Sunday, October 31, 2010

This is what is known as a HAIL MARY.

I am so tired I could die; it's 8:40 and all I want to do is crawl in my cozy bed and fall asleep dreaming of George Clooney, Brett Favre, Viggo Mortonson, Lucius Malfoy, etc., etc., but I AM COMMITTED TO MY OCTOBER LIST, by God, through loss of life and limb I will finish this. You'll have to forgive me if it seems a little rushed but October was a *smashing* month for my little Television Lady blog, so I'd be looking the proverbial gift horse in the mouth if I wasn't the last man standing at my own party. . . so you get it all, but you get it all at once. (thanks everyone who has read, enjoyed, commented: this has been great fun for me!)

1. The Birds, 1963, Alfred Hitchcock. This was my first viewing all the way through, and I had no intention of being rattled by it. But guess what? This film is severely disturbing and I was very bothered by it. Why, oh why, these birds? You never find out. I like that. In Terror in the Aisles, there's an interview with Hitchcock about suspense in film; he says something to the effect of, "you can't just blow your wad all at once, you have to make the audience wait and squirm a little and then, BAM!" This film was very much that way, you wait a hell of a long time for the BAM, but once it happens . . . (shudder).

Random questions:
1. Did anyone else get any lesbian overtones from The Schoolteacher? I thought it worked just fine, but when she said she had "dated" Mitch, it really threw me for a loop.
2. Can the birds smell them? I was screaming at everyone to go hide in a closet, completely enclosed.
3. Constant calling his mother "dear?" And the jealousy of all girls he brings home? Unresolved remnants from young Master Bates, perhaps?

2. Psycho, 1960, Alfred Hitchcock. First scary movie I ever saw (age six). My dad told me about it and I begged him to let me watch it when it aired on channel nine. He went out to his machine shop after dinner that evening and I hovered around the television, waiting for it to come on; once the music started I must have gotten some kind of clue as to what I was in for. . . I ran out to the steps and yelled for him to come in.

This whole film is tense. Marion steals the money, she lies to the cop, she dumps her car, she meets Norman. They have this really uncomfortable conversation (hello, A BOY'S BEST FRIEND IS HIS MOTHER) and well, you know the rest. I just clench and writhe every time. The most disturbing part of this film isn't the murder, it isn't the corpse in clothing, it isn't the superimposition of Mother Bates's face onto Norman's at the end, it's the way she just stomps out of that bathroom after she cuts up Marion. Just stalking right the hell out of there, like "well that little skank just got what was coming to her AND GET OUT OF MY WAY, I'm *STILL* PISSED ABOUT IT" stomp, stomp, stomp!

Once Matt, to get a rise out of me, dressed up in some ridiculous jumper I had in the back of my closet, grabbed the biggest knife he could find, and just stood silently in the doorway of our old apartment with his mouth frozen in this huge, disgusting grin, just waiting for me to turn my head over and see. . .

ugh. But you must admit, Norman Bates is one of the absolute best time-withstanding villains. I know most people will not agree to this, but I think his portrayals in the sequels are just as entertaining and disturbing. I'll be getting to that on its own, soon enough.

The rest?

Dracula by Bram Stoker: Wonderful. I loved it. I think the thing I loved best was that Winona Ryder was not anywhere near it.

Alfred Hitchcock, Tales of Terror. Hitch chose the tales, he didn't write them. But they were wonderful, I loved them all, mostly.

The Thomas Mann Reader. This was probably my favorite book this month, but as I was getting pressed for time and these tales were not really related to Halloween, Vampires, Psychopaths, or things of this nature, I had to shelve it after only a few stories to try to keep on task. They were amazing and made me cry, though, I will definitely return to this, probably in December.

It's Psycho Two and Three tonight. . . Matt is growing quite annoyed at all the Dexters we've been missing, but has been very sportsmanlike in allowing me full control of the television. Plus his leg is still in a cast and he can't really do anything about it anyway. At least it's horror and not Traveling Pants, right Larry?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sound, Redrum, and Isolation: The Genius of The Shining

The Shining: 1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick.

"A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future."

I love Stanley. I love the longness of his films, the creepy oranges, distinctive lights, how everyone faces some internal struggle, all of it. This film, horrifying as it is, is one of my favorites, ever. Disclaimer: I can't talk about King on this one, the book and film are just horses of different colors in my mind (and ne'er the twain shall meet, right?)

Normally if a film is good, I try to break it up and talk about narrative, technical elements, and theme. In this film they are all one and the same, really. The narrative is spiced with fear and evil, accentuated by isolation. (The Overlook Hotel is evil and makes Jack crazy. Jack is a writer who can't write. Wendy and Danny can't get out). The filmmaking exemplifies fear by drawing out scenes slowly and sneaking up from far away, using color, sound, and motion (The Overlook is shown many times to be a vast, grand structure. Characters are constantly going down halls, coming upon different surprises, most of them unpleasant. Oranges, yellows, and golds vibrate with danger. The simmering teakettle instrumental music mirrors Jack's own boiling point, the glissandos up and down the scales by strings echo Jack's psychological ups and downs. The steadi-cam behind Danny's big wheel shows not only the difference in size between Danny and the hotel, but suggests corners, twists, and dead ends like the hedge maze outside). I'm sure you all know what a steadi-cam is, but in case you don't: 

They can't get out.

This film is what it is because they're isolated. If they were at some Howard Johnson somewhere, they'd just have to bust out and pound on a neighbor's door, but they are stuck inside the Overlook Hotel with no one but themselves and the ghosts (The Grady Daughters, The Woman in the Bathtub, Lloyd, Mr. Grady, Various Partying Guests, The Two Masked Men Engaged in (implied) Fellatio, etc.). That's scary.

The sounds: Danny's big wheel alternating between solid floor and carpet. Jack's tennis ball thumping against the walls and floors. The sound of the typewriter. Later, the axe slicing into wood. In the hotel, these things all take on ominous properties; they were done really, really well. Original music was composed by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind. Bravo, gals, really.

Another thing the film does exceptionally well is foreshadowing. With a troubling story like this (Dads killing kids, etc.) you almost need to drop hints, or at least prepare the audience a little. From the very beginning, it's clear that there is one way this is going to end: BADLY. All the pieces are there.
1. Mr. Ulman explains to Jack the murderous story of Charles Grady; Jack seems absolutely thrilled (!)
2. Tony (Danny's imaginary friend) doesn't want to go to the hotel but won't say why. Shows Danny image of blood flooding from elevator.
3. There is a history of abuse (Jack injured Danny's arm while drunk).
4. The mention of The Donner Party as the family drives to the hotel (cannibalism)
5. Through his conversation with Dick Halloran, Danny discovers there is something bad at the hotel, specifically room 237.
6. As Wendy fixes lunch one day, a news program alludes to a "missing Aspen woman" who had been missing ten days after a hunting trip with her husband. Did he shoot her or what?
7. Danny tiptoes to his room to get his fire engine and apparently gets a disturbing look inside his father's mind, prompting him to say, "You'd never hurt mom or me, right?"
8. The blizzard. The phone lines down. The fact that no one else can get to them.

