The Horror Movie Work Week #4

Ok, the haul this week was bigger than the previous, and being that I’m starting this post on Thursday, October 25th and have been in four states in the last seven days, I’m surprised. But I’ve really been into this Horror Movie-a-Thon this year. Maybe it’s my way of dealing with being in Chicago for the Massacre at the Portage and DIDN’T GO (Linea Quigley? In person? Oh man*). Maybe I just love horror films and have found a way to work them into all of the quiet moments of my vacation (not too many of those). Seriously, Halloween and Autumn in general has always been my favorite time of the year and it’s been two years since I’ve been able to enjoy the massive forests, the smell of burning leaves, the crispy (but not cold) temperatures and the sharp and sometimes sinister rains of my native Midwest so I guess this year I’m just really living it up, and Horror – though enjoyable as all hell year ’round – is the proverbial cherry on the sundae for my month-long celebration. I’m writing this over the course of the next week as I watch whatever movies happen my way, but you’re reading this on Halloween itself, so let’s get right into it so we can all go out and trash hous— ahem, I mean trick or TREAT!!!

Cabin in the Woods.

image courtesy of denverpost.com

Back on the day this movie opened I was in San Francisco and mentioned seeing it while writing about my bay-area exploits here. I think my friend Michael said it best when he said, “If horror is a sandbox, Whedon and Goddard just scooped up all the toys for themselves.” Seriously, the movie balances the horror/comedy line perfectly and the surprises – the surprises are expertly timed and behemoth. If we had to spend almost a decade with Saw as the only viable (*Hmmph*) horror franchise, it was indeed the darkest before the light. The potential to franchise this is there, with Guillermo del Toro supposedly interested right off the bat. Would that be a good thing? You may have noticed that I’m trying to avoid spoilers on this one (DON’T LOOK AT THE BOX FOR THE DVD!!!) but I don’t think it’s saying too much to say that there are soooo many things in that basement that we could have years of “previous incidents” to evaluate. No matter what comes of sequels the original was INSTANTLY a classic and a must-see for any horror fan.

From Dusk ’til Dawn

image courtesy of the AWESOME http://bryanbaugh.deviantart.com/

I had the unfortunate experience of watching Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk ’til Dawn – one of my favorite movies – on AMC’s Fear Fest this week. I was in the midst of traveling through the Midwest and caught a night of cable tv at my wonderful inlaws’ house. Now, Rodriguez’s Grindhouse masterpiece (made a full ten years before the present-day Grindhouse-resurgence began), with all its bullets and gore and fangs and holy water condom balloons is a perfect film, but perhaps not for a regular-network cable station. The creme-de-la-creme came for me when even after all of the cuss words were poorly overdubbed and the breasts were dithered out, AMC felt the need to even change the name of the strip club, The Titty Twister, and add a digital “K” at the front of the building to make the ridiculous “Kitty Twister”.

Really?

Despite that I still had a damn good time watching a young George Clooney (in his most badass role ever), a creepy Quentin Tarantino, a fatherly Harvey Keitel** and the always wonderful Juliette Lewis fight it out with a bar full of vampires. At least the copious amounts of blood and gore weren’t too peeled back. (How exactly is it that the same network I watch Breaking Bad on sensors its featured movies? Oh well, one more reason I will never have cable).

Candyman

image courtesy of gotchamovies.com

I’d never seen this before and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Growing up in the south Chicago suburbs, Cabrini Green was something that I was aware as but never dared go near. We’d drive to terrifyingly haunted Bachelor’s Grove in a second but the gritty horror of reality is something much harder to come to terms with. And Candyman does a great job weaving these two elements, real horror and surreal horror – into something strange and visceral and oddly beautiful. Bernard Rose’s adaptation of a Clive Barker story feels very 80’s John Carpenter and that’s not a bad thing. A lesser known and I think often dismissed gem that I highly recommend when you’re in the mood for something to accompany Prince of Darkness, They Live or even Craven’s A Serpent and The Rainbow.

