Thursday, September 27, 2007

Halloween Movie Marathon 2007!!

As hard to believe as it is, the Autumn equinox just occurred on the 23rd of September signaling the calendar end to the Summer of 2007. Although from the late heat wave here in the D.C. area, you'd find it hard to convince us! But, with the end of summer and the advent of fall comes my annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon! Yep, each and every year for the past several years I have made a new tradition of celebrating the Halloween season by viewing a mixed bag of Horror, Sci-Fi, Thrillers and Chiller movies each night leading up to and including Halloween. So, for your pleasure, and perhaps your own research on some films that YOU may want to include in your play list, I'll be documenting my viewings here for the next month. I'll keep the comments brief and the rating scale simple: Scares, Fun, Effects. I'll rate 'em 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, duh. So you'll have to check in often to keep up to date with the most current movies. Typically I start out safe, mainly classic 50's and 60's films, sometimes with some Universal Classics mixed in as well. This year is no exception. Check the link over to the right for Cal's Horror collection if you want to see where I'm drawing from. Go to the "owned" or "on order" menu's to see my horror movie lists. So let's get to it and catch you up on what I've seen so far!

1.) Cry of the Banshee - Sunday, Sept.23
Call me a sucker, but I love those old Vincent Price movies. The Roger Corman Poe stories are the best of the lot, and to be sure, there are some real stinkers (like the hideous "Scream and Scream Again"). Cry of the Banshee, made in 1970 and directed by Gordon Hessler (who was a protege of Alfred Hitchcock and spent many years as a director on his weekly TV show) is loosely, and I mean loosely, based on another Poe tale. Price is typically a scene vacuum, but in the best of ways. He is an amazingly talented actor and it's a real joy to watch him delight in these devilish bad guy roles. Plot? Well, basically its all about a brutal village magistrate, hellbent on ridding the countryside of witches even if a handful of innocent folks must be killed. His family is full of corrupt son's, mad wives, traitorous daughters and estranged relationships. No wonder he gets his kicks by killing the town folk. I'll give this one a low rating on the horror scale, but watchable only due to Price's presence! Scares: 1, Fun: 4, Effects: N/A

2.) Earth v.s. The Flying Saucers - Monday, Sept. 24
Made in 1956, this film was one of dozens of "invaders from space' themed releases. This particular film is set apart from the breed by the special effects of Ray Harryhausen. Admittedly, not some of his best work, it's still head and shoulders above most of the effects seen in similar films of the era. Directed by Fred Sears, this film clocks in at a sleek 83 minutes, and believe me, doesn't need to be one second longer. Typical B-Movie fair, adequately scripted and acted. I'll give it a Low + rating, not scary at all, not really exciting either, but the effects and the scenes of 50's Washington DC capitals being destroyed by alien space invaders is a hoot! Scares: 1, Fun: 7, Effects: 5

3.) The Blob - Tuesday, Sept. 25
We're talkin' the original here, made in 1958 and featuring one of the earliest performances by soon to be movie super-stud Steve McQueen! Classic. The dialogue is pure fun, so retro and innocent. The blob effects are also pretty impressive, given the era. The newly released restored version from Criterion Films is worth the purchase price. Rated Medium, no real scares, but some decent moments. One other factoid, Burt Bacharach had a hand in writing the catchy and silly "blob" theme song! Scares: 2, Fun: 6, Effects: 5

4.) Day the World Ended/The She-Creature - Wednesday, Sept. 26
Like I said, 36 films to get in and damn little time to do it, so occasionally I have to pull the double feature night. Since these two were released as a two-fer on the same disc, that made my job easy. The Day the world Ended, released in 1956, directed by Roger Corman is an early post Apocalypse film centering on the handful of survivors holed up in a house somewhat protected from the nuclear fallout. Some familiar B-Movie faces here, like Richard Denning who most fans recognize from The Revenge of the Creature movie. Also a soon to be TV Star, Mike Connors (Mannix) whose screen name at this time was Touch Manning. Touch?!? Scares: 1, Fun: 3, Effects: 1
The She-Creature is one of my childhood favorites and actually is put together pretty well given the subject matter. The creature itself is an icon, but the hokey rubber suit doesn't wear well over time. Much more frightening in still shots from Famous Monster Magazine then in the movie itself. Also made in 1956 and directed by Ed Kahn (who?) it's pretty amazing to see the production quality difference between this movie and the previous Roger Corman film. Clear to see who had the budget! Scares: 2, Fun: 4, Effects: 3

