Stomping Around in the Dark ’09: A Preview

Posted: October 2, 2009 in Jeff Holland, October Horror, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , ,

Welcome to my fourth annual October horror movie extravaganza, (“Stomping Around in the alien1Dark IV: The Stompening!”). Every October, I get together a list of well-regarded (and not-so-much) horror and sci-fi flicks that I was never allowed to watch as a kid (and avoided in favor of detective movies as a teen), to see if A) they’re any good, and B) if they’re actually scary.

The reason I do this is because one night I got stood up. I did what anyone in this situation might: I moped around the house. Unfortunately, moping when there is no one around to watch you being miserable is sort of like just being an asshole at yourself, so I decided I needed a distraction.

Alien Vs. Predator (heh, I accidentally mistyped “Alien Loves Predator”) was onDemand. And as I sat through 85 interminable, baffling, borderline incompetent minutes of this utter piece of crap movie, it dawned on me – I’d never seen the original Alien.

Then I started thinking about the other classics I’d never seen. Rosemary’s Baby. The Exorcist. Night of the Living Dead? How had I missed Night of the Living dead?!  And so, a tradition was born. So, thanks, girl from Myspace who wouldn’t pick up the phone that day. I think this probably worked out better for everyone.

Anyway, this year I’ve got quite a list to work with and not a tremendous amount of time, so I’m gonna need some help whittling down the list.
The definite:
They Live (because I already watched it)
Candyman (because Chris suggested it for thoroughness’ sake and it’s already in the mail)
Bride of Re-Animator
From Beyond
(both have Jeffrey Combs and fulfill this year’s Lovecraft requirements)
Mimic (fulfilling this year’s “being disappointed by a Guillermo del Toro movie that doesn’t star Ron Perlman” requirement – also, available onDemand)
The Invisible Man (I like to get in a classic every now and again)
Drag Me to Hell (I like to get a very new one in now and again, as well)

I have room for two to four more – this is my tentative list of alternates. Suggestions?

Altered States (70’s science paranoia)
eyes_without_face_poster_01Videodrome (Cronenberg!)
Fiend Without a Face (“experiments of a mad professor to materialize mortal thoughts have unleashed a swarm of invisible creatures who like to feast on human brains and spinal fluid.” C’mon, that’s pretty nutty for 1958.)
Eyes Without a Face (“…concoct a plan to give Christiane her face back by kidnapping young girls and removing their faces … and then grafting them onto Christiane’s” – again, I feel like maybe the late 50’s didn’t get the credit they deserve for FUCKED UP horror.)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Recommended by someone on this site – speak up – and Ebert calls it a “haunting mystery.”)
End of the Line (Subway tunnels and religious zealots/monsters  – could it possibly redeem these tropes after last year’s abysmal “Midnight Meat Train”?)
Lost Boys (Pro: fits the bill as one of those that everyone’s seen but me; Con: Shumaker makes me violently angry sometimes)
Screamers (Peter Weller in a PK Dick adaptation that sounds a bit like an alternate universe Terminator)
Return to Oz (Deeply scarring as a child; however, I’m not sure I want to revisit it as an adult and find that there’s no there there, you know?)

So as I embark on this year’s journey into horror, you tell me – what should I be watching?

  1. cschack says:

    ‘Eyes without a Face’ is quite good, and has the added bonus of new-found relevance what with the first face graft being performed in France some 40 years later after this was made…

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    Ooh, that would make it more interesting. “Is this a horror movie?” my girlfriend will ask. “No, no, my dear. It’s a documentary of THINGS YET TO BE!”

  3. braak says:

    Lost Boys isn’t really a horror movie. It is worth at least on viewing, though. One viewing uncorrupted by spoilers.

    Well, Videodrome, that’s pretty obvious.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    True – but the Colonial Theater is running it as part of their “Friday Fright Night” series, and again, being that I’ve never seen it, I thought I’d put it on the maybe pile.

