Happy Halloween! As usual, I always save a few special movies in the vault so I can use them as my Halloween selection each year. This year I bring you a true horror masterpiece, The Omen. Along with The Exorcist, The Omen helped bring so much satanic imagery to the forefront of the masses that it’s weird to think how commonplace it is now. Even though “666” and its numerical connection to the Devil had been around, this is the movie that really made it known to the entire world. The Omen threw audiences into a frenzy back in the 70’s, and it still packs just as much of a punch now as it did then. The Omen is about an American Ambassador living in England who, after a growing series of bizarre deaths, begins to suspect that his (secretly) adopted son is the Antichrist. Before long everyone gets into the mix – priests, satan worshippers, evil devil dogs, you name it. For an Academy Award winning film (for Jerry Goldsmith’s absolutely iconic music) starring the legendary Gregory Peck, you’d think this would be some kind of softball studio picture that wouldn’t push boundaries. If you thought that, you’d be wrong. This movie has plenty of shocking violence from violent impalings to freaky beheadings, plus the visuals and subject matter is not of the everyday variety. Not to ruin anything, but let’s just say the discovery of the boy’s “mother” is, well, truly messed up, to say the least. And every scene is hammered that much more into your brain because of Goldsmith’s pounding music that accentuates everything. There’s a reason The Omen is iconic. It’s just so damn well done. And in today’s day and age, it really helps that a key aspect of the Antichrist is that he must grow up wealthy in the world of politics. Yep, the Antichrist is in politics. That pretty much says it all. What’s more horrifying than that. I’ll leave it there for now.
Well my lovelies, that does it for 2017’s October Horror Picks. I’ve had a great season as always, and I plan on having an entire November filled with watching nothing but romantic comedies… HA! Just kidding, horror never goes away. It’s a constant. Have a great November and beyond, and see you in 2018!
It’s Halloween Eve. Time for some Lucio Fulci. Although, this ain’t just any old Fulci. This is Fulci at his absolute finest. The Beyond is a creepy masterpiece. If you care about horror in the least and haven’t seen this film, make it your next viewing. It’s such a trippy, brain-explosion of a movie. The Beyond opens with an amazing sequence that takes place in 1927 Louisiana. A artist boarded at a hotel is accused of being a practitioner of the dark arts, is brutally crucified by an angry mob, and is covered in some kind of molten rock that seals him in stone to the caverns below the hotel. Well, fast forward to 1981 where a woman inherits the old hotel and decides to refurbish it and reopen it. Only problem is that pesky crucified rock man is still below, and everything starts to go wrong. Come to find out, all of this is because this hotel is buried over one of the entrances to Hell itself. Yep, another Hell movie! I was so excited to write about As Above So Below yesterday because of it being a Hell movie, but that one is so softball compared to this mind-melter. The Beyond is utterly bonkers. The combination of incredible Frizzi music, the over-the-top extreme gore that Fulci is known for, and all the off-putting imagery and cringe-worthy visuals that Fulci has decided Hell is capable of make for a slam dunk of a mental beatdown. Speaking of the gore and imagery, it would take far more paragraphs to list it all, but man oh man… If the description of the opening scene wasn’t enough, then how about a woman’s head being slammed onto a spike forcing her eye to pop out (Fulci LOVES his disgusting eye gags, as there are a couple more in this film alone), or tarantulas ripping open a man’s face in extreme close up views, or even a woman entire face being slowly melted away by acid while her daughter watches. And yet, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This is Fulci. This is extreme. And to this day, I still claim it has one of the most haunting final images in a film, ever. I get shivers even thinking about it now. If you love Hell movies like me, and are ready for the Fulci experience of disturbing images and extreme gore, The Beyond will make your head spin… in a good way. Enjoy.
