Summary Thoughts on IT (2017)

So yeah, about IT. Well I saw it about a month ago and it is still resonating with me.

In general, I run hot and cold when it comes to the horror genre. Not an especially devotee of slasher/gore, I also do not take to many of the haunting psychological, other worldly horrors which are unleashed in many recent popular films (looking at you, Ringu). That is to say I do not actively seek it out or anything but I have enough of a passing interest to know what is on the landscape.

So I was aware of this film and my initial thought was “Why?” We already had a reasonably solid adaptation of Pennywise menacing a small New England town back when I was a kid. I will admit that at that time I had enough sense to bypass the miniseries although I do remember peeking into the living room as my dad (a Stephen King fan) watched on.

Enough about that … let’s talk about this version.

IT was not as ‘scary’ as I had anticipated, the horror was not such that I would stay up having night. But there was something about IT that did on occasion put the fright or chill in me. It was not immediate and something that I came to after meditating on the film in the hours and days after the screening.

What I was feeling was a sense of nostalgia about things that go bump in the night. Mine was recollection of the fright children (including me) often encounter, which is often the product or fully charged and furtive imaginations.

On the less terrifying side of this looking back, the film’s protagonists (in refreshing performances, I might add), are essentially my contemporaries, based on age and time in which this film takes place. So many of the references and artifacts of my childhood were conjured up and projected on the screen.

All of this to say, kudos to the production team for reminding me what a pleasure going to the movies can and should be. As an art form, the greatest achievement (IMO) is to be able to leave your audience walking away from your film with a variety of feelings, some rather common while others a little more personal.

In that regard and based on my experience with a nice handful of Stephen King screen adaptations, I would say that this is why IT is one of the more successful attempts, and in doing so, probably gets closer to nailing the author’s intent with this and many of his works. While there may be external forces which drive the fear and terror we experience, the real battle is very personal and internal. THAT is truly the stuff of nightmares.

Revisiting “Dracula”

The latest installment in my continuing series celebrating Universal Studio’s 100th Anniversary.

Poor Bela Lugosi. When asked to transfer his stage success the silver screen by starring in Tod Browning’s  Dracula (apparently he was NOT even the first choice), little did he know that this would be the role that would define his career (and life).

While not the first filmed version of Bram Stoker’s ‘undead’ (most notable in my mind the nightmarish Nosferatu), it is the Dracula imprinted on our collective memory. Lugosi’s portrayal of the Count is that of a haunting, seductive bloodsucking nightwalker.

Today’s cinemagoers will probably not be convinced by the stagey nature of the film and its performances, but that does not make it any more impactful. First of all it should be noted that while this is based on Stoker’s source material, the direct text, etc. is taken from the aforementioned stage play Dracula. Second and most importantly, I imagine what also terrified audiences at the time was down to the cadence of Lugosi’s delivery and the deliberate pacing of his movements. As a child I remember mimicking him, walking around saying, “I vaunt to suck your blood!” It has been a while now so I am not even sure those exact words are even uttered in the film.

One element that I never fully resolved myself was the fact that while many of the characters are wearing contemporary clothes, they traverse the landscape in horse-drawn carriages. It is possible that automobiles have not reach Carpathian Mountains; anyone have a clue?

In 2000, Dracula was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. (Source: Wikipedia)

Tuesday’s Overlooked: Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage)

Up until recently the only thing I knew about this title (Eyes Without a Face/Les yeux sans visage, in France) was that it was a Billy Idol song:

 

Then I was watching TCM and saw guest programmer Anthony Bourdain talking about the film and thought – what the heck, a French horror film, co-starring Alida Valli. Can’t be too bad. I had no idea of what was in store …

SYNOPSIS (from the Criterion Collection):

Secluded in the French countryside, a brilliant, obsessive doctor attempts a radical plastic surgery to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured face—but at a horrifying price. At once ghastly and lyrical, Eyes Without a Face is a true rarity of horror cinema and has influenced countless films.

That about sums it up. Check out this (rather long) trailer to get a better sense of where the film is going:

This film (directed by Georges Franju) is “horrific” in the truest spirit of the word. Not like the modern-day slash and thrash that we often associate with the genre, this film is disturbing and even oddly romantic in places.
In addition, it is beautifully shot in an “Expressionist-lite” black and white, with many scenes evoking sharp, contrasting shadows and light.

Originally released in France in 1959, the film originally hit our shores in 1962, was dubbed and given a new title: The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus; in addition, it was double-billed with The Manster, a Japanese horror film.

Currently, Eyes Without a Face is available on DVD for your enjoyment 🙂

Trailer for “The Unleashed”

One of the great pleasures I have by working on this blog is that, on occasion, I receive information from film companies about movies currently in production or ready for release. More often than not, these are smaller, independent ventures that are looking to use internet “word of mouth” to promote their films. I get excited because this gives me an opportunity to take a look at some films that for obvious reasons I may not have otherwise been exposed to. In addition, it is really exciting because it makes me realize that, indeed there is a vibrant and active film industry out there.

