Spookoween 2015: 31 Days of Horror, Part II


Spookoween 2015 got a little rougher for me. I’m a little more ambivalent about some of the films I watched for Part II. One I even started and stopped. This time we have two appearances by Vincent Price, some old time radio, more gaslighting and possible madwomen, more Horror Movie Christianity hearkening back to Frailty, more people locked in sheds, more people buried alive and some home grown paganism. Though one is really home grown atheism. There’s also a haunted palace, monsters, sorcery, wallpaper and a snake lady!

You can read Spookoween 2015: 31 Days of Horror, Part I if you’d like. That post includes: Black Sunday (1960); Nightmare Castle (1965); Magic Mike (2012); Frailty (2010); A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003); When Animals Dream (2015); Lost River (2014); The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954); The Creature Walks Among Us (1956); and The Midnight Swim (2015) as well as episodes of the television shows Sleepy Hollow and Boris Karloff’s Thriller.

Part III includes: Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (1990); The Gift (2000); Vengeance of the Mummy (1973); Dracula (1931); Drácula (1931); The Black Sleep (1956); The Babadook (2014); The Magic Curse (1975); Son of Dracula (1943); House of Dracula (1945); The Keep (1983); I Walked With A Zombie (1943); an episode of Vampire Prosecutor 2; and my annual listening to the BBC 4 radio play, “Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula.”

Oct. 10: The Ramsay Bros.’ Purani Haveli (1989) is flat out the most enjoyable horror movie I’ve watched so far for this year’s 31 Days of Horror. (Thanks, Beth!) There is a haunted palace. Not a very nice matte painting–but the actual Ahmedganj Palace. A young woman’s uncle buys a palace for her from a man looking to sell. But the uncle is using it as an excuse to get at the inheritance Anita (Amita Nangia) received from her wealthy parents. The uncle takes a blank check from her and says he’ll fill it out later. The aunt tries to arrange a marriage for Anita with Vikram (Tej Sapru) and then have her bumped off by the many terrors of the haunted palace. See, the man is selling his palace for a reason. The palace comes complete with: a murderous statue; taxidermed animals including a mangy, denuded leopard; a werewolf-yeti man in a cage and a mysterious old man who uses Christianity to keep the werewolf-yeti locked up. Yes, it has the most wondrous form of Christianity–horror movie Christianity! And it turns out that not only is this a werewolf-yeti man. He is a grown-up demon baby werewolf yeti man. And the man guarding him is his father.

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Anita moves in with at least a million other people. Many of these people are thrown out the window by the statue. Many others are killed by grown up demon baby werewolf yeti man. And, in the end, there is a showdown in an abandoned church and the portraits of the Virgin Mary and St. Francis join in causing the grown up demon baby werewolf yeti man’s hands to catch fire and explode. Also, his feet explode and his bones fall out.

I also watched a scary episode of Project Runway in which Tim Gunn loses his temper and swears. Twice.

Oct. 11. I participated in the Dark Shadows CollinsTweet, hosted by MechaAngela, and shuddered as Roger Collins hassled Sam Evans, then hid in a closet to list to his hated nemesis Burke Devlin hassle Sam Evans. Then both needled each other in the town diner. Everyone in Collinsport does their best to avoid both men. But I am firmly convinced that somehow the Collins patriarchs fooled everyone in Collinsport into believing nothing lay beyond the city limits or everyone would’ve fled the Collinses long ago.

I listened to an episode of Suspense, but now I don’t remember which one. I know this week I did listen to the episode, “The Whole Town Sleeping,” based on a Ray Bradbury story in which a serial killer might or not be following a woman home. Listen to any of them, though. They are always good and spooky radio is one of my favorite things to do during the Halloween season.

Oct. 12: In A Bucket of Blood (1966) nebbishy bus boy Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) works in a Greenwich Village beatnik cafe.  The Yellow Door is the kind of place that I could easily see Paul Kinsey take Ken Cosgrove to in Mad Men. Walter really wants to get in good with the artists who patronize the joint and especially with Carla (Barboura Morris).  He decides to become a sculptor to impress her. After accidentally killing his landlady’s cat, he covers the body in clay. His sculpture, “Cat,” is a hit at the cafe and he’s in with the cool cats gone daddies. But he’s also carrying some heroin that he didn’t know was heroin and undercover agent Young Burt Convy confronts him at home, while he’s making pancakes. Terrified, he conks Burt Convy on the head and hides the body in a sculpture he calls. This is an even bigger hit. You can see where this is headed, right? A big show at the cafe! Reminds me of The Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff’s Thriller and Night Gallery. I’d like to have seen Roger Corman’s Thriller.