Poor Danny. Not only did he have to get his neck all mangled by the old gal in 237, but through his shining, he had a front row seat to Jack's Bathtub Lady experience, his mother's getting trapped in the bathroom during the whole "Here's Johnny" segment, Dick Halloran's unfortunate collision with the axe, and then the chase through the hedge maze. Enough, already! I'd say he probably needed some temporary relaxation in the rest home like Eddie Van Halen (Hot for Teacher) when it was all over.

If you ever get the chance to watch the extras on this disk, do it. There is a documentary included, shot by Vivian Kubrick, and it's amazing. And while I thought Shelley Duval was perfect in the role of Wendy Torrence, the little documentary shows an entirely different side to what was going on during the filming and gives you an idea of what working with actors is really like . . . it's funny.

So, there you have it, this is my scariest film, ever. I saw it when I was seven; I'll never forget the sound of the woman's laughter when Jack sees her in the mirror. . . I don't think anything will ever scare me as much as this did (and does). But it's nice to be cinematically moved at the same time, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

There's Hope for Nerds Yet: Christine

I have about a million things to say about this film but will try to let the images do the talking. Lotta history; lotta nostalgia. It's one of my favorites. It was definitely my dad's favorite film. I think Charlie and I probably watched this (and The Blues Brothers) about once daily for an entire summer when we first got our Beta; they were the only two films we had, of course, but we didn't mind. I'll never forget rewinding (and rewinding and rewinding) the scene where the newly rebuilt-after-the-trashing Christine charges Moochie; the close up on the back right tire seemed to really amuse Charlie; we laughed at it, a lot.  My dad had a 1957 Chevy in aqua green that he restored, I have a feeling it was his  Christine. We once very nearly got the tar beaten from us when he thought we had flung drops of black spray paint onto the driver's side door--my mother saved us by showing him it was some sort of excrement, NOT spray paint. . .

Anyway, my own personal feelings aside, this film (story) is in a way a very pertinent tale about bullying. True, Arnie takes things a little too far and is sucked into the Stephen King world of bizarre evil that happens to good people, but let's face it, Arnie wouldn't have been vulnerable to any of it if he didn't start out the story as a genuine nerd. I'm not saying nerds should all go out and seek revenge upon their attackers, (I have a few rotten bitches I'd like to see squirm a bit from my junior high years) but Arnie got even, oh boy did he! Like I said, I'm not advocating bully-murder at all, I'm just saying, this story probably carries a lot of resonance for anyone who's ever dealt with a Buddy Reparton. The book and the film are quite different in this respect as the novel deals much, much more with Roland LeBay (Christine's previous owner), his obsession with the car, and the way his ghost physically comes back and begins to take over Arnie and his actions; the film just kind of alludes to that by changes in Arnie (physically he becomes more attractive, eventually chooses the car over Leigh, the use of the word "shitter," etc.) but never really portrays LeBay's ghost as a factor.

Speaking of LeBay: That brother, George, who sells Arnie the car? This is probably the most digusting image of an old person I've ever seen in my life. That back brace? And cigar? And in the following scene he has, the back brace UNDER A BLAZER? ("I'm gonna sell this shit-hole and buy me a condo") Ewwww. I can almost smell him from here. The film itself does not scare me but if I had to choose between Christine and LeBay, I'd choose Christine.

Already I'm saying too much. The film is a beautiful collection of images, many of the actors are quite attractive (I thought Dennis was smokin' hot back in the day), and John Carpenter, in addition to being able to roll out a reel of film, has a fine, fine musical sense. The scene after the Reparton Gang trashes the car where Arnie is diddling around at the counter is one of my favorites; the music (a cross between the Halloween theme and the instrumental used in the credits of The Exorcist) together with the little mechanical noises as Christine "fixes" herself really, really thrill me. I also love the scene prior to the trashing where Arnie embraces the steering wheel as Christine plays "I'll Forever Love You" on the radio. Come to think of it, any time there is some link to events happening and songs on Christine's radio, it's awesome (Christine won't start outside of Leigh's house; "It's all right, baby, everything is the same."--"I LOVE YOU LIKE I DO!")

I really, really love this film. Aces, all the way.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


As much as it annoys me to do this, I'm having to make some adjustments to the October Film List due to availability problems on Netflix and the fact that I'm running out of time. I'm eliminating the Saw films, I promise to do them next year, cross my heart. I'm ending King with Christine and The Shining, as they were the only ones I could get. After that it'll be Hitchcock, The Birds and Psycho, followed by II and III if I can get them. My loyalty to Jeff Fahey isn't quite equal to my loyalty to King or Kubrick or Carpenter, but I really feel I need to represent with Psycho III. Plus it's (secretly) one of my favorites from the original list.

So, to reiterate, the rest of the month looks like this:
1. Christine
2. The Shining
3. The Birds
4. Psycho
5. Psycho II
6. Psycho III
and if by some freak chance I have ninety minutes to spare after this list, 7. Phantasm II.

Ugh, I hate scribble-outs. But for your viewing pleasure in the meantime:

Dwayne Duke, friends just call me Duke. I'm a singer.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Desperation and Creepshow.

Yes and yes, but quickly. I am still utterly behind on everything.

Donald, my wonderful friend, picked up Desperation as a feel-better sort of gift (after the bad run of events the past two weeks), I couldn't have been more pleased. I was a little scared to watch as I knew that the (tak!) Cop was going to give me a serious case of the chatters. . . the book had been very disturbing.

"When a sheriff arrests a writer, a family, a couple, and a hitchiker and throws them in a jail cell in the deserted town of Desperation, they must fight for their lives."

It was directed by Mick Garris, released in 2006. The casting was good, Ron Perlman (left) was literally, dead on. "You have the right to remain silent. If you choose to not be silent anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. I'm going to kill you. You have the right to an attorney." Goosebumps! And as far as the story goes, I'm guessing a lot of people might be put off by all the God business, my mother was. It was a big part of the story, but I think if you were willing to buy any of the Tak, tak-a-lah/controlling the animals/evil spirits jumping from body to body, the God stuff shouldn't have been that much harder to stomach, right? The kid was a little bit Magoo, but you know, kids often are.

I don't know if I spaced this during the book or what, but going down into a pit with a hole to blow up the bad evil? I like pits with holes and bad evil, ones having to do with John Locke, or say, a smoke monster? Only instead of the doctor being the savior in this story it's (of course) the writer. Nice work, and "I hate critics?" What writer doesn't?

Creepshow, 1982, directed by George A. Romero. I saw the box for this film back when Terry's Holiday Market was still Tersteeg's, and they had a VHS selection for rental at the front of the store. The cover showed the little theater skeleton, (pictured right), and I must agree, it is the most fun I've ever had being scared, or at least extremely creeped out.

As a whole, I loved the comic structuring of each of the five stories, especially how each scene was illustrated and then faded in exactly, with the actors and setting matching the comic perfectly. It was crafty. I also thought the casting was excellent with many respectable actors taking part, music was perfect, especially the piano instrumentals. Since the film itself is made of five short story segments, let's just break each one down, shall we?

Father's Day: Bedelia bashes her father's head in with an ashtray on father's day; Father comes back from the grave, "I want my cake." For superficial reasons, I really liked this. I always thought Cass, the niece with the brown, permed hair, white jeans, shirt opened three buttons and lots of necklaces, was extremely pretty. Her dancing? Not as pretty, but bad eighties dancing and funny. Ed Harris! Met an unfortunate end (loved the splat sound the grave made when it plopped on him). And the fact that the rotten old corpse really did just want a cake, and used the other aunt's head for it, complete with frosting and candles? How wonderful and fun. My brother and I used to see that stuffy old aunt as a long-haired Julie Honzay (5th grade teacher); the mashing of the cigarette butt into the ashtray to the beat of the disco song Cass dances to was also much appreciated.

