Thursday, October 31, 2013

11 to 1 Day Until Halloween -- The Rest of the Bunch

It hurts my heart to do this.

The same kind of heartache I experience when I see Christmas decorations before November.

But the time is short, and sadly (at least for me), my goal of writing about one film per day proved to be an exercise in futility.  A failed experiment.  A horror show of my own design.

Oh, well.

So I'm going to blast through the rest of them here -- in one piece.  All the courses rolled into one.  Like a more horrific than usual KFC Bowl.

Here we go…

11 - The Haunting

I'm not going to even dignify the dreadful remake by clarifying which one I'm taking about, like they unfortunately need to do now with Halloween.  Now you can't talk bout the film with specifically talking about Carpenter's classic, or Zombie's…whateverthefuckyoucallit.

I didn't see Robert Wise's The Haunting until I was in my thirties, and it scared the crap out of me.  A master class of horror -- showing that true dread is inflicted by what is heard and implied, rather than shown outright.

10 - The Sixth Sense

I'm not a Shyamalan hater.  I know it's a popular position to take, but hey, I was never popular.

Yes, Lady in the Water and The Happening are just huge, epic misfires -- made by a filmmaker who fell too in love with his own hype; but Unbreakable is amazing, an entire film that tells the traditional first act of a superhero movie; Signs is a brilliant alien invasion movie told solely from the viewpoint of a single family's experiences, just as any of us would experience an event like that.  Now yes, "Swing away", and the whole water as a weapon is just…odd, but I still think it's great.

And yes, I am a staunch The Village defender.  I think the critical prejudice about his twist endings just made too many people want to hate it before they even saw it.  If it was anyone else's film, it would have been better received.

But The Sixth Sense is his masterpiece.  A chilling ghost story.

9 - The Fog

As long as we're talking ghosts, I have to include Carpenter's film (and not the fucking awful remake).  The movie probably features Carpenter's best score, and with Cundey behind the camera again, all the right pieces were in place.  A small town.  A secret.  A curse.  And ghosts back for revenge.  So much goddamn fun.

8 - Three Extremes 2

A Japanese anthology film.  All three are good, but Takashi Miike's story, The Box, is the one that stands out (and really the one that compels me to recommend it).  I have to admit, I'm not a Miike fan.  I'm not one of those fans who lost their shit over Audition.  I don't like it.  I just think it's mean and unpleasant.  But The Box is absolutely one of the most beautiful and haunting horror films I've ever seen.  His choice to shoot it in Japan in winter gives it such a bleak and cold feel.  It is really amazing.

7 - Ringu

Again, the original, and not the remake.  Not that The Ring is bad.  It isn't.  It's one of the better adaptations of J-Horror, navigating the vast cultural differences, and making the story work as an American tale.

Much like my experiences with The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, this was another home viewing.  Because Dreamworks had locked down the rights for the remake, they essentially blocked distribution of the original in America.  So off to Ebay I went, prompted by the incredible word of mouth about the film, and ordered a copy.

The whole thing felt like I ha gotten one of the dreaded videotapes of the story.  The package arrived in the mail, I popped it in the DVD player, and hit play.

I think Ringu is truly scary.  It was one of the only films I remember watching where I had to turn it off a couple of times, and turns the lights on in the apartment, just to give myself a break.

And the ending…

There's lots of horror films that have the villain pop out of the grave or lurch out of the dark for one more appearance, but it's always meant to just be one last scare.  In Ringu, the protagonists have done all they were supposed to do to lift the curse, but Sadako just doesn't fucking care.  That scene where she crawls out of the television?  I alms ran out of my apartment.

6 - Phantasm

A horror film filled with cemeteries, undead Jawas, a classic Cuda, and a Tall Man with deadly flying spheres.

What more can you ask for?

When I worked on Alias, Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man himself, was a guest star on the pilot.  When he was wrapped on the show, one of the costumers said, "Come on, please say it for us just once."

Mr. Scrimm, absolutely one of the kindest people I have ever met (someday I'll tell you about the hand-written letter he sent me -- he one I had framed), stepped to the door of his trailer, and paused a moment.  Then he looked out at us, cocked one eyebrow, and said "BOYYYYYYYYY!!!"  I shit myself right on the spot.  It was awesome.

5 - The Thing

Sure it's Sci-Fi, but it's also terrifying -- the ultimate cinematic template for paranoia and isolation, it may be John Carpenter's finest film.  I personally think that it is the greatest special effects movie of all time.

4 - Ju-On

I'm sure there's an English subtitled trailer somewhere, but I'm showing you this one because it's the exact same one I first saw.  I had no idea what the fuck anyone was saying, but the hair stood up on the back of my neck.

Even though the American remakes have the same director as the originals, the Japanese films are better.

Interesting side note: Director Takashi Shimizu made the two Japanese feature films, but even before that, he directed two television movies about the material as well.  How do I know this?  Well, ubergeek that I am, one with a multi-region DVD player, I was able to buy them online.  When you watch the two television movies, and then the two Japanese features, you realize that the American remakes are really just a greatest hits of all four source materials, picking a scene from this one, and another from that.

3 - Halloween III: Season of the Witch

The greatest sequel that..never should have been a sequel.

I think we can all agree what a colossal mistake it was to call it Halloween III -- fans of the first two films showed up to see Michael continue his murder streak, only to see a movie about a billionaire Irish mask-maker who conspired to play the biggest Halloween trick of them all.

Strangely enough, of the original Halloween trilogy, Season of the Witch feels the most seasonal in the spirit of Halloween.  The first two films took place on Halloween, but that was really just a selling point.  Michael could very easily have taken Friday the 13th or Mother's Day as his day to kill.

But Season of the Witch's plot is utterly dependent on Halloween, and the entire story is rich with the history and mythology of the holiday.

I wish the concept the filmmakers were trying here, to release a different Halloween-themed film each October, had worked out.  It would have been great to spend every October with Carpenter and his crew, especially in the 80's golden era of horror.

2 - Halloween and Halloween II

There's really nothing I can say about the original Halloween that hasn't been said before -- the film stands as an all-time classic.

Halloween II borrowed a page from Bride of Frankenstein by starting the sequel literally moments after the conclusion of the first film, making it More of the night HE came home.

They are a perfect pairing.  Does the sequel have problems?  Of course -- but I can never watch one without the other.

And the end of II offers a fitting conclusion to the series…if only it had been.  But fans (admittedly, even myself) wanted more.  Sadly, the subsequent films absolutely personify the warning of be careful what you wish for.

1 - Trick R Treat

My original plan was to make 3, 2, and 1 correspond to the Halloween films of the same number -- but when I remembered Trick R Treat I had to change the batting order.

Trick R Treat is a love letter to the holiday of Halloween.

It is literally a crime how the film got fucked over by Warner Bros.  When you see some of the films that get a theatrical release, it's inexplicable to me how Trick R Treat got put on a shelf, and only reluctantly released to home video.  But I guess these things can happen when one branch of leadership green lights a film, and the next wave of executives kick anything to the curb that didn't involve them.

It's basically the A Christmas Story of Halloween.

Thankfully, the film has found a devoted  following, giving it a great, back-from-the-dead second life.

And just last week, the sequel was announced!!  I, for one, can't…fucking…WAIT!!!

Happy Halloween to all, and to all a scary night!!!

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