Wednesday, October 31, 2012
After viewing the film Halloween on October 30, 2012, I felt compelled to re-enter my Apple iWayback Time Machine® and travel back over time and space…over space and time…and land on the date…
October 30, 1978
My Apple Iwayback Time Machine® lands outside the cafeteria of my old high school. I unstrap myself before entering this building from my past. As I ease through the doorway, I immediately see a teenager sitting alone at a table eating what appears to be a rather greasy cheeseburger. I take the seat across from him. Our conversation is recounted below.
The Older: (Extending hand) Hello
The Younger: (reluctantly shaking hands) Hello? Do I know you? It’s funny, but you look an awful lot like my father.
The Older: (Laughing) Well you’re on the right track, but I’ll get to that in a minute. So…it’s the day before Halloween. What are you planning to do tonight?
The Younger: Me and my girl are going to watch a movie.
The Older: Girl?
The Younger: Okay. Okay. Me and a couple of the guys from the AV club are going to watch the movie Halloween if you must know.
The Older: (Pumping Fist) Yes! I’ve come back to just the right time.
The Younger: Look, Mister. Who exactly are you?
The Older: Well, this may be hard to believe, but I’m you. I’ve traveled back in time from the year 2012.
The Younger initially stands as if to protest before slinking back to his seat.
The Younger: (Thoughtfully) I…I believe you. I’ve somehow always known about you, and have dreaded your coming. What exactly is it you want from me?
The Older: Don’t be alarmed. I just wanted you to share your thoughts with me on the movie Halloween.
The Younger: (Clearing his throat) All right. That doesn’t sound too difficult. It’s on Home Box Office tonight. Cable premiere. It’s such a great movie!
The Older: Don’t know if it will stand the test of time.
The Younger: What do you mean? This was the main movie we talked about in school last spring. When I saw it at the theater, the audience was hiding their eyes or gasping or yelling out to the screen, “Don’t go in there.” Like yelling out is going to help!
The Older: I know. I was there, too.
The Younger: Oh, yeah. Since you seem to already know everything, why is it you need to visit me?
The Older: I’m hoping to use you as a conduit for drumming up some enthusiasm for this movie. I can’t seem to do it.
The Younger: Really? I become that jaded over time? That’s a depressing thought. But what about that great story? Six-year-old killer escapes fifteen years later from madhouse to terrorize hometown. It’s got suspense! Thrills! Violence! Frights! Scary Music! P. J. Soles topless! What more do you want from a movie?
The Older: Part of the problem is how often Halloween has been copied or borrowed from or stolen from or whatever it is you want to call it. The plot and the style of this movie seem like old hat at this point. I have seen and you will see many of these types of movies over the next few years.
The Younger: So you’re saying the fact that Halloween is an influential movie and is copied much in the future makes it look weaker? Why is it fair to blame the original movie?
The Older: It isn’t fair. But that doesn’t change my perception of it.
The Younger: Okay. What about the thrills and the chills in the movie?
The Older: They’re okay. But seem a little tamer than I remember. Especially right after seeing The Evil Dead.
The Younger: Whatever that is. What about that great music?
The Older: The score, you mean? I would say an excellent initial use of music begins to be overused by the movies second half.
The Younger: And the acting? Jamie Lee Curtis can really scream and I really like Donald Pleasence.
The Older: He’s a bit over the top, I’m afraid. Always reciting overdramatic platitudes like “The evil has escaped” or “He had the devil’s eyes.” Just too much.
The Younger: Geez, man. What about P. J. Soles topless?
The Older: Well, you got me there. I still like P. J. Soles.
The Younger: (Thinking for a moment) But I think Halloween will stand the test of time, better than say, The Exorcist.
The Older: I disagree with you. Since your standing the test of time quotient is about four years, I’m going with my opinion on this one. I think The Exorcist holds up quite well.
The Younger: That is really heavy. I liked The Exorcist when I first saw it. Now I’ve outgrown it and later you’re saying I will grow back into it? Huh. So your or my opinion on Halloween will change as we get older. So what will we think about other movies I like now? What about Psycho? You must still like Psycho.
The Older: One of my favorites.
The Younger: That's a relief. It’s good to know I don’t become a total asshole.
The Older: You watch your mouth, young man!
The Younger: What are you going to do? Ground me in the hopes I won’t turn into you?
The Older: Good point.
