If you've ever tried to get an apartment in San Francisco or New York, you know the extreme stress that can come with the house hunt. It's rarely a choice of which apartment to take, it's more like hoping that any apartment at all becomes available.
With all the anxiety of the apartment search, comes a twist on the haunted house motif. The classic haunted house is entered on a dare, or to find a lost treasure. I don't think there's a name for the genre that includes The Haunted Rental or Hell's Mortgage.
This week, I watched The Sentinel, a classic of a Haunted Rental that is finally available on DVD. This inspired me to come up with other films of the same ilk.
A young model moves into a $500-a-month furnished apartment in New York. It's priced down a bit, since it's the Gateway To Hell. Lesson: If the only other person willing to live in the building is a blind priest, don't move in.
Before Roman Polanski creeped out the entire country with his statutory rape conviction in 1977, he creeped out the world with this film set in France. A tenant moves into a new place, and weird things start happening between him and his neighbors. Are they trying to get him to kill himself, like the last tenant did? Lesson: Check the walls of your apartment for fingers jammed into holes.
In another Polanski film, Mia Farrow moves into a great new place in New York. But soon, Satan slips her a roofie and she gives birth to the new prince of darkness. This film is slow paced by today's horror standards, but it still one of the creepiest movies I've ever seen. Lesson: Don't live in a building with friendly old people.
A family moves into a new suburb. Appliances fly around, and the youngest daughter gets sucked into the great void, must be brought to the light or away from it or something, I can't remember which. I don't know how they would remake this one. I haven't seen TV static in years. Now, Carol Ann would get sucked into a Real Estate Infomercial. Lesson: Always check to see if your house was built on an Indian burial ground or a graveyard. That's always trouble.
The Amityville Horror:
This is based on a supposedly true story. The facts are there was a house in which an entire family was killed, and another family bought it later for well under the appraised value. After that, the story comes under scrutiny. This movie scared the bajeezus out of me when I saw it as a kid on TV. Even with the commercial breaks, I was terrified, if for nothing else than the child's imaginary friend who can turn into some kind of pig demon.Lesson: Always ask if the walls drip blood, and check for phantom smells of feces and perfume.
Pick of the Week
This was a close call this week. It was either going to be The Last Picture Show or The Wicker Man. I deliberated. The Last Picture Show is better filmed, better scripted, and better cast than The Wicker Man, but the latter film is so unlike anything else I've seen, I have to go with The Wicker Man. The Last Picture Show is one of the all time best "small town" movies, but there are plenty of those. I really can't think of many pagan crime drama musicals, the category that would best describe The Wicker Man.
The Wicker Man is also one of those great movies not to watch with your parents. On the surface, it looks like a smart British crime drama or horror film. With the appearance of Christopher Lee, it could be a harmless cheesy scare flick, like a Hammer Film Studios production. It's all of those things, with quite a bit of pagan sex rituals and naked dancing Wiccans.
The main character is Sergeant Howie, a police detective who visits a remote Welsh island to investigate the disappearance of a young woman. No one on the island seems to want him there. No one even acknowledges the girl he seeks even existed.
What's equally disturbing to the stringent Catholic detective are the pagan rituals that seem to dominate the island.
As the film progresses, it steadily increases in quality and depth of story. The film reaches a climax with its final frames. The longer I watched, the more interested I became. This is how movies should be, but is rarely the case.
I love the first fifteen minutes of many films. This, for most releases, is only the character introduction. Still other films are good through the first twenty-five minutes, which is commonly referred to as the first act, ending at the first plot point. After that, the films reek of script rewrites, and the third act is little more than a chase scene, a fistfight, or a bomb diffusion.
Much has been made of alleged "throttling" that Netflix does to their clients. This refers to the company's practice of sending DVDs to their newest clientele first, and giving priority to the customers who rent the least discs.
The biggest threat to this project, however, is my own lack of attention to detail. Twice this week, I didn't get my movies back on time. Due to my own bad scheduling, I only got 7 DVDs this week, which is 4 less than the 11 I needed. This bumped my quota up to 10.13 DVDs per week for the duration of the project.
Stephen Virgilo suggested Twilight Samurai. I love Samurai films. In fact, Kagemusha is one of the top films I watched this year. Out goes Timerider, some random time travel sci-fi flick I added into my queue for reasons I can't remember.