Occultober – Day 12 – Paradise Lost 1

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills
The West Memphis Three, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. and Jason Baldwin were positive proof that the “Satanic Panic” that held 1980s America looking behind every corner for Ritual Abuse of children did not fade away completely with the end of that decade. In Arkansas in 1993 three very young boys were murdered in a grisly fashion and their bodies disposed of in a forested gully just off the highway. A year later, with the full weight of law enforcement and the local judiciary, the blame was placed on the shoulders of three other boys, themselves all under 18, with no hard evidence.

The victims were hog-tied and left in a ditch, for animals to chew on, but by the time the corpses were discovered, it certainly looked like some kind of ritualistic mutilation to the local law enforcement in need of a quick closure on the crime due to the young age of the boys. So, they grabbed a pair of kids that listened to Metallica, wore black, and occasionally checked Aleister Crowley from the library along with another that had an IQ so low, it was almost debilitating.

The resulting miscarriage of justice, botched police work, eccentric members of the community and other bits of true crime drama were captured by an HBO crew, and the appeals process went on for 17 years.

The first part in a trilogy of documentaries (more to come in this space for the next few days) is horrifying, engrossing, and illuminating all at the same time as the filmmakers become more and more involved in the trial.

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A Month of Horror 2014 – Chapter 2

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I‘m behind in my viewing, so I’m feeling a bit under the gun…After this batch it’ll be time to pick up the pace again. In this post: Dr. Terror’s House of Horror, Trouble Every Day, Night Of The Eagle and I Married A Witch.

 

Dr. Terror’s House Of Horror (Freddie Francis – 1965)
I’m a big fan of the old Amicus horror anthology films – titles like The House That Dripped Blood, Tales From The Crypt, Torture Garden and Asylum would give you 4-5 short horror stories with a variety of actors (as well as a bonus wrap-around framing device) and bring forth a great 90 minutes of entertainment. The tales weren’t really overly gory or jump-out-of-your-seat scary, but they excelled in bringing horrific ideas into 15-20 minute long stories with dashes of black comedy. Dr. Terror’s grab bag was the only remaining one of the Amicus omnibus films that had eluded me, so I finally caught up with it and it didn’t disappoint. With Peter Cushing dolling out the fates to 5 men he meets on a train (via tarot card readings) and Christopher Lee and Donald Sutherland amongst the leads of the individual scenarios, the film breezes by at a fast pace and introduces you to plants with their own brains, voodoo jazz, an artist’s disembodied hand, and a couple of different spins on vampires and werewolves. Great stuff.

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After the Credits Episode 160: VIFF Dispatch #3 – The Wrap Show

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The end is here. Almost.

The Vancouver International Film Festival wrapped with The Incident but festival correspondent, and Green Screen of Death podcast co-host, Bill Harris (@soundjam69), Lisa (making her grand reappearance 2 years after her podcast debut) and I recorded a rambly, 2am post-midnight film wrap show in which we count down our best and worst of the fest and sing the praises of “Altered States” programmer Curtis Woloschuk (@CurtisWoloschuk) who, in 2 short years, has made the program unmissable.

Occultober – Day 11 – The Devil Rides Out

The Devil Rides Out
Christopher Lee and Hammer Horror are practically synonymous with one another, but usually he’s got fangs and red eyes and is the villain. Here, Lee is the hero investigating occult goings on in London and the surrounding countryside.

Known in the US as The Devil’s Bride, this one also stands out for being adapted for the screen by the great Richard Matheson (his novels “I Am Legend,” “Hell House,” short stories “Button Button,” Steel,” and numerous Twilight Zone episodes merely scratch the surface) from the book of prolific occult and horror novelist Dennis Wheatley. Wheatley’s non-supernatural, WWII espionage series of books featuring lead character Gregory Sallust is said to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming to write the James Bond novels.

The pedigree is there. Sophisticated colour cinematography, black magic, possession, occult sieges, and spiffy special effects are all on the menu. “On your feet quickly! Back to back! Join hands” The Devil Rides Out!