Oct 13: Sleepy Hollow is back! Ichabod is entertainingly annoyed. Abbie and Ichabod still have great chemistry. Jenny has more to do. New witch is really good at being a big bad. And Ichabod blusters entertainingly at the Colonial Times theme restaurant.

Oct. 14: I watched an episode of Night Gallery, “A Question of Fear,” in which Leslie Nielsen is a former soldier and adventurer. You can tell because he has an eyepatch, a safari jacket, a mustache and scoffs at the cowardice of others while playing billiards in a men’s club. The scoffee, much offended, offers Leslie Nielsen a gentleman’s wager–$10,000 if Leslie Nielsen survives the night in the haunted house the man claims turned his own hair white. Leslie Nielsen accepts. And he feels pretty smug when he discovers the mechanisms that make the house haunted. But what he doesn’t realize is that this was all a trap. The son of a man Leslie Nielsen tortured during World War II has planned this revenge for a long time, and if the haunted attractions he’s arranged in the house veer between fun and geniunely creepy, the story he tells Leslie Nielsen is pretty damn chilling and eminently Lovecraftian. It’s neat to see the power of words and imagination on television.

The second story, “The Devil Is Not Mocked,” had Dracula entertaining Nazis in his castle until his townsfolk transformed, into werewolves or draculas, at midnight and fell upon the Nazis. Because it turns out, Dracula was the leader of the Transylvanian resistance.

Oct. 15th was Drive-In Mob night. We watched, Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953) / Abbott & Costello Meet The Killer (1949). Except I joined in late and then my stream donked out. So I can’t say it really counts. And I’m okay with that because old timey comedy isn’t really my thing. But I did get so see a bunch of police constables turn into Mr. Hydes after Lou Costello bit them.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 9.16.59 PMBut I made up for it watching Night Gallery‘s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, “Cool Air.” Which is the second adaptation of this story I have seen. Agatha Howard (Barbara Rush) meets a colleague of her late father, Dr. Muñoz (Henry Darrow), at his very chilly apartment. She begins to fall for the good doctor, but he will not leave his apartment nor respond to complaints form his landlady regarding the ammonia smell his refrigeration equipment emits. As he tells Agatha, “I can’t survive tempereatures over 55 degrees.” (There was an also an adaptation of Basil Copper’s “Camera Obscura” in the same episode).

And I finally watched Mary Harron’s American Psycho (1999). I am having a hard time saying anything about it beyond that it’s really good and I was very entertained. Ellen Barkin is right.

Oct. 16: In Sleepy Hollow, we discover the wraith Marcus Collins is vulnerable to sticks, branches, pipes and his own name. Something that past supernatural detectives and occultists would have discovered long ago if they were not so into grimoires and ancient artifacts. And if Marcus Collins’ name weren’t so pedestrian.

I continued watching Night Gallery after listening to the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast discuss “The Return of the Sorcerer” by Clarke Ashton Smith. John Carnby (Vincent Price) is a man with an interest in the occult arts and difficulty translating a passage in the Necronomicon. He hires Noel (Bill Bixby) to translate the Arabic for him, saying that Noel will have to live in his excellently creepy mansion with sconces in the shape of human hands and begin immediately because time is of the essence.

Carnby is jumpy as hell and claims there are rats in the house. His live-in lady, Fern (Tisha Sterling) seems generally unperturbed and smooches both Noel and her pet toad. At dinner, he introduces his father, a goat who goes by, “Falling Tower, (Whoo, Tarot! Whoo!) Fern tries to get Noel to smooch her toad, too, but he won’t.

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The reason that Carnby is so desperate to have this passage translated is that it turns out he had murdered his twin brother, butchered him and buried the pieces all over. Carnby kept the head in a cabinet of his special ritual magic room (with light up disco floor). Which seems like a bad idea to me, but then that whole course of action seems like a bad idea. But Carnby’s brother is such a powerful sorcerer that his body parts are trying to reform to take revenge. Carnby fights back with numerology and incantations, but it’s just not enough to stop a really motivated, parted up man. Fern is hoping to benefit from this whole thing. She’s resentful at being used to increase Carnby’s power. She invites Noel to the Black Mass, but Noel says no thanks, packs his things and leaves. And I am really impressed by that.

Oct. 17: I watched so many movies as part of Shout Factory’s “Kaiju Marathon: Gamera’s Revenge” hosted by August Ragone: Gamera vs. Jiger; Gamera vs. Guiron; Gamera vs. Gyaos; and, Gamera vs Zigra.

