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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Treat Links: The Best and Worst Movies for Halloween at Slate

For some time, I've been enjoying Mark Jordan Legan's ongoing video mini-magazine at Slate, The Worst Cinematic Crap That's Ever Been Made." This has been a treasure trove of cinematic mishaps-- K. Gordon Murray's dubbed Mexican children's movies, lost lesser Asian monster movies, the very best of the worst (or at least, what we call the worst, which is not to say unwatchable; I'll take Samson Versus the Vampire Women over Pay it Forward any day.)

This week, Legan gives us two tours, with a twist: a tour of the best little-known horror movies, or at least a handful of them, and then a tour of the worst.

Here's Legan's All-Time Scariest Movies:

For the record, the movies Legan talks about are (with their Amazon Links):
The Haunting


The Vanishing - Criterion Collection

Black Sabbath

Trilogy of Terror

and The Nanny, for which I don't have an Amazon link.

Meanwhile, here's his entry on the Worst:

Those movies?
Black Roses, about a Satanic rock band, which I also don't have a link for
Gallery of Horrors, a terrible grade-z anthology
Troll/Troll 2, "one of the greatest cinematic train wrecks ever"
Invasion of the Blood Farmers

Enjoy-- and thanks Mark!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween Treat Links: The Terror (1963)

Can someone please explain The Terror to me?

I have watched The Terror about a hundred times, and I tell you, I have never once been able to follow the story. Maybe too much happens, maybe not enough. But it looks great.

I hear you talking: you're saying, "What's to understand? Jack Nicholson is a young soldier, and he meets a ghost while he walks on the beach, and he goes to a creepy castle and the ghost is a bird and there's a floodgate and the old baron" and then the words just start sounding like wah wah wah.

And yet it's gorgeous. Creepy castles. Endless walks around said castle. Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson. It's like a meditation-- how much does something that looks like a movie have to make sense to actually be a movie? In a way, The Terror is a horror slide show. And a great one. Grab some popcorn.

Watch The Terror online at Youtube.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Halloween Treat Links: House of Usher


Today's Halloween film is Roger Corman's HOUSE OF USHER -- God, what a delightful film. Isn't it funny to think of the timing-- CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN in '57, HORROR of DRACULA in '58, then USHER in '60?

Vincent Price is dangerous and lithe, an insane white-haired man of handsome looks and deep voice, convinced of the imminent failure of his body, soul and beloved, despised and crumbling house. "We are like figures of fine glass," he says pitiably, "the slightest touch and we may shatter."

And it's better-- better than Curse of Frankenstein, more mature of mood than any Hammer. And just sumptuous. HOUSE OF USHER is gorgeous in every frame, bursting with ominous reds and blues in every scene.

I mean, I've seen it before, but what a thrill to see it again.

Here's a book plug: These films deserve analysis. There are many books on gothic horror, but I have a place to start: I first loved Gothic horror as a child but never began to truly appreciate it until a few years ago on reading Bruce Wright's survey of the genre, Nightwalkers
. Since then I have longed to spend spare moments sinking into the "deep and dank tarn" of color and nightmare that is the Gothic period of film.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Halloween Treat Links: Watch Black Sunday Free Online!

Black Sunday -- creepy, mysterious, melodramatic-- is a vampire movie so grand that it once determined where I wanted to live.

It's true. Back when I got out of law school, my wife and I drove across the country to Austin, Texas, to spend the Summer and study for the Bar Exam. It so happened that for years I had been reading about Black Sunday, from Mario Bava. "Not the Blimp Movie," I had to tell people, because there was a movie called Black Sunday about terrorists with a blimp, or something, and I knew this because I was always looking for this movie, at every video store, in every city, from New York to DC to-- well, to Austin. No one had Bava's Black Sunday.

So in Austin I wandered-- the first evening we were there-- into Vulcan Video. "Do you have Black Sunday?" I asked, adding, "Not the blimp movie."

The guy at the counter said: Do you want the American or the European cut?

We stayed in Austin for ten years.

That whole story? Antiquated, because now you can watch it free, online.

Here's the trailer:

You can watch it online at Hulu.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Halloween Treat Links: A 1970 Tour of the Haunted Mansion

Halloween's finest dark ride is open all year around, and launched first back in 1969: Disney's Haunted Mansion, here visited by Kurt Russel and, yes, the Osmonds, on an episode of Wonderful World of Disney.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity is an independent horror film so good that, as these things go, soon critics will be beating one over the head in a race to see who doesn't like it. That always happens. A small film comes along, becomes all the rage, and there's always a segment of the population that will sneer.

Bah. This is a scary film. It's a small, intimate, often hand-held movie with no more than four characters and one set. Sound familiar? Go ahead: comparisons to The Blair Witch Project are inevitable. That was a scary little film that used the conceit of characters with handicams to tell a story on digital video, and here is another one.

But it is scary. The story, of a young couple who have started videorecording their lives because the girl is hearing strange noises at night, starts out light and gradually gets more tense and dark. I've never seen such effective use of the date and time stamp on a video image, nor such perfect use of understated special effects. I don't want to spoil anything. Go see it and then spend your next evening listening for footsteps in the hallway.