Spookoween 2017: 31 Days of Horror, Part II

Part I: Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope; The Frankenstein Chronicles; Skyrim; Ittefaq; Project Runway; Angel Heart; Fallen; Zoltan, The Hound of Dracula; and, The Velvet Vampire.

Spookoween continues with: More draculas and dogs–esp. German Shepherds playing wolves. More wolf-people! More witches! More deviltry! Plus, giant monsters, serial killers, mustaches, stinkbug horror, advanced civilizations beneath the sea, mad doctors and visits from mysterious strangers!

Oct. 11. With what’s been happening in the film world, I have been thinking a lot about Nacho Vigolondo’s Colossal (2016). There are spoilers following, so ‘ware ye!  Colossal is a pretty good movie that is poorly marketed as a zany comedy about a woman who has a mysterious connection to a monster rampaging in Seoul. It does have comedic elements, but it’s also about emotional abuse and substance abuse. And one of the best things about it for me was the portrayal of a certain kind of guy who appears to be a great guy to the dudes around him. He is even a nice guy for real–until he isn’t. Sudeikis’ portrayal of Oscar was dead on. I felt weirdly validated about it because I have dealt with that guy in real life, and with his friends who try to force everything to be fine, because they don’t know what to do and don’t want it to be happening. And I have seen so many film guys online who thought it was a bad movie because appears to be an asshole out of nowhere to them. They didn’t notice the earlier signs and, I suppose, were paying attention to the implicit, stereotypical narrative where Gloria moves back to her hometown to get her life back together, meets a nice guy who gives her a job and then, you know, realizes that she should be with Oscar.

Colossal monster in Seoul

When a guy mentioned online that he noticed how gendered the response to Colossal was, I thought about how the women in the audience I saw it with were hopped up afterwards, but the guys seemed a lot less so. Gentlemen responded saying that of course women liked it, but that was because it was a “female empowerment film.”* And then now suddenly, I see many of the same guys saying, “Oh my god, look at all these assholes outta nowhere! They seemed like great guys. I had no idea.” I can’t help thinking about how the signs that seem so obvious to me were not to them either on film or in life. When Christine Makepeace from the Feminine Critique started thinking about this stuff, too, I decided I’d share it here, even if it is less fun than my usual 31 Days of Horror writing.

I was worried about South Korea’s role in this before I saw the film. White Americans destroying Seoul while they work their issues out.  It is worth pondering deeply how often people who aren’t white and place that aren’t America serve as backdrops for our stories. At the same time, we have an abusive douche projecting his crap out onto Seoul right now. So, yeah. We need to stop taking our issues out on Seoul.

*It is so not a “female empowerment film.” Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is a mess and she fucked up Seoul. What I suppose she does offer is the possibility of not being a mess anymore and taking responsibility when you rampage and didn’t know you rampaged.

count-dracula-1970-poster-2

Oct. 12. Drive-in Mob presented Jess Franco’s Count Dracula (1970), and this time, at least, I wasn’t bored and didn’t stop watching. I have never really been able to get into Count Dracula. I know people who are looking for a “faithful” screen adaptation of Dracula are drawn to it. And I can appreciate that. But there is something so distant about it. It hits all the appropriate plot points it can but is somehow less engaging than to me Zoltan, The Hound Of Dracula (1978) to me. I mean, yeah, it is hard to beat dog draculas, but there are German Shepherds playing wolves in Count Dracula. and Christopher Lee plays the Count with a mustache–the same mustache that made me think that Mad Men‘s Roger Sterling was a dracula.

Klaus Kinski was way scarier than Dracula, though. In fact, he might have even been scarier as Renfield than he was as a dracula himself.

crawlspace kinski
Check your crawlspaces, people.

And I watched the Cinejanes’ presentation of The Hunger (1983). I don’t think I have seen this in years and like many, I loved it in my teen years. I loved it enough to get Whitley Streiber’s novel and that was the first time I was horrified to discover a book worse than its film adaptation. All I remember of the book is Dr. Sarah Roberts talking about her own breasts as if they were something she herself objectified for the reader. I haven’t feel compelled to revisit the novel, but the film is still stylish.

the hunger deneuve bowie
Miriam and John are protected by Kinski-proof wire.