5.) Earth vs The Spider - Thursday, Sept. 27
Holy Cow, won't those dumb teenagers EVER learn?!? Thems giant spiders down there in that cave! This 1958 film is a pure hoot, it's actually one that I don't think I've ever seen before, and that makes it rare in my book. This is classic bad cinema at it's best. Cheesy tarantula superimposed over real life still backgrounds for the time must have been terrific but are just plain bad by today's standards. And as with most "teenage" movies of this era, get a load out of some of the "teens". I'd swear some of them are in their 30's!! Corny dialogue, no name actors, you just gotta' love it! Scares: 1, Fun: 3, Effects: 2

6.) War of the Colossal Beast - Saturday, Sept. 29
As a kid, this was one of my favorite films. Mainly because of the great cover art of Basil Gogos on Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. What a bitchin' lookin' monster!! Too bad he's been relegated to this somewhat lame 1958 sequel. Basically this film is the "Amazing Colossal Man" with a bad complexion. The ever tortured Col. Manning has survived his ordeal at the Boulder Dam and is holed up in Mexico where he hijacks taco trucks for food!! I'm not kidding, this is the real plot. And just where the hell DOES a 60 foot tall, one eyed, growling giant HIDE in Mexico?!?!? Still my fond memories help me to overlook the film's shortcomings, and like I said, it really is a cool looking monster. Scares: 2, Fun: 2, Effects: 2

7.) Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) - Sunday, Sept. 30
Inexplicably incoherent, given that it was directed by Gordon Hessler, the aforementioned protege of Hitchcock (see Movie #1), this 1971 butchering of the Poe murder mystery all but proclaims that Hessler is possibly the ONLY director alive who learned NOTHING from the "Master of Suspense". Also boggin this film down is the fact that it was filmed in 1970 when, apparently, all directors thought that their audience was on acid. It has that weird Dr. Phibes feel to it. Too much atmosphere, not enough action. Also unbelievable is the fact that this film has some marquee names in it; Jason Robards and Herbert Lom. I guess a paycheck is a paycheck for these fellas. Okay, its not as bad as a sharp stick in the eye, but...........I won't be in a hurry to see it again. Scares: 2, Fun:1, Effects: N/A

8.) Trilogy of Terror - Monday, Oct. 1
Now that it's officially October, gotta' step up the pace a tad. Warmups are over and it's time to move into some real chillers. No one lays claim to the Rod Serling mantle as much as the team of Dan Curtis and Richard Matheson. Clearly the most prolific horror/sci-fi writing, directing and producing team of the 70's, these guys churned out a slew of television thrillers that are considered classics by today's fans. This 1975 piece, the Trilogy, is one of the best due in large part to it's third act innocently titled "Amelia". Most of you will know this one as the "Zuni Devil Doll" episode. Simple, direct, and expertly acted by the off the wall weird Karen black, this trio of the macabre entertains and scares. It's the perfect appetizer for the main courses yet to come in this month of October. Scares: 5, Fun: 6, Effects: 2

9.) Audition - Tuesday, Oct.2
Whoah..........uh, WHOAH!! This particular choice may have been a little harsh in view of the movies that I have seen thus far, but.......Whoah!! This 1999 Japanese horror flick has been on my radar since seeing it pop up in several "best horror movie ever" lists. Now, I've never seen a Japanese horror film unless it had been remade ala The Ring, The Grudges, etc. So this was a new experience for me. Quiet, that's the main thing, the damn film is spooky quite in every scene. Only in one diner moment is there background noise or ambient sound of any kind. That really helps the "creepy" factor build exponentially. Slow boil to be sure, paced very methodically, heavy on mood, atmosphere, and anxiety building. It works. 42 minutes in, there's a real heart stopping moment then...................quiet again. The finale sequence is weird and horrifying and sickening, not necessarily in that order. Like I said, whoah. I'll definitely hit this one again, but undoubtedly later in the season! Scares: 5, Fun: 2, Effects: 5

10.) When A Stranger Calls (1979) - Wednesday, Oct. 3
Okay, I gotta' admit, I had totally forgotten that the signature scene of this movie, the part they show on all the "best of" and "top 100" lists, all happens in the first 20 MINUTES OF THE FILM!! So I'm watchin' and thinkin', "uh, now what?". Well, I'll tell ya' what, what follows is a pretty interesting, suspenseful, well paced psychological thriller, that's what. Compared to the recent remake, which I am sorry to say that I have seen, this film is Hitchcockian in it's clever use of mood, atmosphere and suspense. No wonder it was an instant classic. But still, I'm just blown away by that business about the first 20 minutes, really! Scares: 5, Fun: 4, Effects: N/A