I know, I know, you’re done with found-footage movies. Trust me, for the most part I am too. I’m glad the trend is slowing down, but even when these movies were at their peak and new found-footage flicks came out constantly, every once in a while one stuck out to me. That was the case here. I dug As Above So Below. To some it may be goofy and ridiculous, but for those of us horror fans who love adventure/treasure hunt movies, filled with historical clues, this is the scary flick for you. It also helps that I’m fascinated with any movie that deals specifically with the religious ideas of Hell. I can’t help myself… I LOVE Hell movies. That must be my religious upbringing coming out. As Above So Below is about a female professor who has dedicated her life to following the whereabouts of Nicholas Flemel and discovering the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. Through a series of circumstances they discover that it’s buried beneath the catacombs of Paris. Thus begins the downward trek into adventure, filled with claustrophobic sequences, a million skeletons, and possibly a journey into Hell itself. Like most found footage films, the first half is definitely dedicated to the setup while the second half is where things really get going. And when they get going, they really get going. I won’t ruin anything for you, but there are some seriously creepy moments later on where the use of the first person camera is used to a great extent. Although, I can’t dismiss the opening of this film either. The scenes that take place in Iran are fascinating. Yes, some of it may be a little cheesy, but I found myself all in. The lead actress reminds me a lot of Daisy Ridley and she does a great job. In the end, if you enjoy puzzles, history, and have a bizarre fascination with all things Hell like me, there’s no way you won’t enjoy this film. Be prepared for some great jump scares as well for good measure.
Earlier this week I posted about Gerald’s Game, one of the two new Netflix-exclusive Stephen King film adaptations. Today, I’m so happy to write about the other one,1922. 1922 is the type of film that, much like Gerald’s Game, feels far more appropriate watching at home. It’s a subtle, slow-paced, period piece that is more concerned with atmosphere and mood than jump scares and flashy setpieces. If you enjoy this type of dramatic methodical build, then this movie is definitely for you. 1922 is about a simple farmer living a simple farming life out in the cornfields of Nebraska. All he cares about is his land and his boy. His wife has other plans that include a divorce and a move to the city. When his wife inherits 100 acres of land, she plans to sell it, move, and take their son. But there’s no way this farmer can lose everything he’s known, so his only solution is to kill her. As we all know from past stories, things can only go downhill from here. Yet, because it’s Stephen King, the threats are not the typical “cops are on your tail” scenario (although there is a bit of that), but rather here the threats are far more sinister. Let’s just say if you have a fear of rats, stay far, FAR away from this baby. There are rats aplenty. Other than all the creepy rat moments, one of the biggest things I can recommend about this film is the central performance. I’ve always loved Thomas Jane. He’s always been one of those actors that I just love to watch on screen, and yet not always sure why. This movie sealed the “why”. Here, he’s incredible. He’s also practically unrecognizable. In fact, it took me about 10 minutes into the film before I actually realized that was him. His performance as the basic farmer that “listened to the other man inside him” keeps you enthralled every second. I love period horror movies, and I’m so glad to see Netflix helping the cause. 1922 is a nice, slow-paced, VERY slow burn of a dramatic horror film, and if this, mixed with a period piece, is your speed, you’ll love this film.
Mixing it up again. Yesterday was a PG-13 flick everyone can enjoy. Today… not so much. Wes Craven’s very first film, Last House on the Left, is for the truly hardcore horror crowd only. In fact, I feel like I need to label this one with a completely unnecessary, but obligatory, warning. Those in the horror circles obviously know this movie. Those that aren’t, well, this is not an easy movie to stomach. It’s nihilistic to the extreme. It’s full of horrific violence, manipulation and rape. It’s really difficult to watch, but there’s a reason it’s considered a classic. There’s a reason I’m putting it on this list. And there’s a reason I recommend it to specific people. It’s because Craven did something totally different and original with this film. It sticks with you. Because of the constant juxtaposition between the extreme subject matter, and the way in which the film treats it, the result is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Last House on the Left is about two young girls heading to a rock show, but along the way they get abducted by a family of sadistic criminals that subject the girls to a series of disgusting and degrading acts. Yes, these acts will totally repel you, but the thing is, this type of revenge film requires these acts to be horrific so that when the criminals finally get their comeuppance, it’s all the more satisfying. It’s very much along the lines of other 70’s exploitation revenge flicks like I Spit on Your Grave (although Last House came out first), but this one has a twist. The twist is that aforementioned juxaposition. See, the material is sick and disgusting and soulless. Yet, the film itself plays almost like a wacky 70’s sitcom. One second it’s awful. The next second it’s filled with wacky music and cuts away to a few over-the-top zany characters that just happen to be the police. Every time the police is shown they’re bumbling like the Keystone Cops. Then when we go back to the criminals and the women, we’re right back in Hell. It’s constantly off-putting, but the result is something larger than its parts. You can tell Craven was actually trying to say something with the extreme subject matter and how it was treated. And by the time the turn-the-tables 3rd act comes along, you’ve never rooted for characters more in your life. The 3rd act twist is what this movie is usually remembered for, and it’s for good reason. It’s NOT where you expect this film to go, and yet you’re SO in when it does. This film is filled with awfulness, but it’s so much more than just a shock value film. For those of you that dare, it’s an experience that will definitely make you think and ponder what Craven was trying to say. I have my thoughts, but I’ll let you conjure your thoughts and feelings on your own.