As an adult, I am more unforgiving of both vampires, Miriam Blaylock and her dying partner John. They are selfish in their love. Too desperate and lonely to consider what they do to people they claim they love. Plus, there’s Bauhaus! And Delibes! Sometimes style is more than enough. (After all, film is a visual medium and different films emphasis different elements of film. I will take 1,000% style over dry narrative discourse any day).

The Hunger
Peter Murphy is also safe.

I also listened to two episodes of Dark Fantasy. In one, “Spawn of the Subhuman,” a young honeymooning couple discovers to their horror that a gorilla is flying their plane! And even more horrifying, when he lands on the island of the mad scientist who trained him, we discover that the gorilla has the voice of an opera singer! An opera singer of the 1930s and 1940s who really enjoys flourishes! Then I listened to “Convoy for Atlantis,” In a sort of precursor to Latitude Zero, two men investigating the strange disappearance of ships. The ships are gone, but their crews and passengers are set adrift on life rafts, with no memory of what happened to them. And these men travel to Atlantis via means far advanced of our own! That’s right, it’s probably astral projection!

Keith Allison also told me of his terrifying ideas for, “Candycorn jus” and “candycorn dressing.” My God, man.

dracula in istanbul

Oct. 13. I started reading Dracula in Istanbul: The Unauthorized Version of the Gothic Classic (2017). It’s a translation of Ali Riza Seyfioğlu’s version of Dracula in Turkish edited by my friend Ed Glaser. In fact, until recently, Dracula was Seyfioğlu’s invention, in Turkey at least. So far Azmi Bey has traveled to Castle Dracula in Transylvania. He has been bemused by the superstitious Christian peasants and looks forward to discussing their beliefs with the Count, who he is traveling to finalize a real estate deal in Istanbul. That’s right, screw London, Dracula is going to Istanbul! On his journey, Azmi has thought often of his beloved, of his pride in Turkey and of the awful history of Vlad the Impaler. But Azmi is a very modern man and can be rational about visiting the ancestor of one of Turkey’s great enemies.

I also watched a few episodes of Netflix’s Mindhunter, based on the John Douglas & Mark Olshaker’s 1995 book. It has a weird tone that I can’t quite figure out. I am uncomfortable with how the crime scene photos are included. I am uncomfortable with how the photos are shot. I will likely watch the whole thing to figure out what is bothering me, ’cause that’s what I do.

Oct. 14. My friend Matt Finch came to teach shenanigans at a nearby library and managed to find some time to hang out. We had mysterious adventures. Everywhere we went there were women dressed as Rosie the Riveter. There was one frightening Uncle Sam who walked past the cafe where we met and caused a hush in the cafe as everyone turned to stare. We took a wrong turn on the way to the cider mill and ended up at a road block. Probably zombie outbreak. We did make it to the cider mill, though, and really that’s all that matters. In this life some have a horrific zombie outbreak; others have cider, apple pie and donuts. We got pumpkins to carve and took a walk in the cemetery. And then I took him to see the Terrifying Rabbit Tree. This was its condition until recently.

2017 spring rabbit tree

This is horrific enough and what I expected to show Matt Finch. But it had changed. Instead, we were faced with something much worse.

2017 fall rabbit tree horror
Hideous pink maw leading to a chamber containing its own face.

A pink maw and screws where the rabbit’s teeth had been. Inside the tree, on the other side, were the remains of its face and teeth were stuffed inside. Faced with such an abomination, we retreated home to hot cider and pumpkin carving. What could protect us from such horror but jack-o-lanterns?

It is the only solution.

I also revealed Ryan Gosling’s role in Breaker High the 1990s Ytv show in which a group of Canadian teens go to school on a cruise ship. And we watched BFI’s #1 film of all time, Latitude Zero (1969). I don’t even know what to say about Latitude Zero. It has anything anyone could ever want in a film: mad science, miniatures, gold lamé outfits, a giant monster, bat people, a city at the bottom of the sea, Akira Takarada, Joseph Cotten AND Caesar Romero. And Richard Jaeckel getting hassled. People enjoy that.

