Week in Review
I'm sure you've figured out by now that I love horror films. There have been lots of picks of the week from me that are horror films and many more that came close. When they're done well, there's little that can match the viewing experience. But more often than not, they're done poorly, as with any genre. Halloween is tomorrow, and many of you out there will pass out candy and watch a scary movie afterwards. A quick trip to your video store will find your favorites taken -- The Exorcist, Carrie, The Amityville Horror, et al -- and leave you picking the remains. So I thought I'd share some underrated favorites of my own.
These films are rarely, if ever, on television. They're all on DVD, but many of them were not on video in the states, or they were hard to find in video stores. All should be available through Netflix.
Long before the influx of Japanese child-ghost films such as The Ring, there was this truly creepy film starring George C Scott. The whole film finds its fright in lighting, shadows, and cinematography. Never before has a tiny wheelchair covered in cobwebs seemed so frightening. In no time, you'll hear the sounds of tiny ghosts bumping in your own attic. If you can watch this one by yourself in the dark without getting the willies, you have icewater for blood.
A comedy horror film -- one part teen flick, and one part zombie movie. Adolescence is hard enough without having a murderous hand possessed by an evil spirit. Seth Green steals his scenes, and Jessica Alba looks great in this pre-Dark Angel role. If you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you'll like this one.
Shadow of the Vampire
Willem Defoe and John Malkovich team up for this behind-the-scenes 'what if?' film about the making of Nosferatu. What if the lead character in the film really WAS a vampire? Unfortunately, this film barely made back its $8 million budget. If you've seen the Herzog Nosferatu, or the F.W. Murnau original, check this out.
The Cat People
Val Lewton's original film is a classic. Luckily for us, many of his films that were unavailable on video are now re-released on DVD. There's a boxed set available and you can't go wrong with any of them, but this one, about a woman who may or may not turn into a panther to hunt her prey, is my favorite.
Bill Castle, whose autobiography Step Right Up, I'm Going To Scare The Pants Off America is a must read, made this film, which rejuvenated Joan Crawford's career, about an ax murderer who is released from an asylum after being rehabilitated. But did it work? The screenplay comes from Robert Bloch, the writer of the novel from which Psycho was adapted.
I already wrote up Larry Cohen's The Stuff earlier this year, so my Cohen pick is this freaky monster baby film that looks totally dumb on the cover, but works effectively upon viewing. The commentary track by Cohen is like a class in how to make a good low budget horror film.
I have to include a Cronenberg film in this list. In this one, weird parasites take over a high rise full of swank 70's yuppies. Maybe you've seen Dead Ringers, maybe even The Brood, but I doubt you saw this one, now on DVD in widescreen format.
My favorite vampire film ever. Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton, among others, are vampires who roadtrip across the country in an RV decked out to protect them from the harmful sun. It's a nice twist on the standard Vampire film. Have you noticed there are not very many good vampire films at all? I've never figured that one out. Near Dark and The Lost Boys took the vampire out of the cape and put him in a black biker jacket. Fitting.
The Vanishing (Spoorloos)
It's slow, but has one of the most messed up ending I've ever seen. The end of this film stuck with me for months, and I dreaded the possibility of having such a nightmare. The horror comes from its real possibilities: some people are much more frightening than any monster from a Hollywood film. Get the Dutch original, not the lame American remake.
Pick of the Week
And the tenth film is my pick of this week: Slither. From writer/director James Gunn comes this hilarious, disgusting, creepy shocker. Gunn earned his chops working on Troma films such as Tromeo and Juliet. Then he paid his Hollywood dues working on Scooby Doo movies. Now, he has made the film he wanted to make, combining the fun of a Sgt. Kabukiman film and the budget of something that can play in a multiplex.
A meteor crashes in the woods. Weird slug-parasites scamper out, and sneak their way into a man's body. He seems to be fine, but soon, all hell breaks loose. It's one part Invasion of The Body Snatchers and one part Evil Dead. It uses techniques from new and classic horror films for some really nice effects. Some scenes you'll laugh, but watch through your fingers. Queue it.
12 DVDs this week. 413 DVDs in 302 days. 87 DVDs left in the next 63 days for a pace of 9.66 per week. I have two at home, so I should be able to get another headstart on the week.
Total Viewing Time: 29 days, 16 hours, 8 minutes