The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill: Man finds meteor in back yard, touches it, and turns into a weed. I know this wasn't the best in the bunch, but there are some good things about it. For one, I thought King was just fine in his role, he was a goofy dork, just like he was supposed to be! My very favorite scenes in this were some of the lines, "I'll be dipped in shit if that ain't a meteor!" and "METEOR SHIT!" Also the imagined antics in the doctor's office (after his fingers start to turn green) make me giggle every time. That doctor, wheeling by on the stool? "This is going to be extremely painful, Mr. Verrill" running his finger up the blade of the knife, and the random skeleton just hovering around on its own, apparently also on wheels? It was fun.

Something to Tide You Over: Husband punishes his cheating wife and lover by burying them in the sand at high tide. Fine, I guess. Good use of "Camptown Races" in a minor key, and giving a murderer his come-uppance, but probably my least favorite of all of them. The part where Harry (Ted Danson) is shown under water, holding his breath, has always been disturbing for me. Really, you let someone talk you into burying yourself up to the chin in sand? That had to be a little claustrophobic, even acting it. On an unrelated note, sometimes it's hard for me to accept Leslie Nielsen as anything other than Frank Drebbin, despite having played some real a-holes in his career.

The Crate: An ancient hell-monkey is found in a crate; it starts eating everyone. This terrified me the first time I watched it. In fact, I'm quite sure that my brother, Erica, and I watched this right up to janitor getting gobbled and then shut it off, unable to go any further with it. Granted, I was probably ten, but I still remember being rattled to hell. And while I do still find it scary, I really got into the whole nagging wife aspect this time around ("call me Billy, everyone does!"), thinking that this idea had to have been born from a random experience of King's concerning some professor's horrid wife and what in the name of God could he do to be free of her? (!) I dug it. I thought the actors were really, really good in this, with a great chemistry.

They're Creeping Up on You: An unpleasant man in a germ-proof apartment is carried away by a not entirely undeserved roach infestation. Again, not the strongest selection in the group, but a worthy one, I think. All those roaches really do give me the creeps. What I liked best about this is something extremely random, but the way everyone's voices were so distinctive and different. The wife of the man who shot himself on the telephone, she kind of sounded like Ann Margaret or Phyllis Diller maybe, and the maintenance man, through the peep hole in the door. "Oh yes, Mr. Pratt!" "What happened, bugs got your tongue?" Just fun.

These last few King nights? Winner, winner, Chicken Dinner! How exciting!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Malachai Come: Children of the Corn

For every one of my friends I made watch this when we were ten, I'm sorry, but that aside, this film was made for me. Check out the name tag, Grandma, because you're in MY WORLD now.

Children of the Corn, 1984, directed by Fritz Kiersch.

"A boy preacher named Isaac goes to a town in Nebraska called Gatlin and gets all the children to murder every adult in town. A young couple have a murder to report and they go to the nearest town (Gatlin) to seek help but the town seems deserted. They are soon trapped in Gatlin with little chance of getting out alive."

I love this film. It's so crazy and ridiculous and totally eighties, one of the best to come out of the decade, if you ask me. The music is great (and this is where chanting IS warranted), chanting theme with chorus, instrumental, all of it. Sarah's crayon drawings at the opening credits? Genius. The actors get the job done, the script was a great, albeit pretty different flesh-out of King's (extremely) short story, and it's shittin' creepy! 

The opening sequence of all the old timers getting butchered is disturbing. More disturbing is Isaac, the child preacher, standing in the window and the extreme zoom into his sick face while all this is happening. Yuck! Equally gross is his snarling, flailing little spasms when the other members of the flock decide to grab him and hang him up on the cross, he looks and sounds like a rabid mongrel. ("He wants you, too, Malachai, he wants you TOO!")

The special effects for the exploding cornfield were a bit dated, but like I said, it was totally eighties, and I'm fine with it. Some of the natural lighting shots they used inside the abandoned house were kind of neat, just sunbeams shining through the windows and casting shadows, but added to the weird, unsettled feeling of evil in broad daylight that was present in the town. It seems like that kind of thing isn't really done anymore, outside of independent films, that most films' scenes are 100% manufactured down to the last detail. I like seeing rough, cheesey stuff like this, it reminds me of a time without green screens and after effects (without which, hey, my husband wouldn't have a job, but you know what I mean).

The ending admittedly kind of resolves out of no where, all it took for those kids to snap out of it was Burt to yell at them? Kind of weak. However, if someone asked to see my list of favorite eighties horror films, Goddamn, this would be on it. 

Steer clear of New England: The Witches of Eastwick and The Mist

The Witches of Eastwick, the novel, bears very little similarity to the film of the same name, just some FYI. It was written by the brilliant and wordy John Updike, and like most everything else he's written, deals with divorces, trysts, and Rabbit Mothers. I had a hard time with that for most of the book, thinking over and over, for Christ's sake, go home and tend to your children!

But clever, oh was it clever! To be clever and cut with words like Updike! ("her eyes had become piggy, with a vengeful, piggy glitter"). PIGGY EYES! And honestly, the book jacket really hyped up the sex a little too much, there really wasn't that much to speak of. Although the implications of sex and the way he was both subtle and blunt together in describing it was kind of cool:

"Other men, Sukie felt, minded when her thoughts and tongue gravitated to the coven and its coziness and mischief, but not Van Horne; it was his meat somehow, he was like a woman in his steady kindness, though of course terribly masculine in form: when he fucked you it hurt." or some bit about aching "at both ends of her perineum," I've not ever quite heard it phrased thusly, but you know, fine.

I know I should have felt some sort of bond with the witches, womankind, strength in their power, or at least some amount of intrigue, but really I couldn't stand any of them, they seemed mean and vapid at once, with no real reason for beef about anything. Read this book for the writing, it's the only nice thing about it.

"The witches are gone, vanished; we were just an interval in their lives, and they in ours. But as Sukie's blue-green ghost continues to haunt the sunstruck pavement, and Jane's black shape to flit past the moon, so the rumors of the days when they were solid among us, gorgeous and doing evil, have flavored the name of the town in the mouths of others, and for those of us who live here have left something oblong and invisible and exciting we do not understand. We meet it turning the corner where Hemlock meets Oak; it is there when we walk the beach in offseason and the Atlantic in its blackness mirrors the dense packed gray of the clouds: a scandal, life like smoke rising twisted into legend."

The Mist, 2007. Directed by Frank Darabont. Based on the short story by Stephen King. IMDB's synopsis: A freak storm unleashes a species of blood-thirsty creatures on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole-up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.

What I liked best about this film was how amazingly it matched the vision I had in my head of King's story. Everything looked exactly how I thought it would look. The actors were perfect, just as I had envisioned them to look and act, same with the monsters (although I do believe Ms. Amanda Dumfries was supposed to be wearing a cranberry-colored sweatsuit. And didn't she and David get it on in one of the store rooms?) The film itself was very beautiful-looking, Frank Darabont I think sees things very cinematically. The only criticisms I have are (again) the score toward the conclusion, a little too Eyes Wide Shut/chanty for me, and the redundancy of David Drayton screaming "They're dead, and for what?" We get that, it's obvious, you don't have to speak it aloud.

