Yet Another Month of Horror 2015 – Chapter 2

The Paramount Vault releases make up the majority of this month’s first time watches: Grim Prairie Tales, The Sender, Shanks and Beneath.


Grim Prairie Tales (Wayne Coe – 1990)
An odd anthology film that spends more time with its wrap-around story than the 4 tales spun from it. Granted, when your wrap-around has James Earl Jones and Brad Dourif, I could see why you might want to give them the lion’s share – unless of course what they are given is 1) a fractured and weirdly paced arc and 2) really crappy direction for their line readings. Dourif plays a man riding back to Jacksonville Florida to see his wife (by horse across the prairies – the time period is likely late 1800s) when he encounters Jones after bunking down for the night in the great wide open. After much wide-eyed yelling at each other, they begin to swap stories. The stories – each one being more of a morality/immorality tale rather than anything horrific – are both interesting and kinda dull. Even though the individual tales are no longer than 10-15 minutes each, the pace is glacial…There’s a dryness to them that simply didn’t engage me. And yet, upon reflection, each one tackles its subject (intolerance, lust, hatred/fear, pride) in a fairly unique and non-obvious way. I have to give the film credit for a different approach. If only it were more entertaining…

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Classic Horror Movies for People Who Don’t Like Gore

We’re into October now, so expect to see a concentration of posts about horror films from us this month – Bob has already started his annual horror capsule posts (see part 1 here). This particular post actually originates thanks to a friend asking me if I had a post anywhere talking about classic horror films that relied on atmosphere and creepy chills rather than gore and jump scares. Given that creepy atmospheric horror films are my favorite kind (in fact, the only kind of horror films I’d watch until a couple of years ago), I happily said I’d put one together this week, just in time to plan some classic Halloween viewing for the month of October. I’ve chosen fifteen films, ranged between atmospheric, disturbing, creepy, culty, and just plain enjoyable, trying to stay a bit off the beaten path, though there are a few quite well-known films in here. (Note that some may have a modicum of bloodiness, especially moving into the color films of the ’60s (Hammer, Bava, Corman), but it’s very restrained and unrealistic compared with the gorefests of later years.) I’m sure there are a lot more than just these – please feel free to add more in the comments. I’d love to find more films like these myself, since, as I said, they’re my favorite.

Haxan (1922)

There are a number of good silent film choices here, but this one is a little under-the-radar unless you’re a real classic horror or silent film aficionado. Benjamin Christensen’s Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages purports to be a documentary depicting the history of witchcraft from the middle ages through the Puritan era and to modern day (which Christensen connects via the modern “hysteric” – his thesis, such as it is, is that witches in earlier eras suffered from misdiagnosed mental illness, hardly an original thought with him), but really, it’s an excuse to gleefully show flights of fancy into the devil’s lair, detail objects of torture, and basically let his imagination run wild. It’s stylistically flamboyant, too, and though a lot of it is humorous now (the modern day parts are particularly earnest in a laughable way), a good portion of it is genuinely creepy and it’s definitely an unforgettable visual experience.
1922 Denmark. Director: Benjamin Christensen. Starring: Benjamin Christensen, Maren Pedersen.
Other silent films to try: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, The Phantom of the Opera.

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