This post is really my post Halloween round up of what I watched this horror season, followed by some recent unspook-related viewings worth mentioning.
The scary season started with The Conjuring. This movie scared the crap outta me. Everything was done right. Had a story, had context and real characters and that always effective “based on a true story” tag that works its magic on us. And I loved its consistency – it didn’t shift gears or tone halfway through like so many horror movies do right when they fall flat on their faces. About the only thing off with this one was the timing – it came out in sunny summertime, so it was easy enough to shake off the lingering chills (although I did go out and buy the book, which kept the chills going for a few more weeks).
There was a movie I saw as a child on the then new Fox Broadcasting Network that stayed with me all these years – or at least some scenes did – but I couldn’t remember the title or any of the actors or actresses in it. Primarily just an opening scene where the daughter chokes on an apple and her mother tries to cut it out of her throat. Fortunately, with the power of modern search engines, this was enough to find I was not the only one with this scene embedded deeply in memory: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20091120180039AACgK2i. The Haunting of Julia, which apparently was also called Full Circle, stars Mia Farrow in a role not too dissimilar, at least in tone, from her famous Rosemary of classic fame. I was surprised in researching these films to find they are a decade apart, with The Haunting of Julia appearing in 1977, almost ten years after 1968’s classic Rosemary’s Baby – I would have thought they were relatively contemporary. Before stumbling onto this search result I came across Audrey Rose, also from 1977, which I thought might have been the one. Of course it isn’t, but it is another great ’70s film exploring the supernatural/metaphysical in that oh so ’70s way. If, God forbid, I should ever become incapable of moving or leaving my apartment, I think I should like to eventually watch every film created during the 70’s – the good, the bad and the corny.
A recent visit to an exhibit on horror films at the EMP Museum in Seattle has exposed me to The Wicker Man, Suspiria (another 1977!), Diabolique and others I’ve added to my never ending Netflix queue. I’ll report back my findings (read: opinions on really old films) once I’ve viewed them. The Wicker Man I’ve heard of, of course, but, like they mentioned in the exhibit, I never knew what to make of it from what I’d heard and never bothered to watch it, thinking it lame or corny. From what I saw in the exhibit, it is definitely worth a viewing! I was also spurred to add to my queue The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which of course I’ve seen, but it’s long overdue for another watching – that is a classic horror film in every aspect!
A few losers include The Amityville Haunting, another lame “found footage” catastrophe of a film, and The Haunting of Whaley House, which I really wanted to like, being a big fan of everything San Diego, but which, despite a few okay moments, was largely forgettable. A scene in the latter where a trophy blonde exposes her breasts and says something to the effect of “look, tits” before walking away saying something like “I’m leaving before I get killed or something” were supposed added by the director to thumb his nose at a studio requirement of nudity. I didn’t know this watching the film and the jarring juxtaposition of self-mocking comedy with genuine horror was really a mood killer for me. I like horror and I like satire, but you can’t really effectively mix the two. [Although they can be blended into something neither scary nor funny but nonetheless extremely engaging and entertaining - I'm talking about John Dies At The End of course. That is a genuinely original and fascinating film!]
Yesterday I had time to view two films from a little closer to the present. The first was The Pact. This 2012 film is said to be a remake of a short film from 2011 which I have not had the pleasure of seeing. The title is a clue to some of the goings on in this film which are never explicitly stated. Never. The mother, who was apparently very cruel to the children while harboring her serial killer brother, it seems made a pact with her brother… There’s a lot going on underneath the top level of consciousness in this film including suggestions on the imdb forums of incest and who knows what else. I think I’ll need to see it again to catch some more details. Regardless, I enjoyed this film. I initially thought it weak starting off, but it got better and I enjoyed it being an old fashioned unsettled ghost story as opposed to another demonic haunting for the hell of it. While it is probably not a classic in the making, it is worth a viewing or two. Who knows, after I’ve made sense of all that is going on maybe I’ll even change my mind. There is definitely more than meets the eye with this story – I suspect we aren’t spoon-fed everything here and I missed some things first time around.
After an intermission, meal and nap, I had the pleasure of watching The Europa Report. This one I enjoyed immensely. I almost missed that Netflix was streaming this, which would have been a shame as I had been looking forward to seeing it after viewing the posters on the subway. I’m a big science fiction fan and Europa is ripe for science fiction speculation, what with its under-ice oceans possibly brimming with life. I won’t give away much here since this one is actually new and people might not have seen it yet, but I will say it is good. Check it out while it’s streaming – you won’t regret it, whether you’re a sci-fi fan or into science horror (is that a new genre? – no Frankenstein is an early example I suppose). There were some effects that resembled glitches that had me questioning whether or not my Netflix was acting up, which was annoying, but ultimately they proved to add a touch of realism to the “report”. And this is, dare I say it, a better envisioning of an expedition to Europa than 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. I saw Gravity in 3D (twice) and I enjoyed it. It too has an element of horror mixed in with science fiction, but with the twist that gravity is the “monster” that will kill all who encounter it. It was a beautiful film with some beautiful moments. My point in bringing up this other recent sci-fi feature is to mention that they are really not alike in any way shape or form. Gravity is like an experience rather than the telling of a story, although with touching moments of humanity interspersed with the drama of struggling with outer space. The Europa Report is a movie, a story with a more traditional arc, even if it is told in a somewhat non-traditional way. Yes, it’s quasi-lost-footage, but not in an annoying or tacky way like the deluge of horror films using that method in recent years. Or maybe it’s just to say that the style is blended into the story and is actually natural to the story in an organic way. Our natural experience with space explorers is via footage of them, as the majority of us have never ourselves been to space, so it’s not artificial to watch them in this way. And there’s no ridiculous attempt to explain why everyone is walking around with a camera recording day to day events like in so many failed found-footage films.
This is rapidly becoming two posts in one so I’ll leave you with this goof from the IMDB page: “At the end of the movie the computer screen is titled “Katye spacewalk”, but the screen is displaying Adobe Flash source code for colorpicker controls (import fl.events.colorpickerevent) in the three other windows where you’d expect the spaceship logfiles”.