That said, I thought the film was scary. The creatures, the situation, the scape-goating, all of it. I didn't just get uncomfortable because it was a story of a father having to make difficult decisions in order to protect his son, but because this sort of danger is completely unknown and can't be reasoned with. There were no absolutes with what they were faced with, other than kill or be killed, it was pure frenzy! That unnerves me a little. With The Ring, you make the tape, with The Exorcist, you dial up Father Merrin. This? Run away and hope they don't get you. That's scary.

In classifying King stories made into films, I've come up with three categories:
1. Do not bother: (Thinner, Hearts in Atlantis)
2. Bother, but keep your sense of humor: (many titles fall into this one-- Pet Semetary, Children of the Corn, Cat's Eye, Creepshow, etc.)
and 3. Booyah!: The Shining, Christine, Misery, The Shawshank Redemption.

I wouldn't say this film was a bulls eye or a Booyah, but I think it's worth seeing, especially if you enjoyed the story.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I've been trying to catch up on my list, really I have, but seriously, the elements have been against me. I started watching Wait Until Dark, which I liked, but it seemed to be the world's longest film, and it took me almost three nights to finish it.

Then, once I broadened my Netflix to get three disks at a time instead of one and changed the charges to go on Matt's card instead of mine, low and behold, you don't need a streaming disk for the Playstation anymore and can do your instant downloads directly. Great! While I started on the instant download list, the exact same lineup just happened to show up in the mailbox.

So next was The Entity. And yes, it's fricking creepy. But too long to finish in one sitting, and now, unfortunately, the Playstation "cannot connect, please try again" for most of the day, so I have a feeling that one's out, too. I have no idea how it ends.

Send back disks, get new ones. Blink arrives. I didn't end up watching past the first ten minutes as the opening was seriously so ridiculous I couldn't, and I mean COULD NOT stomach it. Number one, bad fake violin-playing. Don't do that. Number two, Aidan Quinn's bad dancing was so bad it made me embarrassed for him for the rest of his life. Don't do that, either. Ugh.

So after this, I was stuck because it was the last disk that hadn't already been watched (I will watch Notes on a Scandal, just not this month, so that had to get sent back too.) I ordered Single White Female on demand. OMFG, bad idea. What is it with 90s films, were there ever any good ones? This piece of shit made Basic Instinct look like The (Goddamned) Godfather. I shut that off after about nineteen minutes.

Not faring well.

Thank God and Baby Jesus it's high time for the King films.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Here's to Swimmin' with Bowlegged Women: Jaws

If all stories were told like this one, every film out there would be a home run, every time.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, released in 1975. Based upon the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley. IMDB says: "When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it." Scary. Real. Absolutely feasible. I was going to refer to the shark as that "rogue Great White," but it seems like I've been using "rogue" way too much lately. Instead, he's a Maverick-y Maverick.

Opening up the film with shark-cam together with musical genius of John Williams has to go down as one of the best film openings in history. Talk about nailing it! The film goes on from there, really, really continuing to nail it all the way through to the end. What really dazzled me this time watching was Quint. From the moment he scratches his nails down that chalkboard to his (gulp) unfortunate end, Quint is amazing. And not another roughneck fisherman, either. The scene where Brody asks about the removed tattoo and Quint recants his experience on the USS Indianapolis was killer. I loved it. I didn't love so much the realization that Kevin Smith used that entire wound-comparison scene as inspiration for Chasing Amy, (as two characters compare the wounds they received from performing oral on past girlfriends) yes, I'm a bit slow to figure this out. . .

Anyway. The shark fact book, the one Brody is looking at when he yells at his kids to get out of the water (open to a page where an illustrated shark takes bites out of a boat)? Nice, nice foreshadowing. I, for one, was quite surprised when the Maverick shark actually started to do this very thing the first time I saw the film, I thought as long as they were on the boat they'd be safe. Yeeeee. I still have a very hard time watching Quint's death, it's extremely disturbing and very realistic (instead of being cinematic). There isn't any tender score or gentle snatch and flee by the shark, it's blood in the mouth/complete unbroken eye contact/there's-nothing-I-can-do-about-this, the-Maverick-shark-is-eating-me DISCOMFORT. (shudder). But well done.

The cinematography in this speaks for itself. Like the enjoyment that comes from reading a writer who truly loves words, you watch a Spielberg film reveling in the fact that Spielberg obviously loves films. The images in his films are consistently breathtaking and amazing. He's not just writing blockbusters here, although his films certainly are those, status-wise; he really is an auteur. I'd love to see his storyboards sometime.

The only tiny criticism I can make is to Williams, the score during their "we're out at sea, starting our battle, sinking three barrels into him" phase needed to be a little more Indiana Jones and a little less Charlie Bucket. It was too happy or something, throw in some minor chords and step up the bass, hmmm?

Other than that? Wonderfully, emotionally, frightfully kick-ass.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On Hannibal. . .

This isn't really a review, but here it is.

I can't really talk about Hannibal as a film. It makes me annoyed and I can't even think of it as a sequel because it really can't be compared to The Silence of the Lambs. You know that I'm not a sequel purist or a remake purist, so it's not the concept that bothers me, it's just how outright proud in its difference from the original it is, entitled, almost. If this film were a stand-alone picture I would have absolutely no problem with it, and I suppose some of this venom should rightly be directed toward Thomas Harris himself, since he's partially responsible, but ugh, this is exhausting me already.

Ridley Scott obviously knows what he's doing. I just don't know why he did this film. There were too many dream-like dissolves, the film itself was way too brilliant (light, we're talking light), and sorry, Julianne just didn't cut it. One of the things I liked best about the original was the dark and gritty nature of mise en scene, and despite being quite gory throughout, its subtlety. This film (Hannibal) was lit up like the fourth of July, literally, and everything was abrasive and in your face. Even Lector seemed completely different. Too chatty, too randomly aloof. I don't believe for a minute that the Hannibal Lector I know would screw around and make all of those silly mistakes and bad decisions. And do I even need to say anything about the mouth noises of MASON VERGER? I just nearly tossed my lunch just thinking about it. The one cathartic scene of the film was Cordell pushing Verger into the hog feed after Lector goads, "Hey Cordell! Why don't you just push him in? You can always say it was me!" And now that I think about it, the scene was satisfying, but still it was this new, different Lector and not the one I came to know and love.

Sequels can work. But I firmly believe that in order to be a successful sequel (Godfather, Alien, Matrix) you have to have the same crew, the same creative team all working toward the same vision. This sequel, Hannibal, was in a different universe from the first film, almost disrespectfully so. Take Terminator 3, for instance. Many people hated it, and it wasn't perfect by any stretch, but the director obviously was making a Valentine to the first two, and in so doing, did something right.  Ridley could have at least done something to acknowledge the first film. Anything.

And Donald, I'm with you. Hannibal as a hero who only eats rude people? Please. There were several perfectly polite people from the first film who met an untimely end or horrific injuries that make this silly theory just a bunch of bunk. Whose idea was it? Thumbs DOWN.

