Here are some brief thoughts on Halloween-ish offerings I watched this October. We still have a couple more days left, I know, but in case anybody needs something to watch… My rating system is the same as an earlier post1.
The Main Halloween Watches
Next of Kin (1982) – 3 (S, M, V) – There are a number of stunning shots in this down under psychological horror, thriller, mystery that is not the same film as the one that stars Patrick Swayze. At turns it suffers from the feeling it is missing pieces, shots, information, and connective tissue; this is especially the case as it moves into the end, where it becomes a different movie altogether, but the film left an impression. I would add, that when I streamed this, something was drastically wrong with the audio technically (it echoed or was phasing); I hope this was something to do with streaming.
Wolfen (1981) – 1 (S) – Withstanding its good performances, the opportunity to do something more with a vaguely interesting premise is squandered in the most palatable of ways for its own times, and utterly trash-ass-backwards for the present. When shit started to Hollywood explode near the end, I fully checked out. Fuck this film.
Dead and Buried (1981) – 2 (Str, V) – Its twists are surreal, clicking in a clockwork at 20 minute intervals. While on the surface it might seen incongruous to compare the film to Alien, O’Bannon and Shusett’s better known script, the structures of the two films are similar, with their protagonists emerging closer to mid-story. The end is borderline nonsense, but there is a daring unpredictability to the movie that wouldn’t be out of place in a Twilight Zone episode.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne (1981) – 3 (S, V, M) – I’ve been asked to leave the room on too many occasions while making an ass of myself praising the merits of La bête (1975). Once again, I can thank Walerian Borowczyk for getting me ejected from family gatherings, committee meetings, and probably barred from voting if Democracy continues on its current trajectory. The plot doesn’t evolve so much as devolve as Jekyll/Hyde runs about a mansion fucking and killing everyone while waving two middle fingers, a dick, and his victims at the Enlightenment; Udo Kier rolls, gags, and gasps, the shots are hazy like pervy lace, and Marina Pierro’s gaze is ever present amid the debauchery/eroticism/porn or whichever descriptor one feels rhetorically comfortable. Not for kids, not for functioning adults, and definitely not for Tiffany Smiley with the price of hot dogs up 26%.
Funhouse (1981) – 2 (S, M) – Though often thought of as a slasher, the film has more in common with the works of Browning and Whale where the monsters are misunderstood and their guardians consciously abuse and use for their own benefit. The film’s straightforwardness perhaps made it something of an atavism in its own time, but removed from its context, that same simple tale (told well), its stylishness, its screams-n-scares, and its carnival creeps place it in good company with the class acts it clearly adores.
The Velvet Vampire (1971) – 2 (S, M) Late in the story Diane LeFanu, played by Celeste Yarnall, tells another character, “You could have turned away, but you didn’t.” Commenting on a voyeuristic thirst for transgression, it is as much an address to the character it is spoken to as it is the audience itself. It’s a quote-worthy line I’ll be repeating. I was also quite taken with the dreamlike desert sequences, which while New World Pictures budget-conscious, are also quite beautiful and inspiring for any filmmaker shackled by limitations.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) – 4 (S, Nar, V, M) – Why did I wait so long to watch this film? I’m an idiot. That’s why.
Vampry (1932) – 3 (S, V, M) – The visuals and themes here work in an almost patchwork fashion, a sort of greatest hits of horror, which is all the more astounding for a film from 1932. The picture also clearly disproves that ‘all’ early sound cinema is stiff. Visually, this film is anything but boring. Light and shadow play tricks, the camera weaves and tracks by its own logic, and countless shots are masterclasses; it would behoove both the aspiring and seasoned image-maker to study this one.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971) – 1 (S) – This is a minor early Argento film that is a bit tighter than your average giallo. The maze sequence makes one wonder if Kubrick was thinking it of all those years later when he made The Shining.
Hocus Pocus 2 (2022) – 3 (S, Nar, M) – My expectations were so low with this one, and I was so wrong. It is less a sequel and more an origin story, drawing arguably from the superhero genre. I’ll be honest, I loathed the main storyline of the 1st, and the two vapid cleancut teens who fall in love and die, turn into a cat – or whatever happened with regards to that. The 2nd installment amends this, with a superb main storyline as well as interesting characters who your three favorite witches support and chew the drapes behind. The best part is you don’t even have to watch the first one to get the charm of the new one. Replete with too many great performances, this was the 2nd best film I saw on the only holiday I ‘officially’ celebrate/observe.
The Linnea Quigley Movies
Full admission, the films I’ve reviewed below aren’t good. I watched them solely because of Linnea Quigley, a scream queen star of the straight to VHS days, and due to the fact that I’m still a child. Quigley’s career never stopped either, she’s still around doing films and living an aspirational creative life. These films aren’t recommendations unless you are a Quigley fan.
Creepazoids (1987) – 0 – An Alien low-budget clone with zero nuance, depth, or craft. Quigley gets top billing, but isn’t the last survivor, which is the number one reason I hated this movie by its bottom of the barrel stupid end.
Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988) – 1 (M) – The bulk of the movie is drivel, and unless I’m the slimeball for enjoying it, I can’t really explain how slimeball (gutter ball?) fits into the title. Quigley’s character named Spider, a punk, is introduced knocking off the cash register in a closed down bowling alley where a group of college kids have gone to finish a sorority initiation ritual. Things go from there, and Quigley’s one-note sarcasm and performance as an outsider looking in at the privileged college kids gave me a brief moment of happiness.
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) – 1 (M) – The mash-up of noir, motiveless T&A, and comedy splatter is perhaps a bit predictable, but at least it keeps things moving to the end when literally things have gotten so lazy, people are finishing off the sets with marker and half-funny poster board signage. Quigley’s character is somewhat forgettable in this one, and though her grand finale chainsaw dance is stilted initially because they couldn’t turn on the chainsaws (I think), she does get into the buzz of things by the end.
Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout (1990) – 1 (M) – I’d love to know the history behind this one. It’s either a creative acting reel, or as a friend suggested, somebody’s tax write-off. The latter feels like a jaded read to me, but whatever it is, it is clearly an oddity. What’s more, VHS copies of it currently go for around 40 dollars on Ebay, making it almost as valuable as a Garfield phone, and in these uncertain economic times, probably a sound investment.
Films are graded in 4 categories, with each category worth one point. The film either gets the point in a given category or it does not, with the highest possible score being a 4 and the lowest possible score being a 0. In other words, the scale has 5 possible grades.
Categories are as follows:
0/1 Point – Stylistics (S) – Does the film do something stylistically well. Style includes elements of cinematography, mise-en-scène, editing, and sound.
0/1 Point – Structure or Narrative (Str/Nar) – A film may either have a good story if it is narrative (Nar), or have an interesting structure if narrative is not at the forefront or a concern (Str).
0/1 Point – Vision (V) – Is the film unique, original, and/or were the filmmakers daring, innovative, or creative in some way.
0/1 Point – Did Mike Like It (M) – This is the bias category of the reviewer. ↩