Here is a record of brief thoughts I jotted down while watching a glut of horror movies in October. The list is incomplete (I watched more than I’ve written about).
Started off October with The Church (1989); not as uniquely strange as Michele Soavi’s later film Cemetery Man, but an over-the-top pulp relinquary for marvellously imagined demoniac imagery inspired by medieval European art, given life with tactile artistry.
Also rewatched The Fly II (first time since school days, when my brother & I woke up early before school to tape it off TV), an entertaining creature feature spun off a far superior film, showcasing the vanishing art of in-your-face practical effects juicing up a movie.
Do people in India know that Tubi lets even us plebs in the global south watch (some) movies for free, w/out even signing up? Tonight’s watch: Fulci’s The Beyond, in which hell is other (dead) people. Watch for the art of the gorefest, not characters/plot: https://tubitv.com/movies/608247/the-beyond
Watched Michele Soavi’s debut Stagefright (1987), a skillfully (even beautifully) mounted slasher that has some still-relevant-today thoughts in its owl-head, with a theatre becoming a deathtrap for underpaid artists toiling under (very) hostile conditions in a brutal industry.
Hellraiser (2022): the perfunctory writing can’t capture Clive Barker’s kinky thematic dances with desire, but under David Bruckner’s able direction, it does visually capture Barker’s artistic legacy of bodies and imaginations in extremis. A worthy enough resurrection, if unsurprising (and, truth be told, bland). Jamie Clayton as Pinhead aka The Priest is great, but I do wish they’d given her some better lines to bring out the cenobites’ grand guignol theatre: it’s telling that the most memorable ones are replicated or remixed from the original duology (like the refrains of the score).
One of the mistakes here is that the billionaire perv (a human antagonist like Frank from the original) is boring and backgrounded; his story recalls but falls far short of Barker’s short story ‘Down, Satan!’, which actually could be adapted into a great Hellraiser movie.
Tonight’s watch; Ozploitation body horror Body Melt. Brother & I were drawn to its lurid colour xerox VHS cover (see said cover above, not xeroxed) at a rental place in the 90s, never saw it. Creatively, wildly disgusting fx. Bad hillbilly comedy. Familiar but amusing satire (see also: The Stuff) about the burgeoning wellness industry and its linkage with the death cult of capitalism: https://tubitv.com/movies/330133/body-melt
Halloween Ends: more interesting than the prosaic but solid Halloween (2018) & the clumsy overkill of Halloween Kills. Very Covid-era: evil as ‘infection’, taking Shape when people abandon communal responsibility. Some truly perplexing ‘diverse’ casting choices in portraying the bullies of Haddonfield. Could have been great if they’d developed the central romance and characters. Contrivances abound, but it *is* a slasher, & a 13th one at that. Jamie Lee Curtis gives one of my favourite performances as Laurie Strode here. Rob Zombie’s director’s cut of his Halloween II remains my favourite ‘ending’ to the Michael Myers myth, of the many shot over the years.
Watched Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure; brilliant, the most unsettling thing I’ve watched this October. A serial killer murder mystery that isn’t, channeling instead a cosmic wind to blow through you and make the flame of your cognition flicker within its insignificant meat shell. Loved Kurosawa’s Bright Future in college and watched a few of his films obsessively back then, but it’s been a while. Should definitely watch more of his movies–haven’t even seen the quite-famous Pulse yet.
V/H/S/99 is perhaps the most uneven of the series, but admirably bilious in its anti-nostalgia. My favourite short was ‘To Hell and Back’, a funny, creepy, and delightful infernal odyssey that’s an indirect tribute to DOOM (which is from ’93 but as eternally 90s as one can get). The scariest of the lot is ‘Suicide Bid’, about a sorority hazing prank gone to hell. May well give some a panic attack, depending on the severity of one’s phobias.
Barbarian (2022) is gripping, carefully crafting a mounting sense of dread until it relinquishes its mysteries. At which point it unravels into entertaining but ridiculous implausibility & contrived character decisions, and a poor grasp of its subtext. Glad I went in without a clue though. The cast is great–always fun to see Justin Long again.
Tonight’s Tubi watch: Frank Henenlotter’s grimy addiction-metaphor body horror Brain Damage, in which a fella trips balls on alien brain parasite juice at the cost of a body count; fun stuff, with some surprisingly tragic notes towards the end: https://tubitv.com/movies/505047/brain-damage
Halloween III: Season of the Witch: perfect rewatch for Halloween eve. A prescient tale of corporate products with little chips in them distributed across the world to bring about a screen-induced age of darkness. Almost plays like a Terminator prequel with Skynet replaced by ancient magic. Makes sense, since The Terminator was so clearly influenced by Halloween (and perhaps even Halloween II and III, both released earlier). Here, Carpenter’s score begins to sound like parts of Brad Fiedel’s synths for the former, and the killers resemble Terminators more than Michael Myers. A nice cinematic circle.
Halloween night: watched Vera Chytilová’s jarringly eerie Wolf’s Hole (1987), a Czechoslovak psychohorror about teens at a ski camp with sinister overseers that might be an incubator for all their latent human hate and cruelty. Fascinating: https://archive.org/details/wolfshole
Nothing explicitly brutal here, but a discordant sense of wrongness pervades the film’s icy portrait of microcosmic authoritarianism. Not just a moody metaphor, though; there are pulpy echoes of The Thing and the teen shenanigans of its slasher-style setup (and a cute dog).