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probably the only marathon I will attempt, but not the only one I will fail

The end of the grading period and the end of some kind of respiratory funk have taken my energy. I missed three great shows this weekend, two of which featured old friends. Hopefully next time I’ll be there.

Lots of grading and congestion didn’t leave room for much else, but I did begin my first Halloween Horror Movie Marathon. I’ve always loved horror movies, but I’ve never managed one of the October nightly fright film fests. I’m guessing I won’t make the movie-a-day schedule, but this is a part of my life for which failure is an option. With young kids in the house, I haven’t watched a lot of horror in a few years, so it will be all in fun to fill in some of those viewing gaps over the month.

My viewing so far (click on the titles for trailers):

Audrey Rose (1977)
Audrey Rose keeps with both ’70s themes of possession (unlike The Exorcist, this movie deals with possession in the form of reincarnation) and  “what’s happened to our kids?” Grieving Elliot Hoover believes that the Templeton’s daughter, Ivy, is the reincarnation of his daughter Audrey Rose, who perished in a car accident. Ivy acts peculiar around her birthday and when she develops burns on her hands while touching a cold window during one of her spells, the Templeton’s ears start perking up. I’m sure there’s some critical work out there on the period and what seems to me to be an interesting generation gap before parents left adulthood behind and decided they wanted to be friends with their kids or stay hip forever. Maybe it’s in line with the disintegration of the nuclear family. Anyway, it’s interesting to see a psychological horror film directed at adults. By the ’80s, and especially today, most movies feel like they are written for teens and tweens. Probably too slow for today’s generation, but good enough for horror completists or fans of late-’70s fashions and New York. The movie does have an unexpected ending and then concludes with a quote from the Bhagavad-Gita! Namaste, indeed!

Fright Night (1985) 
So here’s one that was on HBO all the time when I was growing up and I still missed it. Fright Night is a trade-off of sorts. You get mostly competent acting, decent effects, and a self-aware storyline before Scream. Is it as fun as something like Street Trash or The Stuff? No way. There’s a horrible ’80s club scene. And Evil Ed, the main character’s friend (I think–it’s hard to tell), is one of the most obnoxious characters ever put on screen. It’s been a while, but if you wanted some ’80s vampire action, I would watch Near Dark before this one.

Manhunter (1986)
A version of Red Dragon, the first Hannibal Lecter novel, and the first time the character was portrayed on screen. Directed by Miami Vice‘s Michael Mann and an odd visual treat. Not perfect, but underrated, I’d say. Mann has no problem going over the top with color palettes or visuals and I like that. Now that I think about it, this film is like a Hollywood Argento production: fewer gross-outs, better acting, better writing.

Hannibal (2001)
Disappointing if considered a continuation of the previous films. Surprisingly gruesome, but lacking the suspense of the other movies. Lecter is like Freddy or Jason here. You know he’s going to get away with whatever he sets his mind to and you grotesquely root for him to do so because every one else is as much an aberration as he is, with exception, of course, for Clarice Starling. We wanted to see more Lecter after Lambs, but it plays out like the ends of monster movies where you see too much of the monster and it loses some of its threat and mystery, e.g. Alien, Jaws, etc.

Maniac (2013)
I put off watching this for a long time. I just figured it was going to be the same rehashed, re-packaged version of another film I remember watching as a teenager late on Friday or Saturday nights after everyone had gone to bed. This is a remake of an ’80s slasher pic of the same name, and one that featured effects by Tom Savini (always a good sign) and even featured Savini’s own head getting exploded by a shotgun.

One of the things that made this movie surprisingly fun was that it was made by horror fans and you could tell. They take the hackneyed psychological angle that so many slasher and giallo movies have used and make it work about as much as it can. They sell that angle by filming almost the entirety of the film from the perspective of Wood’s maniac. Again, that mostly works, but they take the story seriously. I believe an early kill in this version is a tribute to Argento’s Opera. A victim puts on Buffalo Bill’s favorite track “Goodbye Horses.” Some of the sets are reminiscent of an old creepy film called Tourist Trap. There are other little Easter eggs for horror fans.

I was amused to see a few reviews say that it was too gory. It’s a slasher film that’s a remake of a slasher film. Definitely not for everybody, but I thought it was a fun throwback without the smarm and tongue-in-cheek irony of many recent horror productions or the nihilism of torture porn.

Current listening:
Lots of synthy stuff like Goblin, Fabio Frizzi, Morricone/Carpenter (The Thing OST) and Zombi.



Categories: Art Inspiration Movies Music

Stephen McClurg

I like red peppers and Jan Švankmajer movies.

1. Current Listening: Lots of soul from Muscle Shoals

2. Current Viewing: A Hard Day's Night (1964).

3. Current Reading: H.G. Wells: In the Days of the Comet

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