And Red Dragon?
I'm going to be honest with you. I ain't watching it. And this has nothing to do with the several unpleasant events that have been hitting this house in regular strikes since last Wednesday (sickness, torn Achilles, skin lesions, more sickness, chronic cat barf, etc.,) although I could completely justify taking a break and checking myself into an asylum for some temporary relaxation (ala Eddie Van Halen at the end of "Hot For Teacher"). . .

No, I'm not skipping it because I'm lazy, I'm skipping it because it's the first one on this list that really, honestly scares me. Killing of families and kids, and the kids watching the mom die, and the meticulous way he picks the families and spies on them . . . I just cannot do it. It's too BTK Killer, too close to home. And I love Ralphe Fiennes, like really love him. If it wasn't such a damned disturbing film and his character such an awful serial killer and everything I would probably have some really nice dreams about Ralphe and the full back tattoo.

In any event, I have a few unopened Netflix envelopes, let's just see what's on deck. . .
NOTES ON A SCANDAL? How the hell did that get in there?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Poe. King.

The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe.

Wonderful tales for the witching season. Included are: The Balloon Hoax, Ms. Found in a Bottle, A Descent into the Maelström, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Purloined Letter, The Black Cat, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death, The Cask of Amontillado, The Assignation, The Tell-Tale Heart, Diddling, The Man That Was Used Up, and Narrative of A. Gordon Pym.

There is anger, jealousy, and sabotage in almost every story; I very much enjoyed them. If you've never read Poe, the thing to do would be to start with some of the shorter short stories, like The Black Cat or The Tell-Tale Heart and then work up to some of the longer ones. It took me a couple to really get into the writing, to adjust to the prose, the vocabulary, the constant French phrases thrown here and there, etc. There were some architectural terms that I really never grasped, some of the more detailed descriptions of clothing or comparisons to things that were then-current were a little out of my reach, but it was still fun reading. Dark, very dark. Very ghostful.

The Stephen King Companion, edited by George Beahm.

This is filled with a lot of fluff, mainly other peoples' essays on King or interviews with people who have collaborated with King, but it was worth sifting through to get to The Playboy Interview, "Banned Books and Other Concerns," (a lecture King gave), and photos of King's home and writing office. Book list was nice but obviously out of date as this was first released in 1989. I really didn't find out anything I didn't already know from On Writing, so if you want to read a book about Stephen King, just read the one he wrote himself, it has pretty much everything you want to know.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thrill me with your Acumen: The Silence of the Lambs

What a perfect film!
Directed by Jonathan Demme, based on the novel by Thomas Harris.

This is suspense writing at its finest. Certainly it was directed well, acted well (there would not be a picture without Tony and Jody), scored well, and so on. But the build ups are tense, intelligent, and in the end, they do not disappoint. The film is filled with anticipation. When it's not showing us Clarice Starling having to fight her way through virtually every encounter by proving she can piss with the big boys, the film is leading us eerily down some hall, laying steps one at a time, and revealing just enough unpleasantness to keep us engrossed and on guard for whatever the monster (Multiple Miggs, Benjamin Raspael's head in a bottle, Jame Gumm's torturous basement, etc.) might be, and it's a new fright each time!

And what of Hannibal Lector? Because Clarice is made to trust him we somehow begin to trust him, too. But never forget that first image we got of him, standing there, erect, poised, and with an almost amiable grin. . . (shiver). He's smarter than any of us. And all the smelling? Seriously.

And at the risk of sounding like a film theorist, this film is also about knowing. Who knows what, who lets who in on what they know, and whether the knowledge is real. Clarice is sent in by Jack Crawford to talk to Lector, who knows things. Jack Crawford also knows things, but he wants to know what Lector knows, and he knows that Clarice will "stimulate" Lector. Clarice knows things, not about the case, but about death and sacrifice, her way of knowing isn't helpful to Jack Crawford but it piques the interest of Lector. Lector wants to know about Clarice. Jack Crawford depends on getting the Lector's knowledge, but Lector figures it out and feeds him garbage instead. Then, drawing on everything she's picked up, Clarice, the seemingly rookie know-nothing, busts it all open and saves the day.

I saw this in the theater, in March of 1991 with my cousin, Heidi, in Duluth. And I was terrified. I can watch it now without fear, but the moments that get me each time are the camera noises in the funeral parlor, the anticipation of what Lector plans to do to the two sergeants, and the night goggles at the end, showing the hand reaching out to touch Clarice.

If you see no other film on this list (despite it not being a horror film by definition), see this one. It's the smartest, scariest thing out there.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

"Eric is much better looking than I am," Bill said. "He is more powerful, and I understand that sex with him is unforgettable. He is so old he only needs to take a sip to maintain his strength. He almost never kills anymore. So, as vampires go, he's a good guy. You could still go with him. He is still looking at you."

(biggest mistake of Sookie Stackhouse's LIFE!)

This book was fun. I can't really say it's better or not better than the show True Blood because some things from the book are better (background info, for one thing) and some things from the show are better (Lafayette and Tara's characters, everyone's physical hotness, etc.) I think the liberties Alan Ball took with adapting everything were good ones, but character-wise, I honestly couldn't stand anyone from the show's first season; I was most interested in the then-minor characters of Lafayette, Eric, and Pam. How wonderful that they've taken a bigger role in things lately! I wouldn't have cared a bit about Sookie and Bill had I not read this, so I think for any fan of the show, this book is invaluable.

I didn't think I was going to go for this, but I am definitely a fan of Ms. Charlaine. Next windfall that hits, I'll be slamming my money down for the rest of the hopefully-just-as-fun Sookie Stackhouse novels. And dammit, PICK ERIC!

For Today:

One of my very favorite writers/bloggers/LOST Authorities, Jo, has a very important message today, please take the time to listen to what she has to say, about her own experience and The Trevor Project.

All anyone can do is to be who they are. I just wish everyone had the ability to do that, safely and without fear.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

At a Loss: Close Your Eyes.

I saw this a few years back and thought it was kind of scary. After sitting through it again, I think it's kind of ridiculous. Has anyone else seen this? Tell me what you thought of it, I'd love to know.

IMDB's summary (which is kind of important): While treating a policewoman for smoking, hypnotherapist Michael Strother has a telepathic vision of a young girl floating beneath the surface of a stream. The escaped victim of a ritualistic serial killer, the girl has become mute, and Michael is called upon by Scotland Yard to unlock the secrets she holds in order to catch a man who believes he has discovered the key to immortality.

? ? ? ?

I'm all for fantasy, you know that. But . . . but . . . but . . . but . . . 
Literally. I'm standing here (sitting here) at a loss. How? But, why? And How? 

I can't really talk about the filmmaking, because there wasn't any, other than a few distorted camera effects during dream sequences. I can't really talk about the story, because it's just simply so far fetched that I can't even take it seriously. Some ancient old French scholars have learned how to transplant souls using blood, a ritualistic tabernacle and a little golden head statue that clicks open with a bunch of different circular rings for brain regions? The concept is, I don't know, intriguing, but whatever method of storytelling they were going for just did not work well with an idea like this. Maybe start out with some sort of legend of these crazy French people, some history or something, ANYTHING that could give this sort of ridiculousness some validity, and religion ain't enough, brothers.