11.) The Haunting - Thursday, Oct. 4
"No one will come closer than town. No one will come any closer than that. In the dark. In the night." The creepy words repeated by the hollow eyed caretaker of the immensely foreboding Hill House totally set the mood for this excellent, and brilliantly executed, haunted house tale. The 1963 Robert Wise film is a shining example of why "less" is "more" in creating a truly scary movie. It is amazing how much he is able to accomplish with so little. This movie makes the most of camera angles, lighting, sound, and eerie music. There are no visible ghosts or monsters, blood or gore, and yet this film remains at the top of my personal all time creep out choices. If more horror movies were made today with this minimalist approach, truly trying to scare the audience instead of gross us out or shock us, we'd be better off for it. Scares: 6, Fun: 4, Effects: 5

12.) The Other - Friday, Oct. 5
I needed something special to follow up last nights classic and I found it in this recently released "diamond in the rough". Not to be confused with the Nicole Kidman film "The Others", this long out of print 1972 Robert Mulligan film based on Tom Tryon's novel of the same name, is one of the most overlooked and underrated psychological horror films of the past 30 years. Focusing on twin brothers and the evil that surrounds them, comparisons to The Omen are inevitable, but unwarranted. This story is quite different. Subtle, deliberate, and beautifully filmed, this film draws you in and keeps you there. The payoffs are worth the wait, too. Highly recommended. Scares: 5, Fun: 4, Effects: N/A

13.) Slither - Sunday, Oct. 7
I remember seeing this one in the theater and thinking........WTF?!?! Clearly a film that pays homage to dozens of films before it, 2006's Slither is one of the new breed of "comedy" horror films. The Blob, Night of the Living Dead, They Came From Within, etc., etc.. There are so many influences here, as well as inside jokes and nods of the head to other classic horror films, it's hard to stay focused on the fun, fast paced, well written, and hilariously delivered film in front of you. It's not breaking any new ground but it manages to forge it's own identity due in large part to the hilarious pre-release on line trailers. Definitely worth renting and watching, and stay tuned for all the inside jokes! Scares: 3, Fun: 7, Effects: 7.

Recently, while building my DVD Wish List, I stumbled upon a compilation set called "Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection". It had some pretty cool, and rare, releases on it and I was mildly interested. Well, after some time I became aware that this set was a limited release Universal/Best Buy exclusive set and that it sold out quickly a year ago when it was released and now was virtually unavailable. So, like all fan boys, my mild interest became obsessive must have!! Long story short, ended up on Ebay bidding $83.00 for this $19.00 set, won it, and now, even though none of these films were on my 2007 Halloween Watch List, I had to watch something from them to justify the ridiculous price I paid. The next two films are from that collection.

14.) Tarantula - Monday, Oct. 8 (1st feature)
This one was a kid favorite. Giant spiders, what could be better, right? And unlike the previous film, Earth V.S. The Spider, this one has some decent effects, and a story line that at least is somewhat plausible. John Agar, a dependable sci-fi actor of the era, stars in this 1955 Universal film. Leo G. Carroll, whom some of you may remember as the Napoleon Solo's boss on the The Man from U.N.C.L.E., plays a scientist working on solving the worlds hunger problems. How this leads to the creation of a giant Tarantula is, uh,.........well, just never mind. Clint Eastwood has a very minor role near the end as a fighter pilot. Scares: 2, Fun: 6, Effects: 4

15.) The Mole People - Monday, Oct. 8 (2nd feature)
These old films all had a running time of about 1 hour 15 minutes, so it's real easy to get in a double feature every once in awhile. I remember thinking how cool the monsters were in this 1956 feature when I was a kid. Apparently so cool that I completely forgot how lame the rest of the movie is! Really, this one starts with a good premise, once again starring John Agar and Hugh Beaumont (that's right, the Beaver's Dad) as intrepid archeoligists in search of a lost city. There are some really believable mounting climbing and spelunking scenes that add to the realism in the early part of the film. The suspense builds until they actually find the "lost city" and it appears to be inhabited by left over casting from the old Flash Gordon Serials! Alan Napier (yes, Alfred from the 60's Batman TV show) does his best Karloff imitation here as a paranoid and meddling priest lording over the pale underground folk. The mole people? Oh, yeah, they turn out to be the tortured and oppressed slaves of the pale skin human tribe who finally crack and decide to revolt near the end of the picture. There are some great scenes of them sucking vitims down into dirt holes and digging up through the ground at some critical moments. It's a shame these monsters weren't used in a better film! Scares: 2, Fun: 5, Effects: 3