Hopefully by reading this blog over the years you realize that I am NOT a horror snob in any way. I like every type of horror. I dig anything from obscure French gross-out films, to B&W classics, to made-for-$5 indies, all the way to made-for-the-masses studio features. If something entertains me in some way, that’s all that matters. Normally, I will say that the PG-13 studio films are a bit lower on my totem pole, mainly because they usually are just too softball and I can feel the “trying to please all the quadrants” mentality. Yet, The Boy is a studio feature from last year that I had a ball with. It’s a smart and fun flick with some great twists and turns. First of all, as with any film that has a basic title like this, let’s make sure we’re talking about the right film. There was another quite disturbing film called The Boy that came out in 2015 about a messed-up real kid. This is the The Boy that came out in 2016 and features a creepy doll. This film is about an American nanny that gets a job in England working for a family to watch over their “son.” But when she gets there she discovers that the “son” isn’t actually a child, but rather a life-sized doll that resembles their son. The couple treats it like a real child as a way of coping with the death of their real son twenty years previous. The parents leave and the nanny is given a specific list of rules to follow. Well, let’s just say as she starts to break some of the rules, things happen, and suddenly it appears the doll may actually be alive. It’s a twisted and weird little mystery that appears simple on the surface, but packs a punch by the end. I won’t ruin anything for you, but the third act of this film is spectacular. There are some great jump scares and creepy moments throughout, but that ending rules. Lauren Cohen from Walking Dead is amazing, but that damn doll steals the show. Man, I love this recent rash of doll horror movies lately. This one may seem like just another one on the surface, but trust me, it has a whole other layer to it that I appreciated quite a bit. The Boy is a PG-13 studio feature that may be a slow burn at first, but give it time and you’ll have a smile on your face by the closing credits I guarantee.
Here’s a classic horror film that is required viewing for anyone that loves classic B&W spookers, but ABSOLUTE required viewing for any of my hometown Utah peeps. Why, you may ask? Well, maybe because this classic was filmed in Utah! Not only is it cool to see Salt Lake City in the early 60’s, but the titled “Carnival” is none other than Saltair! That place is a Utah landmark. This movie was like walking back in time for me. Carnival of Souls is about a woman who was the sole survivor of a car accident trying to move on with her life. She gets a job in Salt Lake City as a church organist (apt for the city) and moves there. It’s not long until she’s haunted by a creepy phantom who appears to reside at an abandoned Carnival. Thus begins her slow decline into unease and madness. Oh man, Carnival of Souls has such a cool, creepy sensibility to it. Its use of atmosphere, music, and sharp angles reminds me both of the Universal classics, and definitely of German Expressionism. You will see some Nosferatu in here I guarantee it. It’s one of those classic films that you really feel yourself drawn into regardless of the time difference. The organ soundtrack will bore into your psyche. Yes, there are a few outdated touches. Her male neighbor that will not take no for an answer is super creepy and has a real rapey vibe, and in the 60’s for some reason this was played off as “charming.” Yeah, it will definitely make you cringe occasionally, but as with any older film, you have to watch it in context of the time. To me, I loved the 60’s sensibility here. Candace is a strong-willed female character trying to figure out and take control of her life, but the constant haunting of this phantom keeps her from attaining anything. There are some nice spooky touches throughout. The scenes at the abandoned amusement facility of Saltair are absolutely incredible, especially the dance sequences. Saltair sits on the edge of the Great Salt Lake and was once the pinnacle of amusement. But once the waters receded and the brine shrimp smell took over it fell abandoned. I grew up going to a million concerts there after they redid it so I have numerous memories of that place. Anyway, Carnival of Souls is a definite classic that for some reason is usually forgotten in the annals of horror. I’m here to try and give it its due. From the first moment of the creepy askew credit sequence to the shocking-for-its-time ending, you’re truly in for something a little… different. Utah people enjoy the nostalgia. The rest of you, enjoy a true horror classic.