I felt like this whole film was an uncomfortable, speed-bumpy mess. The cast sometimes worked well, and sometimes fouled everything up.
Goran Visnjic (HOT!)
Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle, voice a little grating)
Miranda Otto (blond from LOTR, pretty, but marginalized character)
Fiona Shaw (gross, scary, icky).

I would say that there are three reasons to watch this film, and then only if you are absolutely bored out of your mind. The first is Goran Visnjic, there's a scene where he talks to himself in Croatian, and he's stunning. The second is all the weird little devices, folding castle model, symbols, aforementioned golden brain statue, etc. They're random but kind of interesting. The third, and probably most motivating reason to watch this is Fiona Shaw, Aunt Petunia from Harry Potter? What a disgusting nightmare! She's made up to look much older, but her scenes at the end are actually cringe-worthy, which is seriously, the best thing I can think of to say about any of this. And there were NO images of it to be found online! Boo!

I'm reading The Stephen King Companion now, and I've just reached the Playboy interview. The things he said about Kubrick kind of shocked me, but I suppose I can see how their visions wouldn't have meshed together. I may just take a walk over to the shelf and look in on the old Overlook Hotel tonight, after Dexter . . . 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

They're Coming for You, Barbara: NOTLD

Night of the Living Dead, directed by George A. Romero. Released in 1968. IMDB's summary:
"A group of people hide from bloodthirsty zombies in a farmhouse."

This will be brief, but I'm doing my best to squeeze it in. Honestly, I really didn't know what to write about this one. I mean, I liked it fine, but there didn't seem to be anything to rant about, which for me, is rare. It's definitely creepy and claustrophobic, and I've probably said it before but this whole zombie business of parents turning on their children and vice-versa (which has been around for a long time, I realize) really bothers me. Do there really have to be parent/child pairs in these films? There, that was a little rant.

So finding myself strangely short on words, I did what any real nerd would do, I GOT OUT MY BOOKS. My school books wouldn't have helped much in this case unless we wanted a 102003003 word paragraph translated from French to English about what the symbolic gaze of the screen signified or a detailed examination of race and sex relations between the two principal characters. (boner kill and boner kill). 

I did find something useful on the shelf, Fangoria's Best Horror Films, a gift from my brother! Or maybe I got it for my brother and then somehow ended up with it myself. In any event, it's a cool book, and had a three page spread on this film. In one interview, Romero states that the film's theme is "lack of communication," and that "these people can't even talk to each other long enough in an organized way to figure out how to escape. They could actually escape very easily, but because of their own problems and inability to communicate, they don't succeed." What a score! The photo I found was a great one, everyone huddled around the shitting TELEVISION!

Funny how things haven't really changed much. Today I imagine a group of people arguing over their Blackberries, I pads, and GPSs, and meanwhile the little kid is in the basement, dying, and the zombies have their hands inside the door. 

The film? Watch it, it's like, historical.
Fangoria's Best Horror Films


This is annoying. Pretty much every force in creation has conspired to roadblock my little project here--

1. A freak accident has hobbled my husband. The me time I usually had while he put the kids to bed is on hiatus for a while.

2. This demon computer I type on is somehow communicating to Netflix that the OS is not compatible for instant-watch. I came very close to giving it a flying lesson onto the neighbor's lawn. . .

3. The instant streaming disk has gone missing. It hasn't worked in months, anyway.

4. The local staff at Blockbuster video apparently has better things to do than to shelve the films alphabetically, so trying to find a specific title is like literally searching for a needle in a haystack. NOTHING I wanted was there, in any of the random cluster fuck piles. Now that I think about it, the Blockbuster in Kona also had this problem, but they at least had Aloha spirit.

5. I had to update my Netflix plan to do three-at-a-time, but the next one won't be here until Monday or later. I seriously hate to do this, but, OUT OF ORDER, I'm going to have to do either The Shining, Silence of the Lambs, or Red Dragon, since I have them here with me. I left tomorrow free for Dexter at least, so it's an absorb-able kind of issue, but I was trying so hard to be efficient. Better luck next time.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fuck the Critics, I dug it: House on Haunted Hill.

(Excuse the profanity, but there was really only one way to say that. I thought of saying "eff" the critics, but that just wouldn't be me.)

Directed by William Malone (who's done a bit in the horror genre, mostly television); released in 1999. IMBD: A millionaire offers a group of diverse people $1,000,000 to spend the night in a haunted house with a horrifying past.

Now, don't get me wrong. There were some problems with the film, and as horror films go, it's definitely not anywhere near one of the best, but honestly? I had a great time watching this, it was fun! I can certainly understand why critics wouldn't go for it, but sometimes I get the feeling that film critics  1. hate life, humanity, and films and have no other outlet for their hate other than to bash directors (while making sure to spell out to the rest of the public how elite and super-intelligent they are) and 2. insist that every film made must be Citizen Kane, and if not, well . . . garbage. One of my favorite professors was one that wasn't put off by garbage, did a thesis on the Porky's films and their Canadian popularity, of all things.


The look of this film was cool. The house in question, the former mental institute, obviously had a very unique look to it, inside and out. That checkerboard floor (in the what, dining room?) was a nice touch, and apparently the only room in the house that wasn't mildewed, dusty, and falling apart. The examination rooms, the crazy-chamber, and the medical specimen in glass rooms were all gross and dungeony. Not exactly Jame Gumm's basement-calibre frightening, but you know, creepy enough. The actors were all exceptionally beautiful, but as one bitchy critic did truthfully point out, not actually able to claim our allegiance, personality-wise. No matter, I don't think the story required that you be invested in any one person, I mean, were we invested in any of the characters in Clue, specifically? No, we just wanted to see what happened. I was curious about the butchering surgeon's ghost, which was one sort of loose end that never really got resolved, one minute that guy is hacking people up, the next minute, Evelyn busts into a rotten wall and suddenly it's a completely different entity that's gobbling everyone up? Yeah, well, fine with me. Like I said, I had a great time. It's a good October film.

Was it scary? There were scary parts, but as a whole, I'd say it was more of an entertaining kind of fright.  There was a scene where Brigitte Wilson, alone with her video camera, sees something kind of off in the distance and then BAM, it's that surgeon, right up in her face--that was jarring. And when Price gets locked in that crazy chamber, starts seeing all that ridiculous crap and the spinning? That freaked me out more than anything else. I hate spinning. 

I'd say if you're okay with it's non Citizen Kane-ness, go for it. Oh, and there's a smoke monster.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Unpleasant Effects of Rabbit-Mothering: The Ring.

Directed by Gore Verbinski (of later Pirates of the Caribbean fame), released in 2002. IMDB's synopsis: "A young journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone in a week of viewing it."

I must be getting old or something. I saw this in the theater when it was first out and thought it was literally the most terrifying thing I'd ever seen. I don't think I actually had nightmares or anything, but I distinctly remember repeatedly looking over my shoulder a lot in that week's aftermath. It scared me a lot. I was a little nervous about revisiting this. But before we get to creepy gimmicks and editing, let's talk narrative and theme.