16.) The Omen - Tuesday, Oct. 9
Often, and unfortunately, dismissed as the red headed stepchild of The Exorcist, this 1976 film is superior on several levels. Most notably the acting credentials of its stars Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, both Academy Award winners. Their presence gives immediate viability and weight to the story. The scripting, directing, and acting are all top notch and it succeeds on its mounting suspense rather then its shocking horror, ala Exorcist. Several notable scenes: the grisly deaths of a priest and a photographer; the suicide of Damiens first Nanny; the graveyard sequence with the hounds from hell; and a few more that I'll let you find for yourselves. I haven't seen, or been interested in seeing, this film for 25 years......I don't know why I waited, it's a good one! Scares: 6, Fun: 2, Effects: 666 (just a lil' Omen humor there!)

17.) Rosemary's Baby - Wednesday, Oct. 10
Clearly made in 1966, all the hippie era stereotypes are there: the only black man in the movie is an elevator operator (no, I'm not kidding), and the Asian man has a camera and is taking pictures, and the white people give birth to the spawn of Satan. All's right with the world, huh? All that nothwithstanding, this is an excellent film, hard to believe that it is a William Castle production! Where are the gimmicks? The cheesy skeletons? Slow paced, but very deliberate, the suspense and tension builds right up to the payoff at the end. I'm not a big fan of John Cassavettes or Mia Farrow, in fact, I hate them both as actors. But in this well directed film, the first American film for Roman Polanski, they disappear into the finely woven story. I had forgotten, much like the previous film The Omen, how good a movie this was. Scares: 3, Fun: 1, Effects: 2

18.) The Incredible Shrinking Man - Thursday, Oct. 11 (1st feature)
Okay, so it's not really a horror movie, or even a sci-fi movie, but it is a damn good movie given the era it was made. For 1957, the special effects in this movie had to be considered pretty swift. Based on a story by Richard Matheson, certainly one of the most prolific writers of the genre, this tale centers on a man who shrinks 1 inch per week after encountering a strange fog while boating with his wife. The acting is solid even though the players are unknowns. The story is beautifully told and the effects, again, are wonderful relative to the year. Matheson's prose, which is used as narration through much of the film, is nearly poetic. Always a favorite of mine from back in the day, it was good to see it again. Scares: 2, Fun: 4, Effects: 6

19.) The Monolith Monsters - Thursday, Oct. 11 (2nd feature)
Anybody afraid of rocks? You afraid of rocks? I'm not afraid of rocks. Hell, my grandma ain't afraid of rocks! So, if you aren't a rockaphobe, this movie isn't gonna' have any effect on you. When ever you dedicate yourself to the task of watching horror movies in bulk, you're bound to hit on some clunkers. This film, another from my aforementioned Classic Sci-Fi Collection, is a stinker times 3!! I'm not sure what they were going for, some kind of spin off of the Blob or something, but this movie is pure ridiculous. Basic idea? Meteor comes to Earth and shatters. When pieces of it come in contact with water it multiplies and grows into giant pillars of rock that, well, fall over and break. Apparently these rocks also have the power to suck all the silica out of humans and turn them into stone as well. Don't ask, I didn't. The movie stars Grant Williams, who was also in the Incredible Shrinking Man, and he struggles to make this crud feasible. Also made in 1957, the effects are laughable. Scares: 0, Fun: 1, Effects: 0

20.) Fright Night - Friday, Oct. 12
Say what you will, but this movie set the bar for "knowing" horror movies. Released in 1985, a decade ahead of the Scream series, this film was the first to offer the "characters know the history of horror" theme. William Ragsdale stars as the high school kid who realizes, to his horror, that a vampire is living next door. Nearly perfect in every aspect, Fright Night delivers chills, thrills, laughs, and shocks, in nearly perfect dosages. It knowingly, and respectfully, nods to many famous vampire film classics. Chris Sarandon's performance as Jerry Dandridge, the vampire next door, is one of the best ever. Classy, scary, refined, knowing, yet with a subtle wink, Sarandon never overplays the character. At times, he evokes a pathos not seen in movies since the early Universal Monster movies. Roddy McDowell playing the role of has-been horror movie actor turned late night movie host is near perfect. Again, he plays the role straight, not nearly as hammy as could have been expected. Always one of my Halloween favorites, and still among my most hightly recommended films, Fright Night delivers. Scares: 5, Fun: 8, Effects: 7

