Saturday 30 October 2010

October Horror 2010 - Installment #10

Another set of horror already? Don't look so surprised...

Night Of The Creeps (1986 - Fred Dekker) - One of the many 80s horror movies that I'm finally getting around to seeing and which was fondly remembered by many , "Night Of The Creeps" was released fairly recently to much acclaim and enthusiasm. I should track down some of the reviews of those who re-watched it for the first time in 20 years to see how it stacks up for them. Not that it's bad - it's actually a good deal of fun and frivolity - but it's fiercely dated. The clothing, hairstyles and music place it so firmly in the mid-80s that I considered spinning the Miami Vice soundtrack on my turntable. The "hero" of the story is bland beyond all comprehension (he played Rusty in "European Vacation" - widely accepted as the worst of that series), so he doesn't help the proceedings much during the buildup, but once the alien leech thingies start popping into people's mouths, turning them into zombies, laying eggs and then exploding out of them, it's smiles all around.

Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh (1970 - Sergio Martino) - One of the stronger Italian giallos I've seen of late. Though most of the female characters are relegated to standard roles of screaming and being unable to defend themselves (especially since they faint so easily), it was nice to see a couple of instances where the woman exerted some amount of control on a situation. The story's pretty entertaining, if perhaps completely unbelievable and dependent on too many coincidences and far too convenient timing. Martino doesn't always capture the murders themselves in overly interesting ways, but he otherwise has a great eye for an interesting shot and makes great use of depth of field. Some of the usage of zooming and quick cutting seems a bit dated, but he never overuses it and manages to create several moments of rising tension due to his cross cutting between different scenes. Of additional benefit is the presence of the lovely Edwige Fenech.

Noriko's Dinner Table (2005 - Sion Sono) - "Are you connected to yourself?" "Only being close to death can make you appreciate living." "We all just want to avoid pain."

Heady stuff. If you were wondering whether Sion Sono's horror sequel to his earlier 2001 "Suicide Club" was going to find some dark corners to explore, it does. However, it isn't really a horror film. Nor is it a sequel (since it begins before the first film and spans a much greater period of time). It deals with some horrific concepts, actions and even images (in particular, it revisits the mass suicide of young school girls on a subway platform from the previous film and gives additional context to it), but it doesn't work on providing immediate scares. Since this is a very talkative movie, it leaves you with concepts, ideas and emotions that will bounce around in your head for awhile. It's when they pop out that you need to be worried. It starts, appropriately enough, at a dinner table - 17 year old Noriko, her younger sister Yuka (probably only about a year younger) and her parents are passively eating their end of day meal like most other families. Noriko is just picking at her food, though, since she's sulking due to a fight with her Dad who won't let her go to university in Tokyo. Feeling isolated, she latches on to the web site where she becomes very involved in discussions with like minded girls. This spurs her to run away to Tokyo and meet up with her new friends. The leader of the group is Kumiko who runs a "family rental" business that provides paying customers actors to fill any particular role they want (usually one vacated by a previous family member who has left). As the chapters unfold (each of the four main characters has one named after them), Yuka also runs away from home to join the group and their father investigates and finally makes his way to Kumiko. The overall guidance that she provides her followers seems to be that you need to lose yourself before you can find yourself. Though Noriko claims she finally becomes the person she always wanted to be after joining the family rental service, the conversations they have in their "roles" are incredibly mundane - they aren't actually living now that they've become cyphers for other people's needs. It's within this deep loneliness that they are supposed to truly discover themselves and really become connected. It's a rich, dense and difficult world that Sono has created and once again a fascinating and constantly engaging story that surges forward due to his choices of music, narration, and structure. He's become one of my favourite current filmmakers.

Cry Of The Banshee (1970 - Gordon Hessler) - Vincent Price, Elizabethan England setting, witchcraft, filmed in 1970. Need I say more?.


Peter Nellhaus said...

Need you say more about Cry of the Banshee? How 'bout that the title sequence was done by Terry Gilliam?

Happy Halloween!

Bob Turnbull said...

Yeah, but you took care of that for me Peter! B-) Anyway, I put in a screencap...Yeah, you caught me out though - I was getting a bit tired and didn't have more to say about the film. I liked it a great deal, but since it's Vicent Price in an old England setting with witches, I figured that should sell itself.