Quick round-up: All Jiger’s powers are gross, but I appreciate how her suit actor makes her believably an animal. Florbel and Barbel in Gamera vs. Guiron are the industry standard in space lady costumes. Also, Gamera is friend to children. Guiron and Zigra are friends to space ladies. And skinny comic relief policeman is friend to little girls who don’t get to do anything or go to space. In fact, maybe it’s just easier to collect tweets and post them here.

Also, pictures.

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I watched Hisss (2010) based on a mention in Kimberly Lindbergs’ “10 Trailblazing Horror Films Directed by Women” and because it was a snake lady movie directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch. I read an interview with Lynch in The Times of India where she says that it’s not the film she shot or intended to make and that she didn’t get final cut. That the producers said it was too “European” and “sensual” and she thought they all agreed these were good things, but they were not. I can see the Ken Russell-ish shadow of that film in this one. I can tell that the blood imagery was supposed to go somewhere it doesn’t quite And a weird tension between their visions, particularly in the way the nagin (Mallika Sherawat) and her nudity is handled, but also in one where the love story between the snakes is emphasized and the other where she becomes a kind of nagin terminator relentlessly hunting down the jerk foreigner who had kidnapped her lover right when they were getting it on. (Which I have to say, is a jerk move and messing with people while they are making out led to all kinds of trouble in the Mahabharata).

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But I do like nagin movies and snake ladies of all kinds. Sherewat is a totally believable snake lady. I liked the brief musical number on the street during Holi. I thought it was interesting that the nagin killed the men who sexually assaulted her, one by swallowing him whole, and later kills men who abuse women. And I like that as a manifestation of Sakti, she heals others. I appreciated the depiction of Inspector (Irrfan Khan)’s mother-in-law as a woman suffering from dementia.

But mostly, I loved the chase scene between the nagin and a snake charmer. The nagin jumps from rooftop to rooftop in a niqab. And I loved that the evil Westerner who was holding her cobra beloved in a terrarium and shocking him to lure her into a trap looked like an evil Werner Herzog. It’s not often that you see a Western director paying homage to some of the more disreputable elements of Indian film. I love that she loves nagin films and pays tribute to Nagin (1976) itself. That’s enough for me. (Thanks, Beth for checking the film poster at the theater in the film for me).

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Oct. 18. Vincent Price is back in Shock (1946) and it’s before his career in horror really begins.  Mrs. Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw) witnesses a man murdering his wife across the courtyard in her apartment complex. Lt. Paul Stewart (Frank Latimore) returns from the war to find her sitting, frozen in the chair staring and silent. Doctors believe that it was the shock of her husband’s return. Paul had been reported dead, then he wrote Janet saying he was alive and would meet her at the airport but he didn’t. Janet returned home uncertain and fearing that he truly was dead, only to see the murder across the way. She is sedated and placed in the custody of Dr. Richard Cross (Vincent Price), who just happens to be the murderer next door. He asked his wife for a divorce, they fought and he whacked her with a silver candlestick. (Please insert your own Clue jokes here).shock 1946 poster

With the help of his girlfriend, Nurse Elaine Jordan (Lynn Bari), he can keep the woman sedated and he can try to alter her memory. But she is tenacious and worse, recognizes him. Vincent Price dolefully warns her husband that she is losing her mind and prescribes insulin shock as the only course, intending to kill her during the treatment. Fortunately, local law enforcement in the town where Cross dumped the body set up an inquest. It appears there’s a murdering hobo around. Shock leans more on the noir side but it’s still plenty horrific in the grand tradition of Men Don’t Believe A Woman And Commit Her. Vincent Price does a nice turn as a doctor who can’t quite bring himself to kill a witness, but can’t quite bring himself to do the right thing either.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 10.42.22 PMI also watched another entrant in Horror Movie Christianity. Christopher Smith’s Black Death (2011) is a much grimmer film than Purani Haveli. It’s a grim, grim film. Novice Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) leads Ulric (Sean Bean) and his unmerry band of God Bro torturers and killers into the marsh to find a village that is said to be untouched by the bubonic plague because they have turned away from God and, shades of Frailty, worship a demon in God’s place.  Also, probably necromancy. The God Bros intend to restore God through torture and killing. They also have a lot to say about the French. Osmund is coming along because there’s a lady he likes and she said she’d meet him near where Ulric wants to go. There is a lot of killing and dying and more killing and discussion of the only mercy being being stabbed in the heart. (A great deal of the horror of this film lies in its Foleying). It’s kind of inverted Pilgrim’s Progress as the men journey towards their own hell and Osmund towards his most awful self. In that sense it reminds me of Let The Right One In, where we meet Oskar just on the cusp of becoming the serial killer and monster he will be.