21.) Creepshow 2 - Saturday, Oct. 13
More aptly titled, Crapshow 2, this stink bomb of a movie deserves to be banished to the hell of films never to be watched by human eyeballs. Not surprising, as a great deal of Stephen King's film work is fetid garbage at best, but this particular compilation of half assed tales never scares, nevers gets you thinking, never hides it's painfully obvious plot devices, and never entertains even for one minute. I know you're thinking, "gee, Cal, that's awful harsh rhetoric to be heaping on this tired lil' movie", and you'd be right if it weren't for the following scene from act II of this Crapfest that I will relate to you: Four gorgeous teens, out for a summer swim encounter a huge black tarp floating in the lake that apparently eats people. After watching two of his colleagues get absorbed in gruesome fashion by this monstrosity, our hero ( I guess ) , after spending a horror filled night on a raft with his girlfriend trying to stay alive, decides that he is horny the next morning and determined to lay pipe on his sleeping girlfriend. Are you listening to this?? I am not making this up. While dorking her, she is of course attacked and absorbed by the tarp and the look on his face at this horrific realization says it all. Basically the look says: "What? I was just tryin' to lighten the mood". Scares: 0, Fun: 0, Effects: 2 (for teen puking scenes) P. S. - I recently bought this film having never seen it, I am throwing it in the trash with this writing.

22.) Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh - Saturday, Oct.13 (2nd feature)
Though not as dreadful as the previous "sequel", this movie disappoints on several levels. Most notably it is boring. We have already been introduced to the mythos of the Candyman in the excellent first film and this movie basically ends up being a retelling of that same movie only the location is moved to New Orleans. Same plot devices are employed: our heroine decides to disprove the myth by doing the now famous "candyman chant"; He comes, kills everyone around here setting her up for the murders; inexplicably does not kill her; blah, blah, blah. It's too bad that such a classy new villian has already been trashed in his second outing. There is no need for this movie and that's a shame. Scares: 2, Fun: 2, Effects: 4

23.) Hound of the Baskervilles - Sunday, Oct. 14
Hammer's 1959 version of the Sherlock Holmes classic tale, Peter Cushing gives Basil Rathbone a run for his money as the smug, confident, and tireless Holmes. Christopher Lee also shares the billing in one of his few good guy roles, Henry Baskerville. This version is true to the Hammer formula; fantastic sets, great costumes, excellent ensemble casting, strong writing, and good acting. Although not spectacular or scary, the story is memorable and it's a fun little film. A perfect way to get the taste of the previous two films out of my mouth! Scares: 1, Fun: 3, Effects:3

24.) It! The Terror from Beyond Space - Sunday, Oct. 14 (2nd feature)
Okay, you've probably already heard that this 1957 low budget sci-fi film was the basis for the Ridley Scott's mega-hit Alien nearly 20 years later, so I won't beat that drum. However it is worth mentioning that several key plot elements were directly lifted by Scott from this film. Most notably the main arc: Spacecraft heads for Mars on a rescue mission; Martian monster stows away on ship; crew begins to be systematically killed off. Also the monster's use of air vents on the ship to move about, the crew employing the air lock in a effort to destroy the thing, and other small similarities are fun to pick out and compare to the newer version. This film was always one of my favorites as a kid, and at 1 hour and 9 minutes long, it painless to watch. Scares: 1, Fun: 5, Effects: 2

25.) Dead of Night - Sunday, Oct. 14 (3rd feature)
The granddaddy of ghost stories, this 1945 anthology movie set the bar for dozens of movies to come. The movie centers around an architect who goes out to visit a client in a large country home. Upon entering he is overcome with the feeling he has been there before and becomes consumed with a sense of dread. In the house he encounters 5 other guests who, in turn, relate there stories of the supernatural. Each story builds until we get to the payoff piece about a schizo ventriloquist and his evil dummy. This last story is clearly the inspiration for the Anthony Hopkins film "Magic" which would be made 30 years later! This one is a must see, I watch it nearly every Halloween season. Scares: 5, Fun; 6, Effects: 6

26.) Re-Animator - Sunday, Oct. 14 (4th feature)
Stuart Gordon's 1985 top notch gore flick features Jeffrey Combs in what would become his signature role. Surrounded by a talented corp of actors, including then hottie Barbara Crampton, the story is loosely based on a series of stories by H.P Lovecraft about Herbert West, a brilliant science student dedicated to resurrecting the dead. Gore, scares, and laughs, are plentiful in this over the top thrill ride of a movie. Several other movies based on Lovecraft's work would follow starring one or more of this acting troupe and nearly all are worth watching. Scares: 5, Fun: 7, Effects: 7