    Though “unspoilered” might be tough – I did see that one Simpsons Halloween with the vampire spoof.

  5. Tad says:

    Look out, Marky Mark, you’re about to get Stompeninged!

  6. Jeff Holland says:

    Oh yeah, I might watch the first half hour of The Happening, just so I can more fully make fun of it.

  7. Moff says:

    I used to work with a guy who could recite the entirety of The Lost Boys from start to finish. He also modeled and got laid a lot. So that was pretty weird.

  8. Tad says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the getting laid a lot was much more a result of the modeling than of the Lost Boys reciting.

  9. V.I.P. Referee says:

    My advice, is to skip the uber-cheesy 80’s kitsch like “Nightmare on Elm Street” and the like. I wasn’t allowed to watch those films as a kid, too and waited until I was an adult to watch them. Finally catching them on cable years later, I’ve built a theory that these films were only scary because 80’s kids (and 70’s kids) had more freedom than the generations before them; you need to have deep scarring from childhood terror to make these work, otherwise they’re just downright goofy.

    If you want something that will set the Halloween mood and still manage to creep-out an adult, this list will cover the gamut from eerie to mild cheesecake (I don’t know what you’ve already seen, so filter as you go along):

    1. “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961). Vincent Price. Weird 60’s interpretation of E.A.P.

    2. “Gothic” (1986). Weird. Supposed to be an interpretation of the wacked-out night that inspired Mary Shelley to write “Frankenstein”. Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley. It’s also sort of psychedelic!

    3. “Company of Wolves” (1985). This is one I saw a while ago and recently was reminded about it. It’s sort of a break from heavier hitters, with a touch of 80’s cheesiness (spoiler: fake flesh being torn away as men turn into werewolves), but I like that it follows dream logic and is closer to actual fairy tales; death is accepted, strange happenings aren’t questioned in a modern way and it goes from cozy to bizzare, very quickly. It was an early film directed by the man who also did “Interview with a Vampire” (I won’t get into that enough to risk a discussion about Anne Rice from Braak) Be forewarned, Holland, there are some close-ups of puppets and dolls at the beginning. This film will work for you, if you’ve been thinking:

    “I could really go for a horror version of “Legend”(1985) crossed with “Labyrinth” (1986) and “Le Pacte de Loups” (2001), right now!”

    Speaking of…

    4. “Pan’s Labyrinth”/ “Il Libertino del Fauno” (2006) See above. And add “political conflict” themes to the mix.

    5. As you’ve already mentioned, “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1975). I know I suggest this for everything and it does happen to be one of my favorite movies, but I think you–and your girlfriend–might appreciate its beautiful strangeness. It lulls you into going along with the weird rhythm of its story…you lose touch with where it’s going and where it’s been. But “Picnic at Hanging Rock” a slow mover–not a slasher–so you have to be in a particularly chill mood to fully ease into it. It’s dreamlike.

    6. If you want something that will remind you of the bleakness of human mortality, in the spirit of that sort of horror, watch “Smultronstallet/Wild Strawberries” (1957) by Ingmar Bergman! On the upside, it does have (sort of) a happy ending…

  10. braak says:

    The Company of Wolves had Angela Lansbury in it. And was based on the insane (and insanely awesome) revisionist fairytales of Angela Carter. Definitely recommend reading those guys.

  11. V.I.P. Referee says:

    @ Jeff – “The Fall of The house of Usher” is another one with Vincent Price that satisfies any campy-horror needs.

    Also, Joan Lindsay’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock” doesn’t beat the film interpretation of it. There’s a whole conversation about her removing the last chapter of the original manuscript, at the request of her publisher. The story worked so much better without it.

    @Braak – Was it “The Bloody Chamber” by Angela Carter? Mothers, lock-up your daughters! She does temper the fairytale spirit with a grim sense of modern, feminist awareness. Something about the “sweetest tongue having the sharpest tooth”.

