Sunday, 18 October 2009

October Horror 2009 #6




A good batch this time (well except for one). I'm looking to do all Italian Horror for the next post to tie into the Italian Horror Blog-a-thon starting on the 19th and running for the rest of the month.



The Black House (1999 - Yoshimitsu Morita) - I prefer Marc Saint-Cyr's (my Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow colleague) review for this film than anything I might come up with here, but I should say something since this is quite the remarkable film in many ways. It starts as a satiric look at the health insurance industry (and those patients who try to defraud it) while we follow meek manager Wakatsuki who attempts to deal with several different cases. He gets a call one day from Sachiko Komoda, a very strange and self-centered woman, who asks him quite plainly if suicide is covered by their plan. When he visits their house, he finds their son hanging from the rafters. Coincidence? At this point the psychological horror begins as we try to figure out whether Komoda is completely insane, deluded or if perhaps it's Wakatsuki who is a bit "off". Many things are brought into question via visual cues, edits and additional sound effects and it's this ambiguity that creates an odd tension about the movie. It's deep into the last half when it actually turns into a horror film with hidden bodies, surprise attacks and bowling balls with embedded glass shards making appearances. A unique film.









Curse Of Frankenstein (1957 - Terence Fisher) - I've been trying to catch up on Hammer Studio films the past few years and finally made my way to this early classic. Fans of shocks may wonder what the fuss is, but that would obviously expose their serious lack of taste - this is a great and fun film. Peter Cushing plays Doc Frankenstein as less insane but more intense than likely any other version you've seen. He and his mentor of many years work towards regenerating life from death and begin to have some success with small animals. As his mentor starts having misgivings about experimentation on humans, the good doctor sees no moral issues whatsoever and continues to plow ahead. He becomes obsessed about creating life from different parts of dead people and eventually creates his monster - played remarkably well by Christopher Lee. Like many of the Hammer films, this one zips by in a flash with great sets, superb acting and a script that doesn't waste any lines.









Scream Blacula Scream (1973 - Bob Kelljan) - Scads and scads of fun. Oh sure, some of the acting is downright terrible and the connection between Blacula and voodoo is, um, odd at best, but that doesn't matter. William Marshall is The Count and you better emphasize those capital letters when you say it - his deep baritone voice commands, no, COMMANDS people to do things. Simply put, he's really awesome here. Of course, this being early 70s blaxploitation, Pam Grier is along for the ride too and she brings her typical beauty and air of invincibility along with her. The horror movie elements are still there and handled well (slow build ups, scenes set up via angles and framing, etc.), but this movie is about fun. Blacula's initial attack on a visitor to the mansion, as he floats with his cape raised and an unknown light source illuminating his face, made me say out loud (to no one in particular since I watched it alone) "That's so cool!". As with many films of this type, it ends in a bit of a mish mash of ideas, but you're already satiated by that point...Now I have to work backwards and find Blacula (also starring Marshall).









Child's Play 2 (1990 - John Lafia) - A movie that knows full well how silly it is and yet still plays it straight can be a very fun experience. And I have to admit that's pretty much what Child's Play 2 is. I do wish they had put some more care into the details of the picture though - just because you know you're doing silly horror, it doesn't mean you don't have to concern yourself with everything that surrounds the set pieces. Occasionally the film seemed to be killing time until the next Chucky attack and it just felt they could've bridged things in a much more entertaining way. Another minor nitpick (and CP2 is not alone in doing this): Every street scene seemed to require us to hear the inconsequential chatter of passersby - I guess because they thought it would seem more like a real street - and in each case the overdubs are so generically delivered and written that it completely removes you from the moment. But anyway...Chucky elicits a great many laughs via his growling banzai attacks that all is forgiven. The final toy manufacturing plant scene is top notch due not only to the numerous false endings, but also because of the imaginative design of the assembly line. Now if I can only find Child's Play 3, I'll be in business.









Maniac (1934 - Dwain Esper) - If there's three things I learned from this poorly directed, terribly acted and horribly put together 51 minute film it's that 1) people sure talked to themselves a lot more back then ("What am I going to do? The police will be here any minute!"); 2) "super-adrenaline" is nasty stuff and makes you snort and cackle like an evil witch; 3) cat's eyeballs apparently pop out quite easily and are "not unlike an oyster or a crepe". An aging scientist and his assistant are working on reanimation of the dead and decide to begin raiding the mortuary for test subjects. When the assistant kills the scientist in an argument, he takes his place and tries to cover everything up. However, an evil cat named Satan, a woman patient who sees through his ruse and a wife that he somehow "forgot" (but reappears after he has inherited a great deal of money) all seem to conspire against him continuing his mentor's work. The film pretends to analyze different stages of mania by occasionally flashing intertitles that discuss certain different characteristics of mental illnesses, but they have no tie to the events on screen. Not that those events really have many ties to each other either...Cat fights (of both the feline and female variety), glimpses of nudity, multi-exposed film to imply the devil's presence in guiding the crazy scientist (the most effective part of the film) and other seemingly random moments come and go. There's an interesting idea buried somewhere amongst the inept filmmaking.






6 comments:

dr.morbius said...

The weird thing about Curse of Frankenstein (which I watched last week), is that it seems like a chamber drama. There's, what? Four characters plus the monster, and it almost never leaves Baron Frankenstein's manor. This is an example of Hammer doing things on the cheap, I'm sure, but it kind of sabotages the stakes of the movie, don't you think?

Peter Nellhaus said...

Judging from the screen caps, Maniac seems to be visually fun to watch, even if the story doesn't make any sense.

Bob Turnbull said...

Hi Doc...Hmmm, I suppose the stakes do seem less in comparison to the typical look at the story (which would focus on the actual carnage done and a "what have I done?" response). But, I think in this case it's more about Doc Frankenstein and his very cavalier attitude towards human life. He doesn't seem to have any concerns about what harm his experimenting may do to the monster or what it may imply - it's all about succeeding and reaching his goal. It's not even just that he doesn't have those morals (like his mentor), it's that it just doesn't even seem to occur to him - he's not necessarily evil, just completely clueless when it comes to possible pain and suffering he might incur. So it's more about him...

Peter, it's OK...Like I mentioned, there are some good ideas, but there are some pretty poorly executed ones too. Then again, for 51 minutes, it mostly kept my attention. Many much more professionally done films lose me after 20 minutes...

Marc Saint-Cyr said...

You know, Bob, I'm mildly surprised that in both of our reviews for The Black House, neither of us seem to address the ridiculous, spontaneous nudity that comes out of nowhere in the last portion of the film...

elgringo said...

Child's Play 2 is a favorite of mine. The end goes a bit long though, doesn't it?

Thanks for the Maniac suggestion. I'll trade you. If you haven't already, you should see Maniac Cop!

Bob Turnbull said...

Yipes, late getting to some of these comments...

Marc, that's a good point. I guess that the film really messed with my expectations, so I was slightly discombobulated and didn't really process that part of it. I think it did fit with the darker tones the film picked up along the way.

elgringo, the end of Child's Play 2 does run a smidge long I suppose, but I loved the design of that manufacturing line, so I didn't mind it a bit.

I've added "Maniac Cop" to my list - might not get to it before the end of the month, but I've got so many I want to get to, I may try to squeeze it into my November viewing (what, you think I'm gonna stop after the end of the month?).

Do NOT blame me if you end up watching "Maniac". I've seen worse, but screencaps can bely the dullness of the actual moving pictures...