Monday 13 October 2008
Basking In The Cesspool Of Filth #4 - The Final Post: A Time For Sleep
John Tesh! Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!
OK sorry...I promise nothing quite as creepy for the rest of the post.
Torture Garden (1967 - Freddie Francis) - After the dullness and disappointment of the last Amicus Productions film I viewed ("The Beast Must Die!"), I felt I should go back to their stock and trade - the horror anthology. In this incarnation, Dr. Diablo (played by Burgess Meredith in his prime Penguin-era mode) runs the carnival exhibit "Torture Garden" where he offers some visitors the extra thrill of seeing their scary possible futures. Several take him up on his offer and we get to see each individual's fate. Though not quite as much fun through and through as some of the other films, it still provides great entertainment, Jack Palance, a smidge of Peter Cushing and a killer piano.
They Live (1988 - John Carpenter) - By gaining control of a transmission tower, aliens have hidden their mind-controlling messages within the many signs and ads of every day human existence. They've hidden themselves as well behind perfect human disguises that can only be seen with special kinds of sunglasses. With additional help from the rich elite (that they have helped to make richer), the aliens are systematically ridding the city of the resistance force - until a drifter comes to town. Though the idea is pretty cool (and the images seen through the sunglasses - the aliens and their signs - are perfect), the film is mostly a big shrug for me. Kind of mediocre TV movie-like to be honest. The alley fight that is often mentioned as a favourite is also pretty well done and surprising (in its back and forth nature and length), but it just didn't amount to a whole lot in the end.
Curse Of The Werewolf (1961 - Terence Fisher) - Great looking (as always), but slightly slow moving Hammer film about the life of a werewolf - how he came about, his youth and his adulthood. Convinced that love can cure his affliction, his adoptive father keeps him and allows him to enter the real world. Indeed he finds a true love, but is separated from her and...do I need to mention he hasn't quite managed to get the whole curse thing under control? Oliver Reed does a fun job of being crazily sweaty when he's about to transform and the actual werewolf makeup straddles the goofy/scary line pretty well. It never enters the realm of the truly frightening, but it sticks nicely to the Hammer style.
Shocker (1989 - Wes Craven) - Don't be fooled by the cheesy good fun of the trailer or the spiffy screen captures below..."Shocker" is a mean-spirited, rather dull and unscary affair that doesn't even try to make sense within its own reality. I'm fine with suspending belief in fantastic type films (surely required here once the electrocuted serial killer survives his execution and starts jumping from body to body), but when a film can't even stick to the rules it's set up in its own universe then tension no longer plays a role in the viewing experience. Granted, during the sequence that is the worst offender of this - the final confrontation where hero and villain jump from TV show to TV show - the film is playing it for laughs, but it just falls flat. I suppose that may not be completely fair - I was so totally not invested in the film by this point that I can't really be objective about the comedy. There's also a callousness to the killings here...Entire families are wiped out by the serial killer off screen, cops are killed casually and a little girl is used as a surrogate body at one point (where I guess they thought it would be funny to have her swear like an adult). Add to all this Peter Berg's acting (he's just one of those guys that irritates me - he almost ruined "The Last Seduction") and the film fails completely.
Black Sunday (1960 - Mario Bava) - I don't necessarily feel I have to wait until October to watch Horror movies, so I can't use that as an excuse for failing to watch this classic sooner (it's been sitting around the house for almost an entire calendar year). I think perhaps I was just worried that it would disappoint - it's the standard for gothic horror and is considered not only Bava's best but one of the best of the Horror genre. In the end it appears that what I've done is to simply deny myself the pleasure of watching a beautifully crafted, gorgeously shot and creepily effective film for longer than I needed to.
Scream And Scream Again (1970 - Gordon Hessler) - A pretty fine mystery/thriller (not so much horror) that intermixes several different storylines (a vampire-like killer, a man in a hospital who slowly loses his limbs and a Nazi like regime torturing its captives for information) into a single cohesive whole. It's purposely confusing at times, but when a film manages to make all its pieces intriguing of their own accord, you tend to sit back and trust that the director will bring them all together. Hessler does this indeed and gets solid help from his cast including small roles for each of the typical major players of this period (Price, Lee, Cushing). He even squeezes in one dandy of a car chase too.