27.) Blood Feast - Monday, Oct. 15
Say what you will about Hershell Gordon Lewis, the man doesn't tease his audience! Within the first three minutes a woman is brutally hacked up in a bath tub. This scene is hilariously followed by the on screen declaration that "Box Office Spectaculars Presents". This cult favorite was arguably the first "gore" film ever made. Filmed in garish bright colors and mostly in broad daylight, it is nearly impossible to be scared at any time during this movie. The acting is sub-bad with one performer literally reading his lines off his hand. Silly murders ensue based on some silly story arc about an ancient Egyptian Blood Feast. Our villain, you see, is assembling the body parts of young women that he needs for some gumbo that supposed to bring back a long dead Egyptian princess. Bad scores, bad acting, bad filming, this one's got it all folks. Worth the watch just for the laughs. Why did this guy ever get more respect than Ed Wood, Jr? Scares: 0, Fun: 3, Effects: 2

28.) Young Frankenstein: The Musical - Monday, Oct. 15
In a complete but certainly enjoyable departure from the horror film watching, my son got us tickets for the New Mel Brook's Musical, Young Frankenstein. There's nothing quite like live theater and since my son lives in Manhattan we had planned to spend the weekend together watching horror movies (7 in two days!) he thought it would fit the spirit of the season to include this wonderful musical in our plans. It was great, I highly recommend it. Most of the cast members you've never heard of but there are a couple of note. Andrea Martin, the talented comedienne most noted for her work on SCTV, played the role of Frau Blucher and Shuler Hensley played the role of the monster. Many of you may know him, and possibly have forgiven him for, playing the Monster in the extremely disappointing "Van Helsing". You may remember him dramatically bellowing Bible passages. Ooooh, I still shudder just thinkin' about it. But, if you get a chance, and your in NYC, and you got $100 bux to spend......this is a great way to do it. Entertainment: 8, Fun: 8, Music: 8

29.) Frankenstein - Tuesday, Oct. 16
It just doesn't feel right each year until I put on the classic Universal Horror movies. I used to start my marathons each year with the big four: Frank, Drac, Wolf, and Mummy. This year I put them off and chose a more eclectic approach. After all the other types, styles, forms and years of movies I have watched, the simple, honest approach of Frankenstein is refreshing. As I watched it I wondered how movies such as this could have led to over the top travesties like "Blood Feast", for example? Just how did the horror genre evolve from these simple, direct monsters into the wide variety of horror movies through the years? Anyway, there's nothing I can say about this classic film that you don't already know or that hasn't been said better. Karloff is fantastic, Whales sets and direction is superb, and these are the films that, for most of us, hooked us into monsters for life. Scares: 2, Fun: 8, Effects: 6

30.) Dracula - Wednesday, Oct. 17
I have seen this film hundreds of times, but tonight I really watched it. The sets in the beginning of the film are spectacular considering that, like Frankenstein, this film was made in 1931. I paid extremely close attention to the performance of Bela Lugosi, and it is stunning. His every gesture, so deliberate yet graceful and elegant. Some of his moves, as he closes in on his victims, are catlike in their grace. And his hands, just watch every subtle but definitive gesture and shaping of his fingers, it really quite amazing what he did with this character. It's no wonder he came to define the character of Dracula forever. All others, even the great Christopher Lee, are merely pretenders to the throne. Scares: 2, Fun: 8, Effects: 5

31.) The Frighteners - Friday, Oct. 19
Long before he was piddling around with gnomes and elves, or messing up classic ape movies, Peter Jackson had it going on. First with Dead Alive, which I may watch later this week, and tonights film. Starring Michael J. Fox in one of his last, best, movie roles this lil' movie has it all: Humor, Scares, Acting, Story, and Effects. Dee Wallace turns in a spooky good performance playing against type as the mentally disturbed gal pal of serial killer boyfriend Jake Busey. The original story by Jackson is masterfully told and keeps you on the edge of your seat during much of the film. But by far the performance that puts this film over the top is Jeffrey Combs, actually topping his role as Herbert West in Re-Animator, as fried FBI Special Agent Milton Dammers. He makes the film, every scene that he's in is fun to watch. His character nuances are brilliant and one wonders why this guy doesn't get more character roles in bigger films. Scares: 5, Fun: 8, Effects: 9