Back in 2003, I had a ten o'clock class in Folwell Hall, Cinema and Ideology. The first film we "examined" was Fatal Attraction. What was so interesting about the ideology of that film? Our professor showed us that the unfortunate events of Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) and Alex Forest (Glenn Close) happened because Gallagher was spineless, placating, and (professor's words) not a real man. When you're being told to look for all these things, it becomes striking just how obvious they all are---he was very spineless in the film, and what was basically being posited was that he deserved what he got because he invited it all to happen. Not everyone in the class agreed with this, of course. I had another professor (film, art history) who actually shunned film theory and cautioned us all from becoming like "those people over in Folwell."

I only mention this because it occurred to me during The Ring that Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) kind of brought everything down on herself, also, and I wanted there to be some sort of comparative relevance that had some validity so people wouldn't jump on me for going off on some mothering tangent.

Rachel's ideology then is that of The Rabbit Mother, or I will parent my child when I get around to it. Career first, cell phone first, picking up the son that just recently lost his babysitter cousin? Yeah, when I get around to it, the teacher will watch him, right? And if he happens to be having a hard time with it--tough, I've got my column to write, a murder to investigate, and he can, you know, draw some little pictures with his crayons while I'm off doing these things.

I have an uncle who, after the birth of one of my second cousins, would yell almost every five minutes, "Who's watching that kid?" I couldn't help thinking the same thing during this entire film. The father is out of the picture, the kid (Aidan) calls his mother by her first name, gets his own lunch ready in the morning while calling out casually "I'm going to school!" And she does, what, exactly? Is it really any surprise that he finds the tape and watches it? She obviously is out to lunch, so fate comes down on her (as Anna Morgan's did for trapping her daughter in the well). I may have been able to let this lie had it not been for the gray-haired doctor Rachel goes to see, the one who cares for her autistic grandson. When Rachel asked about Anna Morgan and her baby, Samara, the doctor explains, "When Darby here was born, we knew straight away that something wasn't right, but we loved him anyway. It takes work. Some people have their limits." I took this to apply directly to Anna Morgan, as in, she was not able to hack caring for a child that was special or not average, so she killed the child and then committed suicide. Right. Back. To. The Mother, every time. The whole narrative kind of started to bother me after noticing all this and honestly I couldn't feel anything for anyone, even that creepy kid. So the theme seems to be "All Rabbit Mothers are Soon Parted From Their Children" and similarly, "Don't Anyone Forget That It's Always The Mother's Fault."

That said, there were some very creepy moments, mostly due to the editing and special effects. The ripples in the television were nice, Samara's kabuki movements were a little scary, and the film was put together artfully enough and paced well. They had a big enough budget to warrant some helicopter shots of the Pacific Northwest, that was pretty sweet and added some depth, I guess. What scared me most the first time were the images on the tape, the random stuff, ladder falling, Anna Morgan combing hair and turning around, the dead horses, etc. When I watched them last night I felt like it was trying very hard to be Se7en or an Aphex Twins video but in a dolphin-safe kind of way. It was clever at the time (2002) but for some reason it was flat this time.

The writing was . . . a little cheesy. The scene between Rachel and Noah just outside the elevator was bad enough to make me clench. The whole talking to the dead Anna Morgan bit? "What happened to you, Anna?" "Are you in here, Anna?" Just silly, don't do that. I suppose I'm being a little harsh on everyone, but honestly, I didn't like any of them. Samara's coming after you and you're going to die with a bitched-up face? Ho-hum, that sucks. The Twins game would have been more interesting.

So is it scary? It was scary the first time, in the theater, definitely. If you're not expecting those images or the jagged jump cuts it's definitely going to make you gasp once or twice. It has a kind of lingering creepiness to it, I suppose because of all the random, specific images, on first time viewing, anyway.

And dreams? I had none last night, but only because I hardly slept. Some rogue, retroactive mosquito decided to flee Ma and Pa Ingalls's watermelon patch and infect me with a case of fever and ague at about ten o'clock. I spent half the night shivering and the other half sweating. With the lights on because I couldn't be bothered to get up and turn them off. Goo.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fear the Priest: The Exorcist.

Directed by William Friedkin, based on the novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty.

I'm guessing I don't need to include a synopsis on this one, but just in case, The Devil possesses one twelve year old Reagan Teresa MacNeil. Two priests drive him out. Lots of roaring and green vomit.

1. This is an extremely cinematic horror film. The opening scenes in Iraq and the long shots of Georgetown are beautiful. Friedkin seems to have that inner ability to take his time telling a story, but to also leave us with enough (events, images, anticipation) to keep us waiting for more. The pacing was delightfully drawn out; slow build ups + beautiful cinematography? Was this guy a buddy of Kubrick's? Sometimes I wish I would have been born in the sixties just so I could have been in film school during the seventies. This isn't just a great horror film but a great film in itself.

2. A great director (and screenwriter) also has the ability to pepper a film with little bits of randomness that are just cool and interesting (like maybe the shots of raindrops seen from above or the gently falling slow-motion bullets in The Matrix? As images, they weren't vital to the story but they added a lot). Reagan's art in the basement, the argument between Carl the butler and Burke the filmmaker over Nazis, Karras's Chivas-stealing priest friend, and the close up on Merrin's dangling crucifix are all beautiful little touches, and good writing.

The dialogues are also cool, mostly what comes out of Devil-Reagan's mouth ("A fine day for an exorcism!" "You'd like that?" "INTENSELY.") I read this book when I was in junior high, and the only thing I remember from it were in fact the dialogues between Reagan and Karras.

Reagan: "You're a LIAR!"
Karras: "But The Devil likes liars!"
Reagan (grinning): "Only the good ones, Karras, only the good ones."

3. Is this film scary? Yes, it is. We're talking about The Devil, after all, and if you believe in that sort of thing then it's probably terrifying to think that any one of us is fair game for possession. I of course rejoiced in the similarities and roots this drew from The Twilight Zone (The Howling Man: like Father Merrin, David Ellington also travels the world searching for The Devil) and later lent to Lost (passing of the torch from one "guardian" to the next, sacrificing one's self, etc.) "It's a liar, but it mixes lies with the truth. Do not listen to it!" ("Don't let him speak to you; if he says one word it will already be too late!")

I watched the re-mastered edition with the new scenes, and I liked the superimposed images of demons, they were random and jarring. The crab-walk down the stairs didn't hold as much shock factor as it did in the theater, but it's a good scene. The scariest, most troubling part for me this time around was actually Mother Karras in the mental hospital, I think I'd take pretty much anything over that place. I also had the subtitles on this time (as not to wake and terrify the kids) and I learned quite a lot. For instance, when Karras listens to the tape recording of possessed-Reagan, the "I am no one" is pretty clear audio-wise. What I never knew was that it was also shrieking "Fear the Priest, Merrin!" that part is a little bit more muddled-sounding. This is actually vital to the story, this reveal that Merrin, the Iraq digging, pill-popping old priest from the opening, follows The Devil around and has the skills to fight him! (And I never knew it until last night!) Wow. I think I should probably start watching all films with the subtitles, who knows how much I've been missing over the years?

As for nightmares, I was all right, slept with the lights off, even. I still had creepy dreams though, first it was magenta snakes in water, sneaking up to gobble things and swallow them whole and then a haunted house where every square inch of the floor was covered in spiders the size of cue balls. Usually I dream about snakes when I'm too hot. I wake up overheated and realize I've been running away from snakes, usually always on grass. Gag. At least it wasn't Damien's mother. . .

The film? Watch it, it's very much a masterpiece.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Finally: Let the Fright Nights Begin!