The Younger: I was just thinking that if you’re me years from now, how about throwing me some Super Bowl scores so I can place some knowledgeable bets in the seasons to come?
The Older: Sorry, kid. This is about Halloween. Not Back to the Future.
The Younger: What the hell is Back to the Future? Ah, never mind.
(The Older starts to leave)
The Younger: Hey, where are you going? Can’t you give me any advice for my life?
The Older: (After thinking for a moment) Yes. Avoid Halloween 2. It will really suck. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve really got to go now.
The Older leaves the cafeteria and gets into his Apple iWayback Time Machine® and sets it in motion. The Younger leans out the cafeteria door.
The Younger: (Yelling to be heard over the roar of the Apple iWayback Time Machine®) Could you just answer me one question before you go?
The Older nods.
The Younger:(Yelling) Are you the boogieman?
The Older: Yes, that’s exactly who I am.
The Older disappears back into his own time.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
(Monster Chiller Horror Month film 13 of 14)
Number of times scene: 2 or 3
The way I remember the original The Fly that was released in 1958, a doctor is conducting transportation experiments and transports himself unwittingly with a fly and ends up with having a human body and a fly head!
The last scene has Vincent Price finding the other half of the fly body stuck on a spiderweb with a small human head squeaking “Help me, Help me!” before being put out of his misery by a stone. I remember my brother used to scare me by repeating the “Help me, Help me,” line, which was pretty chilling (Though some find this scene in the film pretty campy)
But the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book prefers David Cronenberg’s 1986 resurrection of The Fly, (honestly, so do I) where a simple but seemingly obvious improvement was made from the first film: Wouldn’t it be more logical and interesting if the fly and the doctor were somehow fused? It really didn’t make sense for the computer to say human head on fly and fly head on human. In the remake we get to see Dr. Brundle turn into a sort of human housefly where his physical degeneration is probably the highlight of the film. And the last scene is alternately gross and kinda makes ya weepy at the same time.
One unnecessary note on the 1958 version of The Fly: It was not only popular enough to spawn two sequels and also led to an infamous copycat film called The Wasp Woman, which is a movie about a woman who uses wasplike aging cream or something and turns into a Wasp creature. I remember seeing this campy film on television during the 70’s and I admit,(and this is a sad confession) that I did find it a little scary at the time.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
(Monster Chiller Horror Month films 11 & 12 of 14)
Aliens vs. Avatar
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Good evening. I’m Sigourney Weaver and this week’s battle on James Cameron Movie Elimination Showdown features to my left the Alien or should I say one of the aliens from the movie Aliens and to my right is one of the Na’Vi, Na-vee, uh, I’ll just call you Avatar to simplify things if you don’t mind. Now Mr. Alien. And I admit I didn’t know you could even talk. But go ahead and state your case.
ALIEN: Well nobody ever gave me much of a chance to talk in the movies. Always trying to kill me and the like.
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Well, you were trying to kill me, too!
ALIEN: I wasn't trying to kill you really. You were just so distracting in your underwear, can I really be held accountable for my actions?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: (blushing) Flatterer.
AVATAR: I thought you were supposed to be a female?
ALIEN: It's called acting, you blue bozo!
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Anyway. State your case. Why is Aliens better than Avatar?
ALIEN: Well, we made…you and I and Cameron and a whole lot of people made and defined what a modern day action picture should be. Being a sequel actually helped us. We had the bonus of a setup before the action starts and never lets up.
AVATAR: Yes, but you do that at the expense of characters. Pretty one dimensional in my opinion.
ALIEN: Look who’s talking, Mr. "We stole our plot idea from Ferngully." And what about all that corny dialogue like (speaking formally) “You are now a son of the Omaticaya, Jakescully. You are the colors of the wind and rainbow and one with nature. a network of energy that flows through all living things, your spirit goes with Eywa.” Come on! It's Dances With Wolves on acid!
AVATAR: You’re one to talk. Why does Bill Paxton have to talk like an 80’s surfer dude in your movie? Isn’t it supposed to be set in the future?
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: OK, Avatar. Why are you better?
AVATAR: Well. Only the most amazing special effects ever. Only the biggest box office hit of all time. It’s like a beautiful dream…only it’s real.
ALIEN: With stock characters you stole from Aliens. The Latino chick that kicks ass. The weasly little dweeb who is only after a buck. Recycled characterizations, blue boy!
AVATAR: Cameron refined these characters in Avatar…took away the flaws in their characterizations and made them more interesting, like the way we updated your prehistoric special effects.