32.) Hellraiser 3: Hell On Earth - Saturday, Oct. 20
I've never really been able to sink my teeth into the Hellraiser series. There were promising ideas presented in the first movie, and certainly the introduction of an interesting new monster in the form of Pinhead. It's just that the movies never seem to be able to live up to the premise. The writing just suffers. The third in the series is the first not directed by Clive Barker, the writer of the series, and perhaps that's why it's just a little better than the first two. However, it suffers the same midpoint meltdown. The movie starts promising, giving us yet again the introduction to Pinhead and his hell world filled with unimaginable pain, suffering, and horror. Blah, Blah, Blah........but like most Hellraiser movies, it quickly degenerates into a "chase the girl with the box" movie. Worse yet, the writers try to make Pinhead the wise-cracking smart alec that Freddy Krueger had set bar for in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. It doesn't work that well with Pinhead as his character is better suited to dreadful lamentations and dire predictions of pain yet to come. Scares: 4, Fun: 3, Effects: 5

33.) Silence of the Lambs - Sunday, Oct. 21
For years I stuggled with the dilemma: Is this a horror movie? Yes? No? Yes? No? this point, I have forsaken the argument just to enjoy this masterful film. Finally, released again in it's widescreen format, Jonathan Demme's 1991 screen version of the Thomas Harris novel is nearly poetic in its pacing, direction and storytelling. Naturally, Anthony Hopkins is definitive in the role of Hannibal Lector. Riveting in his performance, its a shame the character was sullied by the two follow ups to this fantastic film. Harris had gone to the well with this story a few times before hitting pay dirt with this "middle" episode. Take it from me, forget the prequels, the sequels, and the pre-prequels. This Lector Opus is the only one worth the money. Scares: 6, Fun: 3, Effects: 5

34.) The Hills Have Eyes - Monday, Oct. 22
I'll admit it. I had forgotten completely what a good movie this is. That's's GOOD! I had seen the remake last year and actually enjoyed it quite a bit. So this year I wandered with some trepidation back to the source material. For 1977, Wes Craven had it all going on with this story of a family under siege in the desert by inbred, murderous, half-wits. Craven's direction and pacing are amazingly restrained given the subject matter. He spends alot of time building the tension and then letting loose with the carnage. The viewer is immediately sucked into the "revenge" motif, you are rooting for the family to kill the bastard mutants. And herein lies Craven's social message: if driven to violence, the innocent become no better than the guilty. Chew on that! Scares: 5, Fun: 3, Effects: 4

35.) It Came From Outer Space - Tuesday, Oct. 23
Considered the finest, and first, of the "sci-fi" genre that would grow to rule the fifties, this 1953 film lays the ground work for dozens of "invaders from space" movies to come. It's distinction lies in the Ray Bradbury story that presents aliens as benevolent beings, not necessarily bent on the distruction of Earth. The strangest item in this movie to me is that the whole thing takes place in the desert, and yet Richard Carlson, the hero and star, spends the entire movie in what appears to be a heavy wool, or mohair, suit! Literally, he never breaks a sweat or takes off his jacket. Oh, well, chalk that up to the innocence of the age. Originally presented in 3-D, this movie set the bar for science fiction, layed the foundation for the "scientist as hero" character and opened up for us the world beyond. Scares: 3, Fun: 7, Effects: 6

36.) The Legend of Hell House - Wednesday, Oct. 24

"Drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, beastiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies. Shall I go on?" So goes the quote from Roddy McDowell when asked "Why is this house so evil?".
Is there anything this guy Matheson doesn't do?!? Once again, Richard Matheson, working from his own book, pens a gripping, atmospheric, haunted house tale in the vein of The Haunting. Same plot devices at work here; group of scientists and mediums sent to creepy house to determine once and for all the existence of the otherworldly. Man, how many of us want that job?!? Not quite the classic movie that The Haunting became, this movie for the most part is brushed off, or totally overlooked, by most of the horror crowd. But don't short sheet it too soon! It is a smart, well directed and acted, creeper of the supernatural. Admittedly, it has lost a bit of its scare power over me since my original viewing in 1973 (at a drive in, no less!), but it still has the creepy factor in high dosages. Certainly worth the watch for you archive types. Scares: 4, Fun: 4, Effects: N/A