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Review: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared

[Opening Today in Toronto on a single screen, if you get the chance to make it out to this one, run-don't-walk]

For all of us who feel Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump is a sentimental, condescending insult to cinema audiences everywhere, and Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is not any better, we finally have an entry into ‘the man who fumbles successfully through history’ nano-genre to call our own. Do not let the maladroit title fool you, Felix Herngren’s big screen adaptation of the bestselling novel by Jonas Jonasson, is a Swiss-fucking-watch in the plotting department, and savagely amusing in its come-what-may temperament. It sneaks up on you in similar ways as Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters even as it dazzles you with the sweep of history.

After a tone-setting and highly unfortunate incident involving a sweet kitty, a hungry fox and a bundle of dynamite, one of cinemas strangest heroes, Allan Karlsson, finds himself confined to a retirement home on the eve his centenary year on this little planet called Earth. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared (hereafter The 100 Year Old Man) is the delightfully absurd story of our eponymous very senior citizen who does indeed bail out the open glass portal of his tiny room right on the day while the nurses are attempting to count and light all those candles on his marzipan cake, but it is also the story of us as a conflicted and nutty species.

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Foreign Language Oscar Submissions – 83 of Them!

Wait, it’s Oscar nom time? But I haven’t seen anything good this year! Well, perhaps you’re in the wrong country or not hitting the festival circuit; because apparently the world seem to think that there are at least 83 films worthy of Oscar consideration. It’s a record year for the Foreign Language submissions this year. Last year there were 76 submissions (also a record), but 2014 has bested that number by seven.

Of course not all 83 will be up for an actual nomination. Eventually this list of 83 will be whittled down to five (which you will likely have heard of by then) and then on the big night only one will survive. I’ve always contended that the foreign language category is the one category that The Academy actually gets (mostly) right – both in nominations and often the winner.

At any rate, come February 22nd, one of the following titles will be crowned king of the films not funded by American monies:

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Friday One Sheet: The City At Night

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Undeniably the product of photoshopping separate elements together, this actually plays into the theme of the film, where Jake Gyllenhaal’s bottom-feeding videographer starts re-arranging crime-scenes to increase their ‘salable’ value to the local news channels.

Nice touches: The light-source on the end of the camera illuminate the title (and car accident debris), echoing the street lamps in the background. Also, all the power lines and transformers, bridges and street signposts indicate the infrastructure of what makes a town work, whether it is an eyesore or not. Nightcrawler is mainly shot in some of the more banal and ugly places of Los Angeles. In a subtle way, this poster indicates that while also contrasting it against the shiny new red muscle-car which features prominently in the film as the product (and enabler) of ill gotten gains from filming and selling the footage of grisly car accidents.

Occultober – Day 10 – Häxan

Häxan
Häxan, aka Witchcraft Through The Ages, is a Swedish-Danish documentary made in 1922 that is super-stylized, often hysterically theatrical, and a fascinating curio of its era. Director Benjamin Christensen gives an overview on demons and witches in Medieval times, not often (to me, anyway) clear in his distinction between fact and fiction, such that Häxan feels less like a documentary (admittedly the form was young, Nanook of the North having come out in the same year) and more like a horror-fantasia. Satan and witches and other assorted demons prance around in front of the static camera with varying colour tints applied to the Black & White footage and lots of special effects which evoke the pioneer of the form, Georges Méliès. The director himself plays Satan in the film, an image and performance that is difficult to forget. (He also plays Jesus Christ and simply himself in the film.) And the film has a field day with Inquisitor torture devices and other acts of human barbarism in medieval times.

The final product is surprisingly entertaining, gruesome, grotesque, and frankly, well ahead of its time; albeit it is difficult to put yourself into the mindset of an audience, either domestic or foreign, taking it upon its initial release. Enough that The Criterion Collection obtained the film and did a full restoration in 2001.

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