Well, that’s that. Over 20,000 words of horror movie reviewin’ posted in thirty days, somehow fitted in alongside an extremely busy and stressful period of day-to-day life. I must be crazy. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these posts half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them and watching (at least some of) the films, anyway.
As it turns out, I stuck pretty much entirely to writing about films I was watching for the first time during this reviewing marathon, so, to round things off, here are some quick capsule takes on a few old favourites / repeat watches I also managed to fit in over the October season, culminating in a few more first-watches from a Halloween movie night I undertook with friends this weekend and don’t have time to write up in full. (Naturally those last ones weren’t my own viewing picks, but sometimes it’s nice to hand the reins to someone else and see where you end up, y’know?) Anyway - PHEW.
House of Frankenstein (Erle C. Kenton, 1944)
Such a shame that after that it all goes to hell – the entire segment featuring John Carradine’s spiv Dracula is just bloody awful (it looks as if they pulled him in off the backlot for the role with about five minutes’ notice before shooting), and, after he’s disposed of, the promise of the opening seems to have dissipated, with the remainder of the movie becoming a lame-brained whose-brain-is-going-where type farce, with Karloff more or less giving it up for a bad job as Chaney’s Larry Talbot bangs on incessantly about his woes and the rest of the supporting cast run around killing time until the torch-wielding mob turns up. Ho hum.
House of Dracula (Erle C. Kenton, 1945)
The plot-line – which sees Onslow Stevens’ rationally minded neurologist somehow ending up with both Dracula and the Wolfman on his list of patients and Frankenstein’s Monster defrosting on his gurney, all within the space of one memorable evening – is weird enough to maintain interest, and overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable curtain call for the Universal monsters, wisely ushering them off the stage before things got *too* ropey in the post-war years.
Twins of Evil (John Hough, 1972)
Tudor Gates’ ultra-pulpy script drives things way over the edge of self-parody (perhaps the reason I’ve underrated the film in the past?), but the chaps in charge of production design, cinematography etc don’t seem to have noticed the shift in tone, instead delivering one of the best-looking and most atmospheric (not to mention most gory and erotically charged) films Hammer produced during the ‘70s. The result is a film that is really funny (the almost ‘South Park’-like antics of Cushing’s puritan witch-burning club), slyly subversive of the Hammer formula (no moral black & whites to be found here) and an exceptional example of straight up, late period gothic horror to boot. I give it a multitude of thumbs up, gold stars and whatever else.
Hands of the Ripper (Peter Sasdy, 1971)
Despite its ambition toward becoming a Freudian psychological thriller, any exploration of this idea is largely sidelined in favour of a contrived, bloodshed-every-ten-minutes proto-slasher formula, whilst the woman supposedly at the centre of all the psychoanalytical intrigue remains a complete cipher – a blank slate whose primary role in the film is to flip out and kill someone every time the bell rings. In effect, Sasdy presents a story that borrows heavily from the conventions of the murder mystery whilst offering no mystery whatsoever, which kind of upsets the balance of the movie’s many good elements. Or something. Correspondingly re-filed under “fun, interesting, but flawed”, anyway.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984)
Also – really cool synth score and some lovely photography in the ‘dream’ bits. Also – John Saxon as Cop Dad! Despite ripping off the ending from ‘Phantasm’ to little effect, this is by far the most entertaining/worthwhile Wes Craven film I’ve seen to date, and it’s little wonder it became such a monstrous, sequel-spawning hit.
Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2016)
Thinking further however, I will at least cop that Ducournau manages a lot of successful button-pushing here, shaking up the punters whilst offering no easy answers in a manner somewhat reminiscent of early Cronenberg. Furthermore, there is something almost Ballardian about the eerie brutalism of the (wo)man-removed-from-nature world in which the drama seems to take place, blurring the line between baroque ‘High Rise’ style decadence and what I take to be stark life-in-2017 realism just a little too much for comfort.
That I didn’t like it is probably just reflective of the fact that Ducournau’s vision veered pretty far from engaging with any kind of world I understand, or from addressing any issues I care about, rather than a judgement on her film’s objective quality. For viewers in other times and places in their lives, the possibility is certainly there for it to hit hard and correspondingly produce pertinent thoughts, I daresay.
Trick ‘r Treat (Michael Dougherty, 2007)
Despite the well-scrubbed, post-Buffy aesthetic and well-rehearsed wise-cracks, I also liked the fact that it has the balls to function as a full strength, gory horror movie too, with some very nasty ideas and suggestions creeping out from beneath the candy-floss as the movie goes on, and not being treated in *too much* of a thoughtless/offensive fashion when they do fully emerge. Not entirely my cup of tea then, but certainly an enjoyable new spin on the more multiplex-acceptable side of modern American horror, and welcome proof that you can still break new ground within the genre without getting all “dark” and “extreme” and monochromatic about it.
And, finally, that’s it. October Horror Marathon concluded. I haven’t had time to convey to you my compressed thoughts on revisiting ‘The Man With Two Brains’, or ‘Kill Baby Kill!’, or ‘The Devil Rides Out’, but, long story short: I STILL REALLY LIKE THEM.
Stay safe everybody, and I’ll see you when I’ve had some sleep!