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Well, you got to admit when it comes to characterization, we are dealing with James Cameron and not Paddy Chayevsky.
(Alien and Avatar both laugh)
AVATAR: And we have, of course, the lovely Ms. Weaver in our picture as well. (Turning to Sigourney) If I hadn’t already chosen a mate, I would definitely consider you even if you are one of the skypeople.
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Why you’re a flatterer too, but alas, I’m afraid its too late. The votes are in and the winner is….Aliens.
(Avatar raises his hands and curses in Na’Vi)
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: I’m sorry Avatar, but you’re terminated fucker!
(SIGOURNEY WEAVER pulls a lever and a trap door opens and the Avatar disappears.)
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: Turning to the Alien. I always wanted to say that.
ALIEN: I thought your line was “Get away from her, you bitch.”
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: I’m the host of this show and I’ll use whichever damn James Cameron catchphrase I want! Do you understand?
(The Alien spreads his hands in mock surrender)
SIGOURNEY WEAVER: And speaking of The Terminator. Next week on James Cameron Movie Elimination Showdown, we have the Terminator T-800 facing off against Rose from Titanic. Ought to be quite a match up.
Good night for now and until next week…we’ll be back.
(The Alien and Sigourney Weaver wave goodbye to the audience as the screen fades to black.)
Monday, October 22, 2012
(Monster Chiller Horror Month films 9 & 10 of 14)
The Terminator & The Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Previous viewings: 4
That Terminator is out there. He can not be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear…and it absolutely will not stop EVER…until you are dead!
I remember the first time I saw The Terminator. It was at the Lyceum Theater at Georgia State University. The college crowd that I was among was silent throught most of the movie. A few gasps were audible here and there, but the crowd was totally into it and it was damn scary...
At least that’s the way I remember it.
Today, it’s still an intense viewing experience. The plot of this relentless futuristic cyborg going back in time for the sole purpose of killing the mother of the man who will save humanity makes might make you feel silly if you look at the plot too closely. As the 1001 book points out, this film could have easily been a candidate for an especially cheesy episode of Mystery Science Theater, yet it never does. I’m buying into the Terminator thing and I’m still buying into The Terminator thing. I guess we have James Cameron to thank for that. And Arnold. And one other name-Brad Fiedel and his sythestisized heart pounding music. Thanks, Brad.
Favorite line: Not one of the more famous ones, but the scene where the Termintor is walking down the hall of his lodgings with his shotgun, a black guy backs away from him and says, “DAMN!” Don’t ask me why I like this so much, but I know if I saw a Terminator coming, I’d probably say the same thing.
Thank God he went back to 1984 and not 2012: I gripe about this a lot. How cell phones and the ease of communication and reaching people might be good for our lives, but bad for drama. Think of the scenes in The Terminator that involve phone books, answering machines and phone booths. With that music thumping in the background it makes the tension almost unbearable. Now, picture the Terminator going back to 2012. He kills some biker, takes his clothes and laptop and procedes to find Sarah Conner on Google. Uh, not exciting.
I thought the one thing The Terminator didin’t need was a sequel, but we got one in 1991, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
I stand corrected about us needing this. The first hour of T2 never seems to let up. With the first Terminator movie to build on, T2 has a new, more advanced Terminator sent from the future to kill the young John Conner. This film has the effective twist of the old Terminator model (Arnold) being reprogrammed to protect John Conner from the new one one.
The second half drags a bit with a few too many Sarah Conner voice over narrations, “The Terminator was the like the father John had never had and would never have…"or something like that. And the product placement was a bit much at times. (How many Pepsi machines are in this movie?) But these are minor quibbles. I like this one too. Both would be in my book.
But one thing The Terminator series didn’t need was a sequel to the sequel and this time I think I was right.
Friday, October 19, 2012
Brian DePalma’s version of the Stephen King story of a telekinetic girl who takes revenge on her tormenters at the school prom is interesting in that if she didn’t have these powers, the movie could have lapsed into what may have amounted to one of those dreary romances like Ice Castles.* But one does have to get through the buildup of the story in the first half to get to the payoff of the prom scene where everything goes…let’s just say not as planned.
And I still can’t picture anyone but Sissy Spacek as Carrie.