  12. V.I.P. Referee says:

    “Gothic” is really, very weird, by the way. It apparently resembles a dance with absinthe and opium, but since I’ve never felt compelled to enter an opium den, I’ll just have to go on the words of others.

  13. V.I.P. Referee says:

    What I loved about Angela Lansbury’s performance in “Company of Wolves” is how she really brings an off-kilter, dream-like quality to her character; chilling in its strangeness (intensity of expression–an intensity that doesn’t quite jive with how Granny should be acting, she almost looks like the Baba Yaga), yet comforting in its familiarity: She is the definitive fairytale Granny. Angela Lansbury’s awesome, anyway. For a psychological thriller option, catch an early performance of hers in “Gaslight” (1944).

    @ Jeff: Try “Return to Oz”, again. It’s just as creepy–if not creepier–as you remembered. But you might be braver.

    (So, apparently, my requirements for a horror film are that they be dream-like, eerie and strange. I can type those words again, in case any of you didn’t catch them the first or fifth time.)

  14. V.I.P. Referee says:

    @ Jeff: “I know I suggest this for everything and it does happen to be one of my favorite movies, but I think you–and your girlfriend–might appreciate its beautiful strangeness…”

    Mentioned not because I think women can only appreciate heavy subjects when they are dressed in loveliness, but because she’d understand the frustrating state of female adolescence—people never seem to agree upon how to interpret it—and how it could complicate a Victorian mystery.

  15. Dave says:

    The creepiest, if not scariest film I’ve watched in my life has to be Peeping Tom – brought to you by Michael Powell (A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus et al). Seriously, it’s more depressing than Requiem for a Dream and far more uncomfortable to sit through than any number of slasher films.

    It pretty much killed the director’s career at the time, but Scorsese reckons it’s a masterpiece. And he’s right.

    I’d also like to add my voice to those loving The Company of Wolves.

  16. braak says:

    @VIP: Well, it was collected in The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, but “The Bloody Chamber” I think is actually the Bluebeard riff.

  17. Jeff Holland says:

    “Peeping Tom” is a highly recommended movie, as creepy as it is saddening. It’s probably the most sympathetic an audience can be towards a killer whose name isn’t Dexter.

  18. Jeff Holland says:

    @VIP you’ve sold me on Picnic at Hanging Rock, but I’ll brace myself for the slow moving.

    I like dream-logic movies, too – it’s one of the reasons “Carnival of Souls” is one of my favorites. It’s a nice use of psychological horror, taking away an audience’s ability to reason their way out of being scared.

    However, A Legend/Labyrinth/Brotherhood of the Wolf hybrid sounds…potentially taxing to my nerves. I caught BotW at the indy movie house during college, and at the end, I simply stood up, turned to look at the rest of the audience, and shouted, “What the FUCK is wrong with the FRENCH?!” Everyone else nodded in agreement.

  19. V.I.P. Referee says:

    @ Braak : Yeah, it’s the title of the the collection (at least, the printing of it that I’ve read) taken from one of the stories within it, but I think “Company of Wolves” was based on the one of the same name, with some content pulled from a couple of the others. Great read, if a little intense (well, it was when I first read it). This collection,”The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales” and “Lolita” were what I once called “library-corner” reading books; when I was 12/13 years old, I’d covertly read them in darkened corners of the library (’cause what if Mom ever found them at home?!) while concealing the title and pretending to look for something else, whenever anyone walked by. Memories.

    So, “Company of Wolves”: Angela Carter also created the screenplay. I wouldn’t say her work lends well to it, necessarily—it’s light on dialogue, heavy on atmosphere—but the film interpretation relies on ambiance-building, as well, so I think it works. It’s less “Le Pacte de Loups” than “Legend”, Holland, so while it is ever-so-slightly wacked, it doesn’t have that french “What the–what did I just see?” quality to it. But go for “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. It’ll linger with you.

    …and since I’m a young woman who lives alone, I think “Peeping Tom” might not make it into my viewing rotation. But hey, if I want scary, I’ll know what to watch. Happy viewings!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s