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Oct. 15. I put my pants on the end of my bed before getting dressed. When I went to put them on, I heard a little plunk and looked down to see a stinkbug fall out of the inside seat of my pants. What the hell, stinkbugs! At least it didn’t stink on its way down. They aren’t skunks but they do smell like nickles.

I also watched the rest of Mindhunter and while I don’t mind haven’t watched it, it has increasingly not sat well with me. It gets worse if I imagine poor John E. Douglas watching it, embarrassed by his sexytimes depiction. Special Agent Holden Ford’s (Jonathan Groff) relationship with his girlfriend does not feel emotionally realistic. (Yes, they named him, “Holden”). And I am not entirely comfortable that instead of resisting tying themes together, the series brings certain themes into Holden’s relationships that kind of imply he is a sociopath. That’s fun with Hannibal, but not every empathetic detective needs to be “troubled.” And there are certain ethical dimensions in doing that with someone based on a real person while docu-dramaing their life’s work of analysing and apprehending serial killers. It’s kind of worse when I suspect that the implications are not deliberate. It’s the temptations of writing causing it. I do love Special Agent Tench (Holt McCallany), though. And I completely buy his relationship. And all the actors playing serial killers do a fantastic job. Especially Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper.

it conquered the world
Lee Van Cleef searing the evil space artichoke.

Oct. 16. I watched It Conquered The World with alex from The Cultural Gutter. We wanted a ridiculous monster and we got one. HE reminds me of a giant artichoke with dreams of world domination within his tasty, tasty heart. One that houses adorable “mind control unit” manta rays that that fly with some help from fishing poles.

it conquered the world control organism
Flying manta ray mind control unit

Sometimes I think about how few almost heroic roles Lee Van Cleef got. He came so close with this one, and then he was a dick who sold out the earth at a giant Venusian artichoke full of telepathy and baby manta rays.

Venefica 2016

Oct. 17. Venefica (2016)  is a short film written by, directed by and starring Maria Wilson. a young woman is undertaking a ritual to find out what kind of magical power she’ll receive. And there’s a man’s life in the balance. I like most anything witchy and I appreciate a film that knows how long it should be. Also, check out this sweet poster.

venefica 2016 poster

I also found a stinkbug in my boot. Again, unacceptable stinkbugs.

Oct. 18. The scariest thing that happened today was that I started Gutterthon 2017. Fundraisers are nerve-wracking.

Film-wise, I got back to this year’s wolfy-roots with Wolfen Ninja, aka, Wolf Devil Woman (1982) directed by and starring Pearl Cheung Ling. It is Taiwanese fantasy/horror wuxia and it is filled with wonder. And also violence against bunnies. Real bunnies. Soundtrack of mostly weird growls, weird howls, screams, wuxia weapon noises and dialog like, “You betrayed me!” Pearl Cheung Ling plays a girl who is raised by “wolves” after her parents, powerful xia, are killed by a guy wearing a green latex monster mask. He has a bunch of ninja friends who help. This movie adapts the same story that Tsui Hark adapted for Bride With White Hair. Wolf Devil Woman lacks Brigitte Lin, but makes up for it with Cheung in a hat made out of a German Shepherd plushy.

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A pack of wolves find infant Wolf Devil Woman and raise her in an ice cavern. These wolves are played by very happy German Shepherds.  If we’re going to go German, I suggest Deutscher Schaeferhund Ninja for greater accuracy. One day, when the girl is very sick, the dog who cares for her gives her the white ginseng root to eat. This temporarily changes her hair color to white and gives her great powers. From here on out, whenever Wolf Devil Woman grows angry or outraged, her hair turns white and her powers turn unstoppable no matter how much evildoers shout things like, “Your defiance is no good!”

Wolf Devil Woman encounters a young scholar, Master Lee (Shih Feng), and his comic relief companion. The men are searching for the very white ginseng root that saved her life 4-10 years ago. It’s hard to say how old she’s supposed to be. Lee believes that white ginseng is the only thing that will stop the Red Devil from his necromantic domination of the world. Unfortunately, they misunderstand that Wolf Devil Woman is a wolf girl and fight her pack, shoot WDW in the shoulder with an arrow and kill her wolf mom, the White Wolf. They decide it is best to cover up the murder because she doesn’t understand death. Master Lee tries to heal the arrow wound, but it takes a while. Wolf Devil Woman is, as you might suspect, a biter. “Oh my gosh you’re biting him again,” says comic relief servant haplessly as Wolf Devil Girl bites Master Lee again. No scholar, no matter how skilled in kung fu, is ready for biting. Learning to speak from a refined scholar, her first words are, “Thank you.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 10.30.26 PM
Wolf Devil Woman is reading a few days into Master Lee’s visit.

