Sunday, October 27, 2013

31 Days Of Horror Movies (2013 Edition), Part II

9. THE HUNGER (1983): Tony Scott's first feature is a super-stylish, super-weird, ultra-modern (well, in 1983, anyway) riff on vampires. The opening credits sequence has Bauhaus singing "Bela Lugosi's Dead", which is a good way to announce that this isn't going to be your father's bloodsucker film. Catherine Deneuve plays a centuries-old Egyptian succubus, David Bowie is her rapidly-aging stud, and Susan Sarandon stars as a scientist who is in line to be his replacement. There's a lot more style than substance going on here--it's ultimately pretty boring, but every time my attention wandered elsewhere, Scott would come in with the quick cuts and I'd miss something. Doesn't matter, I think the only reason anyone really remembers this movie is the sex scene between Deneuve and Sarandon anyway.
10. THE OMEN (1976): To this day, I've still never seen the 2006 remake of the classic Richard Donner Antichrist movie, and why would I? Everyone says it's a shot-for-shot remake, and I can't imagine a better take on this material--certainly considering the A-list cast of Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, and David Warner (the subject of what might be the greatest decapitation scene in film history), the striking cinematography of Geoffrey Unsworth (who was the DP on 2001: A Space Odyssey), and the pulse-pounding score courtesy of Jerry Goldsmith. The movie is a bit silly and overlong, but it makes for an apocalyptic good time anyway. I've still never seen the two follow-up films--maybe next year?
11. THE MIST (2007): Hands-down my favourite American horror film of the last 10-15 years, and certainly one of my favourite Stephen King adaptations as well. When a mysterious mist drifts into a small town in Maine (where else?) and traps a group of shoppers in a supermarket surrounded by Lovecraftian horrors, the human monsters inside (embodied by religious wacko Marcia Gay Harden, because it wouldn't be a King story without a religious wacko), may be worse the inhuman ones outside. Frank Darabont (who certainly knows his way around adapting King) takes the novella's ambiguous ending and gives it a heart-wrenching twist that qualifies as one of the most bleak conclusions to any movie ever made. Some of the on-the-cheap effects are a bit dodgy, but the icky monster designs (particularly the terrifyingly human-faced giant spiders hanging out in the pharmacy next door) are a gruesome delight.
12. DERANGED (1974): This oddball Canadian take on the murder spree of farmer/cannibal Ed Gein is fairly inept on most levels, but it manages to be an unsettling experience anyway. It plays like a TV special reenactment, narrated by a sober, bespectacled host who sometimes appears in the scenes alongside a creepy hayseed (Roberts Blossom, best known as the old man next door in HOME ALONE, and the "Stop And Be Friendly" guy in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND) who digs up his dead mother and starts stealing corpses to maintain her structural integrity. The super-cheap look of the sets and the gore makeup, combined with Blossom's pathetic character and the creepy organ music that plays throughout makes for a truly unnerving experience.
13. THE PROWLER (1981): I find I usually like the FRIDAY THE 13TH knockoffs better than FRIDAY THE 13TH itself (see: SLEEPAWAY CAMP, THE BURNING), but not this time, not even with the wildly nasty Tom Savini special effects. IN a 1945 prologue, a returning soldier is jilted by his girlfriend back home, and she and her new beau suffer a grisly fate at a homecoming dance. Thirty-five years later, at another dance, a killer in military gear starts bumping off a new crop of partygoers. Mostly, THE PROWLER is just boring--the identity of the murderer is immediately obvious, and his army-guy-with-a-pitchfork motif is just confusing (wouldn't a bayonet have been more appropriate?). Great exploding head at the end, at least.
14. PATRICK (1978): Quentin Tarantino cited this Australian thriller as a favourite in the terrific documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, and it definitely has its charms--mostly courtesy of Robert Thompson's wide-eyed, unibrowed performance in the title role. But this story of a traumatized, comatose teen with psychic powers is pretty slow going. The opening is promising, and the freaked-out payoff is worth the wait, but there is a lot of sludgy middle to get through before you get there. I've heard good things about the recent remake starring YOU'RE NEXT's Sharni Vinson, so maybe the modern filmmakers have smoothed over PATRICK'S rough patches.
15. SHOCK WAVES (1977): The cool-as-hell video box art for this story of sea travellers besieged by a lost squadron of Nazi zombies is probably the best thing about this film. Peter Cushing is cool as the mad scientist responsible for the creation of the so-called "Death Corps", as is John Carradine as the crusty captain of the doomed ship, but neither of them is in it for much screen time. Worth watching for frequent scenes of Brooke Adams in a bikini, though.
16. SQUIRM (1976): I've always had a soft spot for this ridiculous tale of bloodworms driven into a frenzy by a freak electrical storm, and I can't really say why. It's not all that scary, it's kinda boring, the performances are largely lame, but...it's got something going for it. The use of a weird kids' song in the opening and closing is the kind of thing that is usually handled badly, but in SQUIRM it definitely adds a strange dimension to things. The secondary characters, backwoods hillbillies under siege by the hordes of carnivorous worms, kind of seem like they're playing themselves. The poster, pictured above, by the great Drew Struzan, is fantastic. And here's a piece of useless trivia--star Don Scardino went on to direct the recent Steve Carell-Jim Carrey dud THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE.

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