37.) Wolf Creek - Thursday, Oct. 25
A few years back a new breed of horror directors hit the screen in a big way and actually managed to revitilize a stale genre, again. Hostel, High Tension, Cabin Fever, and Wolf Creek were among the best of this breed. Most of these films paid the right amount of homage to their inspirations and at the same time managed to defy long accepted horror conventions, and I think this is what makes them seem so fresh. Wolf Creek, directed by Greg McLean and released in 2004 is your classic "innocent adventurers fall into the clutches of a madmen while exploring the great outdoors". Not so very different from the premise of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this group, two girls and one guy, experience car trouble in the desolate regions of Australia's outback territory. Lo and behold, a "good Samaritan" happens by and agrees to tow them to a safe place and fix there car. Naturally, carnage, horror, torture, and insanity follows. And he doesn't even fix the damn car!!! More than a few scares in this one, it's well done, well acted, and perhaps contains some of the most beautiful scenery ever displayed in a horror film. Scares: 6, Fun: 3, Effects: 5

38. ) The Evil Dead - Friday, Oct. 26

Sam Raimi cements his place in the horror hall of fame with his 1981 "in your face", whacked out spin on possession films. Bruce Campbell, in his career defining role, is fascinating to watch as he watches the horror unfold and pick off those around him one by one. His keen balancing act between horror and comedy will later prove to be his most endearing trait as an actor. The classic low budget but high creativity tale centers on the now famous Book of the Dead, which will remain the catalyst for castastrophe for two more excellent "Dead" films. I won't belabor this one, if you by some miracle have NOT seen this film? Shame, shame, shame on you! Scares: 5, Fun: 8, Effects: 7

39.) A Nightmare On Elm Street - Sunday, Oct. 28
Perhaps the most overlooked evidence of Wes Craven's genius in creating this film is the fact that, although filmed in 1984 at the height of the 80's cultural impact curve, he avoided every temptation to date this film in the era. There is no 80's gratuitous pop songs, no 80's sounding big drum backing music, no ridiculous 80's fashion statements (in fact, most of the cast looks like they are fresh out of prep school: khaki's and oxford shirts!), and no visible sign in ANY scene that this story is taking place during the "me" decade. Whether it was by design or by accident, this detail enables the film to be timeless classic. Not to mention the introduction of possibly the most influential screen monster since Frankenstein, Craven creatively marries the "slasher" film genre, so popular in the 80's, to the foundation of the "monster" genre. The result?" Pure fun. Scares: 5, Fun: 8, Effects: 5

40.) Godzilla - King of the Monsters - Sunday, Oct. 29
It's hard to believe that this film, done in 1954, not even 10 years after World War II, could have been the start of 50 years of this endearing monster. Looking more like Cookie Monster in this first incarnation, Godzilla's appearance would evolve throughout the years but never stray too far from the "guy in a suit" appeal that is the heart of many of these early Japanese giant monster flicks. The version I watched was the "American" adaptation, where scenes of Raymond Burr were spliced in to serve as narration and to give the film a more common appeal. All in all, it's really a pretty crappy movie, but it does introduce an icon of epic proportions, and it's subtle sub-text about the horrors of nuclear weapons is extremely sobering given the proximity in time to the actual detonations that took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's a classic, but tiresome to watch. Scares: 0, Fun: 3, Effects: 3

41.) The Phantom of the Opera - Tuesday, Oct. 30
It is an amazing thing to watch the restored 1929 version of this classic horror film. Lon Chaney is king, no doubt. Silent films are tedious, yet there are moments of stunning beauty and clarity in the movie. As a kid I remember the famous "unsmasking" scene that was shown in countless a horror anthology shows, but it truly interesting to see it in it's original context. The sets are marvelous, Chaney's make up is spectacular, and the duo tone color sequences during the Masked Ball are great fun. Again, the introduction of a horror icon is always a joy to watch and the Phantom is truly one of the all time greats. Scares: 0, Fun: 4, Effects: 3

42.) Halloween - Tuesday, Oct. 30

John Carpenter's 1978 film launched the slasher film era, and it's a shame that most of the films to follow were nowhere near the level of excellence achieved in this low budget classic. The original story is refreshing and Carpenter manages throughout the film to keep up the level of suspense without total reliance on gore and bloodshed. In fact, there very little on screen carnage in the film and this plays to the advantage of the scares. Carpenter relies on old school shock and scare tactics and for the most part, they work. Always a pleasure to watch, although by the time I get to this film, I know the season is at it's end. And that always makes me a little depressed. Scares: 6, Fun: 7, Effects: 5

So, Happy Halloween, all. Hope you ejoyed this lil' trip through horror cinema. Until next year, BOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!


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