to swallow, I unhesitatingly recommend Wait Until Dark."

He's right. I think you'd appreciate Suzy, Pete.

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: October Marathon: Horror!
« Reply #57 on: October 28, 2008, 09:31:52 PM »
I did think that Suzy was a strong character.  Yes she was scared at times by what was going on, but she didn't just cower in a corner and wait to be saved.  She worked to fight back in a believable way.

Najemikon

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The Evil Dead ****
« Reply #58 on: October 29, 2008, 12:53:57 AM »
The Evil Dead
4 out of 5




A group of friends go for a break in a cabin in the woods, but little do they know it is surrounded by a demonic force waiting for an opportunity to lay siege.

This is independent film-making at its best, a true classic of the genre made for pennies. Could easily be dismissed as junk, but it has such heart, humour and real talent, it’s impossible to ignore. If you haven’t seen it, you should really look it up, even if you’ve seen the sequel/remake, Evil Dead II. That is the better film in many respects, but this is scarier and darker. Turn the lights off and the sound up, and strap up your jaw before it falls too far!

The Evil Dead is an important film for many reasons, not least because it was one of the first video hits. Released in cinemas and on video at the same time, it proved the home market was viable beyond porn. And here we are today.

It was also one of the original video nasties, but unfairly. Of course, none of those notorious titles deserve to be on such a list as we are adults and can decide for ourselves, but some are mean spirited so the average viewer is easily put off and left in ignorance. The Evil Dead hasn’t got many evil thoughts though. It’s a very graphic comic book. Ok, one of the girls gets raped by a tree, but who are we to judge? ;)

The story is a horror staple; the lonely cabin in the woods. But as it was released in 1981 when I was 6, I can’t work out if it created the cliché or honoured it. Either way it is pretty much definitive. Like religion in The Omen, I’m a sucker for hidden worlds of demons. Where are the rules? Do demons have rules? Who knows! Much of the atmosphere is down to the very well prepared Book of the Dead prop and the tape recordings which are capable of sending a shiver down your neck. Though not as much as the cellar…

Raimi directs the hell out of this film, which is one of the things that sets it apart, even today. His enthusiasm that seems to throw everything at the screen is only matched and tempered by his talent. He really knows how to manipulate the audience. His editing and sound design is excellent, with inventive and ambitious shots. There are sound effects you wouldn’t expect, perhaps not even needed, but add to the atmosphere and the films unique identity. I particularly liked the point of view shots as the characters were being attacked. Then there’s the gore! Plenty of body parts flying around and blood everywhere and here it really shows its roots. Especially near the end with the vomit inducing time-lapsed decomposing.

The cast for the most part are pretty standard. You aren’t going to attract the best actors to something like this, but they’re good enough and good sports for all the make-up. But a key element to the whole success might just be Bruce Campbell. The man is a legend!

The Anchor Bay DVD has DTS sound put to excellent use and some worthy features, some hidden as eggs. The cover shot is from the Region 2 limited edition, made to look like the Book Of The Dead.

Offline addicted2dvd

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Re: October Marathon: Horror!
« Reply #59 on: October 29, 2008, 01:13:04 PM »
I love The Evil Dead. I ordered The Book of the Dead version as soon as I could. And there was an insert that asked to do an online survey for them at Anchor Bay's website. I did so and unknowingly was entered into a contest. And I was lucky enough to win first prize! It is a wall hanging of the cover artwork and the autographs of the stars: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker & Sarah York. As well as the autograph of Tom Sullivan... the artist that created the look of The Book of the Dead.

I don't have a good picture of it... but here is what I do have...

Pete