Given that she is still confused by the absence of her dog mother, I can only assume that given the power of the white ginseng root, she learns to speak very quickly and is in fact reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms in this picture even if it’s only been a couple of days since Master Lee showed up. Music reminds me of Legend of Condor Heroes. Or maybe Return of the Condor Heroes.

But she joins Master Lee and comic relief servant in getting revenge on the Red Devil who killed her parents, practices black magic and keeps collection of heroes in cases like Karloff in The Black Cat (1934)

I also listened to the first episode of BBC Radio Four’s reading of The Omen. They used the music.

Oct. 19. I watched Dracula in Istanbul / Drakula Istanbul’da (1955) with The Drive-In Mob. Azmi Bey travels to Transylvania to conclude a real estate deal with Count Dracula. Dracula has bought some property in Istanbul and, being a modern gentleman, Azmi tries not to hold the crimes of Dracula’s presumed ancestor Vlad the Impaler against the count. Azmi smokes and wears extremely 1950s suits. His beloved Güzin is a dancer whose contract at a swank nightclub is almost up. But her bellydancing catches Dracula’s eye. It’s pretty faithful to the novel (either of them). Dracula climbs down his castle’s wall facedown! Sadan has a million suitors and they all team up. But they are patriotic Turks and the suitors served in the Turkish War of Independence. The print we watched was subtitled delightfully with multiple spellings of Dracula’s name. My favorite was “Draquell.”

Dracula in Istanbul 1955 whatever

 

And then I watched Ringu (1998) with the Cinejanes. No, no, no, don’t watch the VHS tape, Reiko (Nanako Matsushima)! No, don’t watch the tape, Ryūji (Hiroyuki Sanada). But they do, they do watch the tape. And then they perform Hiroyuki Sanada’s least favorite stunt in a long martial arts career–standing in a mucky well with a house built over it looking for a dead body.

Also, I was thinking about how at some point, everyone in the Ring’s world is exposed. It becomes a public health issue. It’s like there is a vaccination program and it school you just get shown the video and then make a copy for someone else.

Oct. 20. I watched the final part of Lucha Underground’s “Ultima Lucha Tres.” Vampiro wore a suit. What about Dario Cueto? Dario Cueto, Nooooooo! Also, if I had a tuxedo cat, I would name it, “Dario Cueto.”

Then I watched Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in The Raven (1935). Edgar Allan Poe Super fan Dr. Richard Vollin (Bela Lugosi) loses his shit when his beloved Jean Thatcher’s (Irene Ware) dad tells him to back off. Vollin had performed experimental surgery and saved her life. She dedicated a special dance about Lenore for him. He mutilates escaped prisoner Edmond Bateman (KARLOFF) to force Bateman to help him torture everyone. Vollin believes torture is the solution to all problems. To get rid of the torture he feels being a genius in love with a woman who will marry someone else, Vollin will torture the lovers and her father in his basement full of recreations of tortures from Poe’s stories. Vollin also plays Bach’s “Tocatta & Fugue in D-Minor” on the organ for Jean. I can’t say chicks don’t dig that.

Oct. 21. Roger Vadim’s Pretty Maids All In A Row (1971) was really not for me. It has an amazing cast: Rock Hudson, Angie Dickinson and Telly Savalas. It has both Lalo Schifrin and the Osmonds. It’s always interesting to me seeing Rock Hudson playing an ideal straight man or a predatory straight guy,  but there’s a kind of social satire that leaves me not cold but indifferent. Most of it seems to be in 1970s films. It’s like if Porky’s (1981) were a giallo. But I end up kind of wanting to see that because it leans more towards giallo than Porky’s. Pretty Maids All In A Row leans Porky‘s.

Please enjoy these images of Rock Hudson’s rockstache…

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