Yet Another Month of Horror 2015 – Chapter 5

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Wrapping up the month with: The Serpent And The Rainbow, The Majorettes, The Flesh Eaters and The Ghoul.

 

The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988 – Wes Craven)
Thanks in part to Matt Price and his podcast “Let’s Scare Matthew Price To Death”, I’ve finally closed a huge gap in my horror knowledge by seeing – on screen no less – Craven’s enormously entertaining film. This past week Matt helped present Craven’s The Serpent And The Rainbow at The Royal cinema here in Toronto and then did a live on stage podcast directly after the film (inviting several other local podcasters to join him). I had started watching the film years ago, got 10 minutes in, tuned out and promised I’d get back to it one day – and thank goodness I did. I must’ve been in some weird zombi-fied state lo-those-many-years-ago not to have jumped head first into this movie. Granted, Bill Pullman is Bill Pullman in it and occasionally distracts from the more serious moments, but fortunately the film allows itself to play in that surreal middle ground between reality and dream and have a ball with it (that coffin scene is one for the ages). There’s also a wider view of how Haiti itself woke from their own political slumber (which is done surprisingly subtly) and a couple of proper jump scares – build-up, payoff and well-deserved audience reaction. That voodoo is gonna get ya!

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Yet Another Month of Horror 2015 – Chapter 4

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The bookends were terrific surprises as I didn’t even know they existed a week ago: Next Of Kin, Just Before Dawn, Deathdream and Don’t Deliver Us From Evil.

 

Next Of Kin (1982 – Tony Williams)
Psychological horror? Ghost story? Giallo? Slow burn thriller? Why yes, yes it is. This little known Australian flick about a woman who returns to run the family rest home after her mother passes away not only covers a variety of stylistic and thematic horror approaches, it does so wonderfully well through an extremely well-orchestrated story. Containing some lovely & creative shots, a fantastic score by Klaus Schulze (did my day ever brighten up when I saw his name in the credits) and some deft changes of pace, this is easily one of my best horror finds in a very long time.

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A Month of Horror 2014 – Chapter 3

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Let’s dig into a few more tasty horror treats…In this post: Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Monster Club, The Town That Dreaded Sundown and Gurozuka.

 

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (Bob Clark – 1973)
I’m not sure how this “let’s get our friends together and make a movie” movie didn’t completely collapse into itself, but it somehow stayed afloat even if about 70% of the frame at any given time seems to be complete blackness. Fortunately director Bob Clark (Black Christmas and a c.v. of films almost as diverse as Robert Wise) wisely decided to clad his group of friends in brightly coloured clothing for their night time adventure through an island cemetery for fun & games and inspiration for their play. None of them seem to like each other, so calling them “friends” might be a stretch, but they all seem to follow the egotistical and nasty director who performs a number of rituals over the graveyard. Without really meaning to, he ends up accidentally waking a whole assortment of dead folks. The last 20 minutes of the movie actually work quite decently with the troupe trying to battle and escape the zombies, but it’s a bit of a challenge to get there.

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On the First Day of Christmas… “Black Christmas”

[…Day 1 of the 12 Days of Christmas review project…]

Over the next 12 days, I’ve devoted myself to watching some old and new Christmas films that for one reason or another I’ve managed to never have seen before. I’ll see a new one each day and do a quick (or long – whatever it takes) write-up on each one here at Row Three. I anticipate burning myself out on this little project, but at least I’ll be able to tell people that I’ve finally seen It’s a Wonderful Life.


Director: Bob Clark
Writer: Roy Moore
Producer: Bob Clark
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Marian Waldman, Andrea Martin
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 98 min.
Year of release: 1974

Likely to be one of the best films I’ll see over this little holiday festival, Black Christmas is not so much of a Christmas movie as it is a horror film and a title that shows up on just about everybody’s “subversive Christmas movie” lists this time of year – and for very good reason. For a film that is over 30 years old, it felt like a breath of fresh air with new tactics, new ways of scaring me and what seems like a whole new way of putting together a horror film. It plays with a lot of the conventions of the horror genre in a time were there really weren’t any conventions to play with.

The opening shot surprised me a little bit. Angled slightly from the street, the camera shows a nice looking house; lit up with some Christmas lights, snow flakes falling gently to the ground all around us and “Black Christmas” written in a white, “classy” font that fills the screen. Immediately I was reminded of Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story and thought maybe Bob Clark had ripped off the idea from this film. Then the director credit popped up: Bob Clark. A-ha!

The story follows several girls living in a sorority house and having a party before they all head home for Christmas vacation. We’re then brought outside to POV shot of someone stalking the house and gaining entry through an open window in the attic. So right away I thought this would be just another Slumber Party Massacre or Sorority House Massacre flick. I was surprised out of that notion very quickly when the girls receive their first obscene phone call.

The phone call has most of the girls on edge except for star, Margot Kidder’s character. She smarts off and thinks the whole thing is a joke. Me? I was freaked out. The voice on the other end of the line is not the usual moaner or heavy breather. This is obviously not some college punk thinking he is funny. This is a disturbed, possibly possessed, person on the line. He uses different voice, unstructured sentences, mumbling, non-coherent rants about random people and possibly other languages. Not to mention terrifying screams, shouts and grunts. To me, it sounded like Linda Blair from The Exorcist just figured out how to dial a telephone. These calls happen several times throughout the picture and they become no less skin crawling each time.

Add the ominous but terrific score to the terror and there are truly frightful things going on here. Heavy piano pounding that still has some tone and arrangement to it, coupled with some ominous chorus sounds of children makes for some unique atmospheric sounds emanating from the speakers.

As people begin to disappear, more characters join the cast and more characters become potential suspects as to who the killer might be. In this way it sort of becomes a standard, who-dunnit. But that’s the beauty of this film: there’s nothing standard about it.

**SPOILERS BELOW**

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