Thursday 21 October 2010

October Horror 2010 - Installment #6

That's actually a photo of my own eyes - maybe I have been watching a few too many horror films this month...

Calvaire (2004 - Fabrice Du Welz) - The English title for this trip to the backwoods of Belgium is "The Ordeal" and what an apt title that is. The main victim of the distress that follows is an entertainer named Marc Stevens who travels between small resorts and old folks homes to put on his one man show of traditional song crooning. He has a vehicle breakdown on the way to his next event and ends up asking for help from an innkeeper whose place is deep in the forest. Turns out that may not have been his best move. It goes beyond picking the wrong place to seek help though - apparently this neck of the backwoods is ripe with deeply weird folk. The innkeeper has "plans" for Marc and then things just go from bad to worse to holy crap for him while every avenue of escape seems to get closed down. It's a very unsettling movie from that point of view and, though not overly graphic, it can be hard to watch the degradation inflicted upon Marc. I can't honestly say I enjoyed the film, but it sure is effective. I would hazard a guess that Du Welz would be happy with that reaction.

House By The Cemetery (1981 - Lucio Fulci) - I'd venture to say this is my favourite Lucio Fulci film so far. Of course, that's not saying a whole lot at this point. It's by no means perfect, but this tale of a kid and his parents moving into a house with a past threw in its share of effective scenes using both suspense as well as sudden unexpected occurrences and gore. One of its major problems is that its plot occasionally borders on nonsensical. Even within the history it creates for itself, the movie doesn't seem to want to stay consistent. Another issue is one that pops up a lot in Italian films of this era - the awful dubbing of the actors. It's a long standing issue with me and Italian cinema (even masters like Fellini) since they seem not to care a great deal about getting the natural rhythm of speech to sync up with the person's physical mannerisms and emotions. It's particularly bad here especially with the role of the young boy who is the central focus of the film. He is badly cast, a poor actor and abysmally dubbed. It hurts the film as it's visually one of Fulci's better efforts that I've seen.

Mother's Day (1980 - Charles Kaufman) - As parents, my wife and I have tried to instill tolerance in our son. He's still in grade school, but we're slowly working on him to understand different issues and put them in proper context. One of our many approaches is to suggest that the word "hate" not be so casually used on a day to day basis - there are far better ways of describing your dislike towards something or somebody. It's too easily used to describe small and very inconsequential things and contributes to the continued slide towards splitting everything into the black and the white. Having said that, I hated this movie. Hated it. Hated the characters, the actors, the juvenile and laboured humour, the lazy approach towards setting up scenes, the crass way they injected the "horror" scenes with "humour", the clumsy music and essentially the entire concept. I hated the fonts used for the movie title, the designers of those fonts, the disc the movie came on, the manufacturers of that disc and every little pixel that shone on my screen. I suppose I shouldn't expect a great deal from Troma, but this was bloody awful. Forget the plot, this was mean-spirited, terribly unfunny (when it so obviously thinks it's hilarious) and dull. I hate you "Mother's Day". And I hate you for making me use the word hate so much.

Martin (1977 - George A. Romero) - "Martin" may very well be Romero's best film. "Creepshow" is probably his most fun and it'll take a lot to bump "Dawn Of The Dead" away from being my favourite of his, but this little slow burning gem really does a great job on all fronts. I'm not sure I've seen Romero frame his scenes better than here or actually take time to build a character as strong and interesting as Martin - a reluctant and sexually confused vampire in street clothes. It's a bit awkward in spots (mostly due to the limitations of the actors), but I loved how it played Martin's current day issues against the black and white flashbacks in his mind of similar situations when he was a younger lad a scant hundred years ago or so. Not at all what I expected.


Vulnavia Morbius said...

I don't dither: Martin is Romero's best film.

I hated, hated, hated Calvaire. There's an unpleasant streak of homophobia running through it that seriously put me off the movie. The English language title seems a bit disingenuous to me, given that the French title tends to draw a comparison to a passion play, something the English title sidesteps.

Glad to see you keeping up with the horror movies. ;)

The Taxi Driver said...

I don't think you can appreciate the artistry of horror movie until you've looked at stills from them. Good job here.

Bob Turnbull said...

I guess I did dither a bit there, eh? I do really enjoy Dawn Of The Dead and Creepshow, so it's a tough choice...But Martin is certainly the best crafted.

I certainly hadn't thought about the passion play angle - the word calvaire in French (at least the Quebecois variety that I'm more familiar with) is akin to a minor swear word you might utter when frustrated. True though, there is more afoot here than a simple ordeal that the character Marc is put through. Everything seemed so unpleasant - even the innkeeper who is obviously traumatized by his wife leaving has turned into a monster of sorts. I certainly don't plan to revisit it...

Keeping up with horror? Good lord no...I'm just looking at your list for the month and thinking how many good ones there are still left to see.

Mike, thanks for the comment - horror movies are typically ripe with great potential screengrabs. Even the crappy ones have occasional moments.