 

And now we come to my picks for Halloween evening viewing. Trick or Treat and what else but the original, John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Trick ‘r Treat

image courtesy of imdb.com

 

Last week I talked about Creepshow, and no disrespect there, but Trick ‘r Treat has to be my favorite anthology horror film by about a million miles. An obvious homage to Creepshow – as well as the entire 80’s genre of Anthological Horror – Trick ‘r Treat is really more fun than ‘terrifying’ as it boasts in its opening credits. But maybe that’s just because it’s a modern stab at something a lot of us grew up with. This is okay with me. In fact it’s better than okay. It’s another instant classic the first time you see it and there’s really not too many of those. Writer/director Michael Dougherty’s four tales and a wrap-around character that can’t be beat bring the town of Warren Valley, Ohio to life in a literature-like way as  we move up and down sidewalks and back alleys; in and out of yards and out to the surrounding meadows, sometimes by firelight and sometimes by Jack O’ Lantern, always with an eerie feeling just at our back. Trick ‘r Treat plays like a wonderful parable and an interesting warning. I know it’s just a film but after watching it I went out and bought a pumpkin to carve. I love this annual tradition but had largely dismissed it this year due to traveling. However, Trick ‘r Treat reminded me that I do think reality is what we choose to make it. Certain traditions make me feel more connected to the actual dirt and draft of this wonderful place we live and so I choose to keep Sam Hain’s traditions alive and put a little protection out against the darkness – even if that very act seems to ensure that said darkness is there. Kept at bay it makes me feel a bit more… human?

Halloween – this one, man, where to start? Everything about this film is perfect and enigmatic and just alarming. Yes, that’s a good word for it – alarming. The slow but not grueling introduction to Donald Pleasance’s character and through him Michael Myers, Haddonfield, Laurie, her friends, etc. The build as the almost lilting-at-times and then deadly serious music – so simple yet so perfect – let’s us in on not only Laurie and her mounting paranoia but Myers’ own pervading psychotic obsession. This obsession is then emulated perfectly by the louder-than everything-else breathing that plays as the killer’s only dialogue, a sound that really puts us the viewer behind that William Shatner mask. And in a truly terrifying film maybe that is what’s the most terrifying of all, especially in scenes such as when Lynda and Bob are killed and the sound of the breathing almost makes you feel as though you’re the one doing the killing! Eeewwww…

If the beginning takes its time building the culmination is as riveting as a film can get. From about the one-hour-and-fourteen-minute mark, when Michael first attacks and begins to hunt Laurie, everything really pumps full of blood. The initial scene where Laurie comes bounding around from the side of the house is a nice long continuous shot and that just adds to the absolute panic that comes through on the celluloid here. It really gives you a feel for the bedlam transpiring on screen. This is one of those sequences where I often notice my increased heart rate and breathing during.

Nice, eh?

Another fabulous thing is the lighting. The light on the couch where Laurie stabs Michael with the knitting needle is iconic beyond words, it’s pitch dark surroundings serving to make an almost stage-like spotlight on the nightmare at hand. And speaking of Myers getting stabbed, I’ve always wondered – the way he constantly drops when hurt – it’s almost robotic. Is he toying with his victims? Otherwise, it’s so obtuse it almost looks robotic. Weird.

Okay, well, it’s Halloween here in LALA land and though it must once again pass this year as every other I’ve attempted to enjoy my favorite night of the year all month long and had a hell of a lot of fun writing about it, so until next year, keep those Jack O’ Lanterns lit!!!

………….

*

Image courtesy of http://horror-movie-confessions.tumblr.com/

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to The Horror Movie Work Week #4
  1. [...] of his “Horror Movie Work Week.” Find them here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Halloween Night ... joup.co/the-horror-movie-work-week-bonus-international-film-2-shutter-2004-thai

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