Here is a recent trailer I have received for a forthcoming film entitled “The Unleashed” (read the synopsis below):

SYNOPSIS:

Madison Kennard, a troubled woman dealing with her dark past, must venture home after an 8 year absence following her mother’s death. Almost instantly after her return, Madison must cope with the haunting memories of a childhood best forgotten. Lindsay, a childhood friend of Madison’s with an adventurous past, hears of Madison’s arrival and has every intention of reconnecting a friendship once had. Bizarre and unexplainable events occur within the house after old friends come together and dabble with the infamous Ouija board. With the help of Andrew Porter, a renowned writer and expert on paranormal phenomena whom she met by chance, Madison soon discovers that there is more to the board than she realized and must uncover truths of her family’s past to contain what had been unleashed.

 

Here is a little more about the film’s distributor, Dark House Films (from their website):

Dark House Films Inc. of Toronto, Canada is a motion picture company founded in 2010, with the desire to produce quality feature films that hold up to the Hollywood standard. From initial conception to the final delivery, D.H.F. takes pride in every aspect of our films. From the quality of our cameras, the ability to devise characters that engage, enrage, enlighten and entertain, the precision of our sound, and the finesse of our special effects, we thrive to reinvent and transform the notion of what Canadian Film is capable of.

 

This is a Canadian production, and according to the website, it does not look like there are any immediate plans to release the film in the States. As a result, I am relying on any of my friends to the North to let me know their reaction to the final and complete product.

“The Unleashed” premieres in Toronto on June 25, 2011

Just finished The Walking Dead

walking deadIn the spirit of Halloween, there seems to be a proliferation of horror films that come out in the month of October. In the realm of classic cinema, I have a new entry to my library – The Walking Dead, a 1936 feature starring Boris Karloff, Edmund Gwenn (jolly ole Saint Nick himself) and directed by Michael Curtiz.

This film was clearly exploiting the popularity of Karloff’s performance as Frankenstein another more recognizable tale of a man being brought back to life. In the case of The Walking Dead, I think I have my earliest cinematic experience with the revenge thriller of a man avenging the frame-up that has sent him to the electric chair.

This film also touches on the subject of “crossing over” and what is on the other side after our terrestrial lives cease to be. Of course, that is left unanswered and unfulfilled in some respects but it is rather tantalizing in that you are hoping for some explanation even if you do not go along with it.

For enthusiasts of films from this era, I think the film merits a look-see. Yes you know how the events will eventually unfold but the beauty and enjoyment is in the bearing witness to it.

There is Something Wrong With Esther … No, really?

Big clue … it is 2009. Any kid who dresses like this,

2009_orphan_wallpaper_002

run in the direction opposite. They are bad news.

 

UPDATE: Now that I know the plot “twist” I find it absolutely hilarious!

Fright Fest – my “tales of terror.”

This past Monday night as I prepared myself to watch a replay of the new HBO series True Blood, I was watching the preceding program, Shadow of the Vampire from the year 2000.  It was my first time viewing this film about a fictionalization surrounding the filming of 1922’s Nosferatu.  Overall is made for great viewing but it got me thinking, “In my mind, what qualifies a movie as ‘scary’ or even ‘terrifying’?”  After some thought I concluded that this definition for me is very broad.  That is why I use scary and terrifying interchangeably as you will find throughout the passage.

To me, the goal in creating a good it is not merely about the shock-value – although that can go a long way when executed properly.  What is truly scary or terrifying to me are films which upon their first (and hopefully subsequent) viewings to a “mind mess” with me.  In other words, to truly feel terrified or scared, I want to leave the cinematic experience playing with various scenarios of what I have just experienced in my head, almost to a troubling degree.  My television equivalent of what is most terrifying is what the very best of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone had to offer.

In previous entries I have stated my love of (all) things Alfred Hitchcock. For the purposes of this blog entry I will exclude these titles – although I must admit when I think of scary and terrifying I do not immediately think of Hitchcock for some reason.  I do find them suspenseful and full of dramatic tension but around this time of year I do no feel a special need to place his titles in a heavier DVD rotation.

So as we near All Hallow’s Eve this Friday here is a list of what MAY be playing in my queue.  This is not an all-inclusive list I am sure.  A couple that are not on the list but in my collection is The Orphanage ( il Orfanato) and Hard Candy – we’ll see if they have what it takes to make my list!

Meshes on the Afternoon (1943) – a Maya Deren short which has produced a couple of nightmares in my lifetime
Dead of Night (1945) – I really hope that this film gets a proper digital transfer to DVD – this is one for the collection, a real keeper.
Brazil (1983)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
The Shining (1980) – sterility and coldness literally sends shivers up my spine; Kubrick was very effective at capturing that.
The Others (2001) – Who cares if you were able to figure out the plot twist before the big reveal?  My unsettledness had a lot to do with the other-worldly atmosphere.
Heavenly Creatures (1994) – a terrific pre-LOTR adaptation by Peter Jackson.
The Third Man (1949) – part of what makes the visualization and imagery disturbing in this film has to do with its connection to the aforementioned “Heavenly Creatures.”