Stephen King’s still great euphemism for breasts: “dirty pillows”
Battle of the great 70’s hairstyles: Nancy Allen vs. William Katt. I'll give it to Mr. Katt just because his hair is justso damn humongous! Howvever, as far as the locker room scene goes, Ms. Allen has no competition.
P. J. Soles: And I must acknowledge the first in a series of important screen appearances of my former girlfriend Ms. P. J. Soles.**
*I haven’t actually seen Ice Castles, I do know it’s about some blind ice skater who trains for the Olympics and they find out she’s blind or something and…no, that’s not right. She's deaf, dumb and blind and wants to join the Jamaican bobsleding team...no that's not right either. Anyway, my wife keeps telling me I should see it. She also pointed out the similarity of the scores from Ice Castles and Carrie for which she gets a point, though I’m subtracting a point because she didn’t know who Marvin Hamlish was.
*I’ve just got a cease and desist order from Ms. Soles attorney for me to quit calling her my ex-girl friend on this blog...Some people just have no sense of whimsy.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
(Monster Chiller Horror Month films 6 & 7 of 14)
Targets & Edward Scissorhands
Targets-Targets is really two movies in one. The story one thread includes a lone gunman whose shooting rampage ends at a drive-in theater. The story two thread features Boris Karloff (essentially playing himself as an aging horror star) reluctantly promoting his latest movie. This was Peter Bogdanavich’s first film and was certainly one of the best things he ever did. A real favorite of mine.
Part of the film's appeal is that it is the movie swan song of Boris Karloff. He was best known as the Frankenstein monster in Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein. He also had many memorable roles in other horror films such as Tower of London and The Body Snatcher. He also popped up in supporting roles in such diverse films as Scarface, The Lost Patrol or even as an American Indian in Cecil B. DeMilles’ Unconquered. And who could forget his unforgettable voice in the animatated The Grinch That Stole Christmas?
Targets seemed such an appropriate final film for Karloff, and he is most perfect playing a man who considered himself a boogeyman antique compared to the horrors that plague us in the all too real world.
Would you recommend Targets? Certainly.
Edward Scissorhands-The Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film Edward Scissorhands is the final screen appearance of another horror legend, Vincent Price. His very small role is as the doctor who creates Edward, but dies before he gets the opportunity to finish his hands. Price’s look before he dies in the film is something to see. It is at once menacing and at the same time very tragic.
Price through the years showed up everywhere in movies and television. He had many non-horror parts that were notable (such as in Laura), but may be best know for his series of American International films based on Poe stories such as: The Masque of the Red Death, The Conqueror Worm and The Pit and the Pendulum. Another personal favorite of mine with Price is Theater of Blood, in which Vincent plays a hammy actor who takes extreme measures of revenge of his critics.
One thing about Price, he never seemed to find anything that he wouldn’t do. His title role as Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and its sequel Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs were typical of his never met a script I didn’t like policy. He was also a regular in his later years on Hollywood Squares and let’s not forget his role as the villain Egg Head on the Batman television series.
Like Karloff, Price may be known to some fans chiefly for his voice-over narration. In this case, his narration of the Michael Jackson Thriller video.
Would you recommend Edward Scissorhands? Yes. Did I mention it was the last screen appearance of Vincent Price?
Saturday, October 13, 2012
(Monster Chiller Horror Month film 5 of 14)
Let the Right One In
Previous viewings: None
This is my first viewing of a film dealing with teenage (preteen?) Swedish vampires. The relationship between a bullied boy and his befriending of a girl who is really a creature of the night does have its moments. I think the best moment in the film is the final scene in the swimming pool where certain characters get their comeuppance.
Would you recommend? I recommend no teenage vampire movies, unless they are Swedish. So since this is Swedish, it's a go.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
(Monster Chiller Horror Month film 4 of 14)
One's affection for Carl Dreyer's Vampyr depends entirely on the degree of how much the vivid images of the film effect you.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Previous viewings: One, I think.
I say I saw this once, but it was so long ago and it would have had to be on TV, so that I’d almost be better off saying I’d never seen it before. However, I always recognized (probably thanks to MAD magazine) pop culture references to Rosemary’s Baby, usually dealing with something within a mysterious baby carriage or just a reference to Mia Farrow’s extremely short haircut.
The Exorcist factor: I do remember quite vividly when The Exorcist came out (1973) and though I may have been a bit too impressionable to see it at the time, I nevertheless did see it and it left quite the impression on me.