When they do find this village, Ulric is concerned that evil dwells within the people and that the church hasn’t seen enough use and there are just too damn many women and everything is healthy. Which he believes is against God’s plan. The leader of the village, and chief atheist, Langiva (Clarice van Houten), invites Osmund to come see something, and that something is his beloved rising out of the earth. Ulric plans to use deception to find out who the necromancer is, but he and his men are slipped Mickeys. The leader of the villager, Langiva, in a parallel with the  Inquisition and the men’s own intentions, invites the men to renounce God or die.

After seeing one man crucified and then eviscerated (because everyone is awful) another renounces God. He’s warned by his Bros that the villagers will kill him anyway, because that’s what they would do. It is a nice inversion of the mercy of the Inquisition. The man is hanged, which is better than being crucified and gutted alive. She offers Osmund the choice of dying or living in the village with his special lady. The God Bros are all, “Bros before Hos” and Osmund, believing his beloved Averill (Kimberley Nixon) is in purgatory, stabs her in the heart. This is the mercy Ulric’s men have taught Osmund. But, surprise! Averill was alive the whole time. She had just been drugged so Langvia could seem to raise her from the dead and blow Osmund’s mind. Ulric is tied to two horses to be pulled apart and refuses to renounce. Instead he reveals the buboes in his armpits and bellows: “I am death. Vengeance is mine. God’s fury rains down on you. God is restored.”

The horses pull him apart, which I think is really foolish with someone that infectious.  Everyone dies of swording or plague except Osmund, Wolfstan (John Lynch) and Hob (Tim McInnery), the poor schmoe Wolfstan is bringing back to the bishop as a necromancer. Hob has his moment of truth, too. He affirms his rejection of the Christian God. In an epilogue, we learn that Osmund has basically become Ulric, searching for Langvia and torturing women who he believes are not only witches, but her. Black Death is an interesting inversion of films like The Witchfinder General. But it leaves me with some of the same unpleasant feeling those films do, even inverted. And not just the unpleasant feelings it is supposed to.

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Oct. 19: Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) is a film that has had such clear influence on so many others, with obvious influences on Mulholland Drive, The Haunting of Julia, giallo, and any film where one version of one’s self sees multiple earlier version of one’s self. I watched it based on Kimberly Lindbergs’ recommendation and you should click through to her discussion of Meshes and Deren’s other films. But I’m not sure how to talk about it right now. So maybe you should watch it here.

I’ve actually had a yearning to watch some giallo, so I switched to Dario Argento’s The Cat O’ Nine Tails (1971). It has less brutality than I associate with Argento’s films and way more decor.

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Blind crossword puzzle writer and former journalist Karl Malden teams up with reporter James Franciscus to solve a series of murders that seem to be related to a break in. Is it industrial espionage infiltrating a genetics lab where wealthy people are checked out before they decide to have children or perhaps to the cutting edge research on violence on XY individuals with an extra Y chromosome?

I don’t know because I was amazed by the wallpaper. And the retractable knife Karl Malden had at the end of his cane. And James Franciscus took the narrow side of a 2 x 4 to the face. And there was furniture and outfits and make-up and hair. But I did look away long enough to wonder if Argento was thinking of the Zodiac killer case when he made Malden’s character a crossword puzzle writer.

Oct. 20: I saw Rites of Spring (2011) on Shudder TV. Lots of running around. Lots of shooting. Lots of people kidnapping each other and holding each other hostage. Lots of beautiful cinematography of peeling paint and abandoned buildings lending local color. Really fine acting from Anessa Ramsey as final girl Rachel and from AJ Bowen in a role where he isn’t a serial killer or just regular old murderer.

Kidnappers have their kidnapping go wrong when the dad follows them back to their hideout. Things go even more wrong when their hideout is near the farm where an old dude is busy sacrificing people to a wormy corn mummy because that’s just what his family does. I have to say his religion was perplexing to me. I think his dad has led him astray and mostly they are doing things they think are cool. Like have a lot of ram skulls and keeping a mannequin in the room where he keeps his disappeared lady newspaper clippings–and probably make the papier mache goat and horse heads that they put over the heads of their sacrificial victims. I think their holy texts are a couple of true crime novels they stole from the library and ancient, beautifully water-stained copies of Heavy Metal.

I feel kind of bad that I spent most the time admiring the acting or the way the paint was curling while everyone ran for their lives. I saw Nacho Cerdà’s The Abandoned years ago and the same thing happened. Really admired the sets and the distressed wood and patchy paint. And that’s not what’s supposed to happen.

I think this Rites of Spring and this Rite of Spring are more enjoyable and interesting.

Upcoming movies in Part III: Strigoi (2009) and The Keep (1983)


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