Even More (Really Belated) Horror…

What do you mean, it’s not October anymore? How did that happen? Ah well, good horror is still good horror even if it’s a month late, and after sitting down with more than twenty horror films in October/November I didn’t want to let them all go past without comment. And yet I STILL didn’t get to Carrie or Army of Darkness or The Wicker Man, or any of the J-horror on my list. I figured I’d tend toward older films this year (as I often do anyway, but I’ve been in a particularly old-movie mood lately), and that’s pretty much how it turned out, helped along by Cinefamily‘s William Castle series.

I’ve got them in here in the order I liked them, most to least, though I should note that I saw all the Castle films and all the Argento films in a theatre with very good audiences (and all the gimmicks intact on the Castle films), so I’m sure that made an incalculable difference in some cases in terms of how I responded to them.

28 Weeks Later –

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2007 USA. Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Starring: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner.
More epic tragedy than horror film, 28 Weeks Later far outstripped its predecessor for me. I had put off watching it for a long time because while I appreciated some of the things 28 Days Later did, I really disliked the ending, which kind of put me off seeing the sequel, but enough people told me I should that I finally sighed and bit the bullet. And it had me totally rapt from that incredible opening sequence all the way through. The quiet moments are as full of dread and horror as the frenetically-edited (but rarely incoherent) chases, and the lengths that those who are still human go to in order to survive are just as horrifying as the infected – and that’s what really set this film apart. The most terrible moments in the film aren’t jump scares, attacks by infected hoardes, or even when our now-infected hero attacks his loved ones, but when the human Carlyle abandons his family, and when soldier Jeremy Renner realizes he’s been ordered to shoot everyone, whether infected or not, and the line between monster and protector becomes indistinguishable. The horror here is human. But there are no good choices, no satisfactory options in this world, and that’s what Fresnadillo captures so well.

Deep Red –

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1975 Italy. Director: Dario Argento. Starring: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia.
Okay, I have to talk for a second about how I saw this. Cinefamily flew in a print from Italy, something which is apparently NEVER DONE, and theatres here just about NEVER show Deep Red in 35mm. This print had seen a LOT of use in Italian grindhouse theatres, was in terrible shape (it took two projectionists like 20 hours of work just to make it feed through the projector without breaking), and didn’t have subtitles – they manually ran an .srt file on a secondary projector. There were skips here and there cutting out whole lines of dialogue. The theatre got some negative feedback for the choppiness of the print, but I thought the experience of seeing it that way was incredible. Sure, I might’ve missed a few lines of dialogue here or there, or the plot might’ve jumped a bit, or the subtitles might’ve been a tad off…but I’ll probably never have the opportunity to see a film print of Deep Red again. Plus I loved the movie, print defects and all. When I saw Suspiria last year, I enjoyed it for the set-pieces but thought the plot was a a bit thin – Deep Red was perfect. It was great visually, if perhaps not quite as flamboyant, and had a really well-developed, if admittedly far-fetched, twisty-turny plot. Plus a couple of scenes that will likely be filed under “things that freak me the hell out” forever.

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Cinecast Episode 188 – Wind and Leaves and Avid Farts

 
 
After a Halloween hiatus, the boys are back with quite the metric tonne of movie mutterings. First up is a recap of the Flyway Film Festival and all the goings on with cheese curds and Delayed onset stress disorders. Despite a lack of worthy wide releases, ’tis the season for horror miscellany and AMC has given a real doozy in the way of the zombie genre with “The Walking Dead.” We also cover a fair amount of foreign fare (Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, Britain’s Eden Lake and the infamous A Serbian Film) as well as some of the classics (The Shining, The Exorcist, Something Wicked This Way Comes) and the proverbial much, much more. Atmosphere is certainly the focus of the conversation.

With the North American bow of the final chapter in the Millennium (“The Girl Who…” ) Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, did hit the cinema in MN, and Andrew takes a step back and puts the third film in the context of the trilogy as a whole. There is a lengthy tangent about the David Fincher remake and what should could be brought to the table and the whole ‘too soon’ aspect of foreign language do-overs expect Let The Right One in and Ils to make the conversation. Also, some Doc talk and Jack Rebney goodness from the Winnebago Man Q&A here in Toronto following its commercial cinema release and a wee bit more on Catfish. From content to delivery, Kurt offers his virgin experiences with Netflix in Canada, and everyone has a go at hashing out the Canadian bandwidth wars on the horizon due to the services ‘streaming only’ mandate in the Great White North. We get a quick sneak review of the upcoming Tony Scott film, Unstoppable and quality DVD releases this week are not hard to come by. While it is a forehead slapping moment that we forgot to talk about The Larry Sanders Show complete collection on DVD, or the Criterion 50% Sale, there is still plenty of DVD goodness out there, even after the scary expensive pre-halloween weekend!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 
 

 
 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_188.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_188-alt.mp3

 




 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Some Horror Noodling and Thoughts, post Halloween

 