I'm more than a little worried about the nightmares this will bring, but it's October, and I'm going back to my roots, y'all! I never would have gone to school for film had it not been for many of these, which is not to say that I spent my time in class studying the ideology of Damian Omen and various tints of stage blood, far from it. I'm still trying to get away from a nagging tendency to drag my sentences on and on and on after reading years worth of French film theory translated into English. . .


Here are the films, *please* weigh in if you have anything to say both now and in the upcoming posts, I could talk about this shit all night, in fact, call me or FB me if you want to watch any. Matt has already said he's opting out, and he's the one that isn't bothered by any of this! Me, I'll probably be sleeping with the lights on, starting tonight.

1. The Exorcist
2. The Ring
3. House on Haunted Hill
4. Night of the Living Dead
5. Wait Until Dark
6. The Entity
7. Blink
8. Phantasm 2
9. It
10. The Shining
11. The Mist
12. Children of the Corn
13. Creepshow 1 and 2
14. Silence of the Lambs
15. Hannibal
16. Red Dragon
17. The Birds
18. Psycho
19. Psycho 2
21. Saw
22. Saw 2
23. Saw 3
24. Saw 4
25. 9mm
26. Jaws
27. The Omen
28. Close Your Eyes
29. The Blair Witch Project.

Gag. That whole photo collection is already giving me goosebumps. Anyway, hope you enjoy. This comes of course with the October book stack, as if I don't have enough stuff to make me crazy with fear, right? Well, Hunter Thompson said it best, anything worth doing is worth doing right. 
No annotations I'm afraid, I'm fast running out of time already.
1. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
2. Dracula by Bram Stoker
3. Danse Macabre by Stephen King
4. The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
5. Collected Stories by Edgar Allen Poe
6. The Thomas Mann Reader
7. The Stephen King Companion
8. Tales of Terror by Alfred Hitchcock

Monday, October 4, 2010

Zozia part 2.

This was very difficult to watch. I'm going to go ahead and caution anyone who has a daughter to definitely skip it. . . and obviously you don't have to have children for this to disturb you, but it's very, very awful. Screaming little girl being hauled away. . .

But I'm kind of glad I watched it, for a few reasons.

1. Seeing Kevin Kline play Nathan Landau was necessary in order to have any positive feelings for the character. It's easier to be repelled by a character in a book because if you don't want to go any deeper into them, you don't have to. His expressions (in the film), the way he was tender and concerned about Sophie, the way he looked completely crazy and was obviously fighting with his own crazy demons came across much louder than in the novel. Kevin Kline was mighty good in this one.

2. Meryl Streep is phenomenal. This was 1983, when actors were doing the work, not the editors. She spoke Polish and German very believably, and her Polish accent while speaking English was amazing. Half the film is a static camera stuck in her face, dead on--best actress in 1983? Damned right. The scenes are long and intense. The actors obviously had a hard job and they really pulled it off, Peter MacNichol included. They went really well together, which makes me wonder if they all had fun working on this project.

3. Film vs. Book? I'm going with film on this. The book was wonderful but it was just too long, all things considered, and very wordy. The condensed film version kept true to the story and eliminated superfluous background, even though it was also long. Bravo.

The Newman-esque neighbor in the Pink Palace has a doppelganger that comes into Starbucks all the time, usually chewing some crumbly item he picked up at Kowalski's and talking with his mouth open wide---Red Hooded Sweatshirt guy? Dead ringer.

hurry, hurry, hurry!

Scariest Films Ever are coming. Soon. But for now:

The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, edited by Joyce Carol Oates.

I'm making this short.

If you are at all curious about short stories and don't know where to start, start here. The Heath Anthology is also very good, but it's extremely long and quite heavy. This book is the perfect size and in it dwells the perfect collection of short stories. I don't think there was one included that I didn't like. . .

We are talking about Washington Irving, William Austin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edgar Allen Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Samuel Clemens, Sarah Orne Jewett, Kate Chopin, Charles Chestnut, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Henry James, Jack London, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Stephen Crane, Edith Wharton, Sherwood Anderson, Willa Cather, Jean Toomer, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Carlos Williams, Katherine Anne Porter, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Paul Bowles, Flannery O'Connor, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Peter Taylor, Eudora Welty, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellows, John Cheever, Ursula K. Le Guin, Donald Barthelme, John Updike, Alice Adams, Raymond Carver, Leslie Marmon Silko, Cynthia Ozick, Joyce Carol Oates, Tobias Wolff, Tim O'Brien, Bobbie Ann Mason, John Edgar Wideman, Bharati Mukherjee, Amy Tan, Louise Erdrich, David Leavitt, Sandra Cisneros, and Pinckney Benedict.

Quite a guest list.

And while my personal favorites were the stories with just a hint of fantastic or madness ("Cannibalism in the Car" by Clemens, "A Late Encounter With the Enemy" by O'Connor, "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Bradbury, or "Fleur" by Erdrich) each story in this collection packs a punch or makes it count, if you will.

I want more.

Machete part 2.

So. Now that I was able to express my aesthetic infatuation with the film, I suppose it's only right that I talk about the other part, the politics.

Aside from calling male filmmakers out on portraying female characters as glory holes, I try to keep this blog light-hearted. But it would be irresponsible of me to yammer on and on about Machete without mentioning the bigger message of the film, which is the immigration issue.

I'm staying neutral in it, but the film definitely causes one to examine what (illegal) Mexican labor means in this country. I think it was the Hungarian bodyguard that said something to the effect of, "you know, we let them build our houses, maintain our lawns, cook our food, take care of our children, but we won't let them be citizens? It doesn't really make any sense." The photo above is of Senator John McLaughlin (DeNiro), whose platform happens to be an electric fence along the US/Mexican border.

My brother deals with this all the time as a chef and a restaurant manager--it's worth considering what would happen if all of a sudden one day every illegal worker just upped and walked off the job. . .

The film showed Mexican day laborers swarming in a huddle, waiting anxiously for someone to come by and offer them work. Luz, Michelle Rodriguez's character, was in charge of The Network, which helped immigrants get across the border to find housing and permanent jobs. It may have been a very specific cross section of the population, and I don't know how realistic it was (I live in Minnesota, far from any state that shares the Mexican border) but the film showed people who wanted to work, who wanted as Luz said, to escape their own personal hells. The standoff at the end is between the illegals and the vigilantes who had been hunting them, interestingly enough, started by Sartana Rivera the Immigration Special Agent (Alba) who incites them to rally, "We didn't cross the border, THE BORDER CROSSED US!" Earlier she had explained to Machete, "the system works here," but apparently changed her mind. Now that I think about it, her change of heart came a little out of no where, but dammit, that battle had to happen somehow, right?

(I can already see Donald shaking his head at all the rule-breaking. . . )

So yeah. I guess there will be things that will certainly bother a lot of viewers about this stuff, but remember, it's a STORY. I don't think realism was what Rodriguez was going for (Machete uses assailant's small intestine for an escape vine out window); wasn't there some bit about Bin Laden in Planet Terror? Zombie Bin Laden?

I don't have a problem with it. But I live in Inception, remember? And sorry, but there is something appealing to me in imagining what would happen if the Edina sector had to suddenly mow their own lawns, cook their own food, and raise their own children. . .