The audience reaction to Rosemary’s Baby was a probably similar to that of The Exorcist after its release, though too a lesser degree. Of course, at the time of Rosemary's Baby's release in 1968 I was basically just watching Disney movies, stories about otters or dubbed Swedish versions of Hansel and Gretel.
Elisha Cook Jr.-I did have to mention this film marks the last appearance on a 1001 film from character actor specialist Elisha Cook Jr. He doesn’t really have much of a part here, but Elisha does what he does best: supplies the exposition for the main characters. He is in the very first scene, showing John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow around their apartment. He tells them about the place and questions why the previous tenant left her large dresser in front of her closet. We know that issue will come up later. Elisha hath put forth the question and the film shall eventually answer it.
Suspense: I do like the way the film builds suspense by its slow unraveling of plot threads. It is also not really very graphic when it comes right down to it, that is unless you count the dreamlike scenes with witches, which are admittedly pretty disturbing.
I do remember a television movie from the late 70’s called Whatever Happened to Rosemary’s Baby? More accurately, I remember watching it. I remember little to nothing about it. It probably was made too late. Horror fans became more interested in what happened to the kid in The Omen than what happened to Rosemary’s offspring by then.
But would I recommend it? Would it be in my book?
Yes. Definitely a high ranking in both the suspense and horror genre.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
(Monster Chiller Horror Month film 2 of 14)
The Hills Have Eyes
Previous viewings: None
This was a late seventies midnight movie that I never got around to seeing during the days when I went to see midnight movies.
Wes Craven’s low-budget story of a white bread family traveling out West that gets terrorized by a family of cannibals is not for all tastes, but it certainly is not without its charms (for lack of a better word).
Torn poster: There is a scene after the initial altercation between the two groups in which we see a torn poster of Jaws on the wall, which is later echoed in the film The Evil Dead, which has a scene with a torn poster of The Hills Have Eyes. I hoped to get to the meaning of the torn poster of Jaws from Wes Craven’s audio commentary. Wes’s comment on the scene was, “There’s the torn poster of Jaws.” Hmmm. I guess the meaning will have to be deciphered by future scholars.
It’s not as graphic as The Evil Dead (few films are) but it does have its share of gruesomeness, so those that aren’t satisfied until a certain level of gore is obtained should probably get their fill.
The CB factor: Ah, the days before cell phones-when drama could unfold without the crutch of texting. Yes, this family in need used a CB radio in its time of crisis. I could almost hear the C. W. McCall song Convoy playing in the background. The cannibal family also had to make use of walkie talkies! Walkie Talkies! How cool is that?
But overall, would I recommend The Hills Have Eyes? Would it be in my book?
I’m not so sure, though any movie whose cast includes the unique look of Michael Berryman (above) certainly has at least that going for it.
Monday, October 1, 2012
Previous viewings: about 4
There is only one King Kong.
I’m not talking about the recent (definition of recent: last ten years) Peter Jackson version. And I’m not talking about the infamous Dino De Laurentis version from the Seventies (When the monkey die, people gonna cry!). Nor am I talking about the Japanese King Kong vs. Godzilla, which I saw as kid (I don’t remember who won). Nor any King Kong cartoon like the 60's The King Kong Show, that I admit I use to love. No there is really only one. That, of course, is the 1933 RKO original.
I know the special effects reminds me a lot of the special effects from some of the Rankin Bass Christmas specials (King Kong vs. the Abominable Snow monster?) but I still find them effective. And there are some lapses in logic. I mean there are living dinosaurs on the island of King Kong! Living prehistoric dinosaurs! Yes, Kong is amazing, but why doesn’t anyone seem interested in getting hold of some of those dinosaurs in addition to Kong?
And the character of Carl Denham, the movie director, whose team brings Kong back to the states. It is his greed in trying to capture Kong that leads to the death of most of his ship’s crew, many natives on Kong’s Island as well as many in New York after Kong escapes there. Why doesn’t anyone want to punish this guy? He even gets the films famous last line, “Twas Beauty killed the beast.” The last line of the movie should have been, “Karl Denhman you’re under arrest!”
But these are small quibbles. It’s still great to see Kong fighting the dinosaurs, attacking a trolley or just being obsessed with that beautiful angel, Fay Wray.
And is there a more iconic scene in movies than Kong battling the airplanes from the top of the Empire State Building?
Certainly any movie fan should visit Kong at least once in their lifetime.
*Phrase courtesy of my favorite ficitional late night horror host from SCTV, Count Floyd.