Having just rewatched both The Exorcist and The Shining within the past couple of weeks, and seeing how both films use some off-the-wall strange editing strategies and cinematography, it certainly had me thinking about populist-art house horror that goes beyond the cheap scares and laughs and attempts to burrow a bit – both on a personal (as every good horror films should) and cinematically (both advancing the genre, and yet also standing a bit alone, high on the mountain, impenetrable to the whims and fads of the genre). Neither film is in a hurry to scare its audience, setting for a long, slow build up to establish geography, emphasize key locations and spend some not-all-that-related-to-plot moments with its characters. Friedkin (and his pair of editors) cut away from possessed Regan right in the middle of her outburst, once even to a domestic scene (I believe) to someone reading a newspaper in the kitchen. Kubrick makes a lot of use of slow zooms, something not all that common in american studio produced cinema (horror or otherwise) but is indeed something Kubrick used a lot, particularly in his film prior to The Shining, Barry Lyndon. Furthermore, Kubrick splits the perspective between possessed Jack and his terrorized family, something perhaps unusual in a stalking-horror movie (really, the last act of The Shining) where the victims generally are unaware of when the killer will pop out. It is strange to see the bathroom sequence (“Heeeerrrrre’s Johnny!”) shown simultaneously from the POV of Jack and the POV of Wendy. It still works, but I digress. Suffice it to say that the slow-burn horror film experience, with a bit of austerity thrown in for good measure is probably my bag of horror filmmaking (no insult to the [Rec]s and the Evil Deads of the genre).

So then I was re-watched There Will Be Blood, which often uses the syntax of a horror film, with all of the mining accidents, the mud and oil functioning as pretty naked allusions for the blood-ties of family and society and the violence therein. Daniel Plainview is the monster in this case, slowly winding his way towards insanity and perhaps in his own mind, an uphill battle against obsolescence as society moves out of the prospecting frontier and into a commercial society (certainly the temporal cut, in the final 20 minutes of the film between 1903’s desert landscape and 1929s verdantly groomed mansion is jarring to say the least.) It was interesting to note that P.T. Anderson also favours some slow zooms. Anderson is usually discussed within the context of similarity to his hero Robert Altman (dare to compare Short Cuts and Magnolia), but there is a Kubrickian remove in There Will Be Blood, that perhaps (a little) tends to have detractors of the film label it shallow or showy, certainly something that was the case with Kubrick’s The Shining, a film that has risen remarkable in stature since its release in 1980, a film so open to interpretation and consideration of its own themes that it has been labelled alternately as the meltdown of the nuclear family in the Carter years (here), or an ironic take on White Man’s Burden and his destruction/usurping of Indian lands and society (here), or my personal favorite (and points for creativity and rock-solid conspiracy-theory-fu!) an admission of guilt for Kubrick filming the faked moon landings concurrently to 2001: A Space Odyssey (mandatory entertainment here and here). But I am digressing again.

Lastly, Brad Anderson’s Session 9 owes a LOT to The Shining, with its huge mental asylum standing in as an overwhelming character, much like The Overlook Hotel. Here we have a mundane collection of jobbers (again, not unlike the Torrence family care-taking task, or for that matter, Donald Sutherland’s church restoration in Don’t Look Now – perhaps another influence on Session 9) sent in to clean out asbestos (perhaps a metaphor for the collective and dangers skeletons in the closet) but dealing with the strange, and hallucinatory evil of a place. Now where Session 9 fails is actually on aesthetics, it being shot at the dawn on HD-Digital filmmaking, everything looks quite ‘VIDEO’ and not in the interesting Michael Mann fashion or the invisible David Fincher mode, but rather rendering their Gothic asylum as a mundane, paint-peeling office building. I felt that the primitive video look was a bit of a deal breaker in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, compared to the more handsome and aggressive cinematography and editing in 28 Weeks Later, but that is another, familiar argument in these parts) Still, watching Peter Mullan (an underrated character actor if there ever was one!) melt down by the stress of his job and his bickering crew is a solid tension builder, but the cross cutting of psychiatric evaluation tapes of a schizophrenic former patient, and strained domestic home-life scenes of Mullan’s young family work like gangbusters in association. And maybe that is the key, some sort of overriding association of the mundane and the supernatural (like say relaxing beach holiday and large man-eating sharks?) that makes a slow-burner, even austere, horror movie click in such a way to make them a heck-of-a-lot more rewatchable than the more manic entries in the field.

Trailer: The Vanishing on 7th Street

 

I do enjoy me a good Brad Anderson flick. Sure, he doesn’t work out of the United States much these days, preferring Europe, which essentially means his type of genre flick is a little lower budgeted than all the ‘horror remake’ stuff going on stateside currently. Session 9, The Machinist, Transsiberian are all solid (if occasionally workmanlike) flicks. Making its debut at the 2010 edition of TIFF is Anderson’s latest, The Vanishing on 7th Street, sort of a post-apocalyptic survival film starring Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, and John Leguizamo (incidentally, none of these are popular with the mainstream-genre-crowd, so casting here is a bit baffling):

From TIFF:

It starts with a power outage. Where once stood living beings are now piles of discarded clothes. The once sunny city is shrouded in blackness. Shadows creep across every surface and whispers echo in the empty streets. Is it some form of enemy attack or a swift judgment from the divine? Each passing day contains fewer daylight hours, and only those who cling to some other form of light can escape the encroaching darkness.

A small group of survivors congregate in an old bar powered by a gas generator. Luke (Hayden Christensen) is a slick TV anchor forced to live by his wits. Paul (John Leguizamo) is a lonely projectionist working in a multiplex theatre. Rosemary (Thandie Newton) is a distraught mother whose baby is missing, and James (Jacob Latimore) is a shotgun-toting kid waiting for his mother to return. With their light sources slowly dying, they must find alternative illumination and a way out of the city. Overcome with paranoia and fear, the group struggles to understand the events that have brought them together.

Nevertheless, the idea with the slowly shrinking span of daylight is a keeper, and Anderson doesn’t scrimp on character development, so here is hoping.

The full trailer is tucked under the seat.

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