Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Odd Angry Shot (Australia, 1979)

This is an interesting war film I'd never heard of concerning Australia's involvement during the Vietnam War.  Essentially, we got the story of a young recruit named Bill, played by John Jarratt, being shipped off to Vietnam and dropped into a pretty hairy situation involving beer (Fosters), some comedy (mostly character based), a fight between a scorpion and a spider (place your bets) and, oh yeah, the occasional trek through the jungle where they occasionally exchange fire with the Viet Cong (mostly unseen).  If you think you vaguely recognize Jarratt you may have seen him in a, fairly, recent film called Wolf Creek as Mick Taylor, the psychopathic junk collector in the Outback (I can't remember what his occupation was, Tow Truck operator?).  I seriously have no fucking clue how young, puerile Bill aged into Mick Taylor, but there you go.  I'm guessing Fosters played a role.

The Australian involvement in this war morphed from a few advisors to thousands of soldiers, within a few years, sent in to aid the South Vietnamese (and the American forces) in staunching the flow of communism throughout South East Asia.  As far as Australian Vietnam films I'd say this is the only one I've heard of until I blind bought it a few months back.  Australia has churned out a few good to great war films, from Gallipoli to Breaker Morant to the one where a young couple out on vacation have to do battle with encroaching nature.  What was that called again?

Anyway, this is a pretty good one.  It's not a downer ((that may have changed if these guys had seen Apocalypse Now, but they were still feeling the influence / rush of things like M.A.S.H. (Korean War, but really it was Vietnam) and The Green Berets, I guess.))   It's more of a melancholic romp (I swear, that's the only way I can think to describe it) about the dying of youth (figuratively, literally, etc).   The comedy feels weird tonally in that it doesn't actually mesh all that well with some of the hard hitting stuff.  Basically, every scene back at their base feels like they're taking some R & R.  They drink, play cards, and, yes, force a scorpion to fight a spider to the death (it's real and I won't spoil the winner).  I wonder if the rompy stuff back at the base is just a cultural thing?  They kill time by crushing beers (they were actually crushing beers on the flight to the war) and just goofing around, having fun.  The darkness is there, of course. We see the jungle of Queensland (standing in for the jungle of Vietnam) just past the outskirts of their camp.  American films tend to portray the "killing of  time" a little differently (Willard shit-faced, punching mirrors, Barnes & O'neill shit-faced playing a not-even-a-little-fun game of cards, etc).  Sometimes, the American portrayal of killing time involves sitting around, silent contemplation, bored-out-of-one's mind -- I'm thinking of something like Jarhead or, hell, The Thin Red Line.  Point is, there's a darkness to the American "killing time" that is slapped on the screen.  The Odd Angry Shot might be interesting, in part, because it buries that darkness beneath youthful mirth.

The movie is not without trauma, some of it massive.  The first night, their base is shelled and soldiers are killed, horrifically (thankfully, this picture does not linger on the gore -- or even show it, really).  Later, a central character gets shot in the jungle (the snap of gunfire and he quickly falls) and dies (unseen) while being choppered out.  The soldiers find out about it later, pour a few more Fosters down their throats for him.  Another character receives news from home that his mother and wife were both killed in a car wreck. Sargent  Harry (He and Bill have a pre-war bond and together, they are the film's focus) laments a disintegrating marriage and also dreads the return home for reasons outside of his failed marriage (he does not believe they will be well received, a theme echoed in the films of almost every war film about Vietnam, and since Vietnam).  Graham Kennedy is tremendous as Harry and he and Jarratt form a likable pair.  We believe they've been friends for years.  The supporting cast is great, with Bryan Brown (a decade before Coughlin's laws would become a part of the American experience) the standout as another soldier.  Tom Jeffrey, the director, spent most of his career working in Australian TV.  He directed a few other films (The Removalists, Weekend of Shadows, The Best of Friends, and Fighting Back), none of which I'm familiar with.

This is how the movie moves along, pleasantly and not-so-pleasantly rambling from trauma to killing time, getting drunk, and being young men.  When I first started the picture, I made the mistake of playing the trailer (it was an accident).  The trailer is glorious but it tells the entire picture in a wonderfully dated song (seriously, seek it out of Youtube).  I honestly thought I was watching the opening of the picture.  I sat there, gobsmacked.  Everything gets spoiled (from Scott's death to Bill feeling some breasts at his going away party).  Music ends up playing an important and "on the nose" part in the film.  I could have probably done without Peter, Paul, and Mary's rendition of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" reappearing throughout (though, it certainly ups the melancholic quotient).  Also, that was a hit song!  I guess that's where most of the budget went.  The final shot of Bill and Harry, back home after a five month tour, sitting in a bar, overlooking an Australian port and wondering "what now?" is...it's pretty powerful.  This is an undeservedly underseen picture.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Westfront 1918 (1930)

Here we have a German produced World War 1 film from 1930 that I had never even heard of until a few months back, when I noticed it was a part of the Criterion Collection (they officially released it early 2018, I guess on the 100th anniversary of the tail end of the Great War -- which is insane).  World War I has always been a bit underrepresented (or over represented, depending on your perspective) in film.  We've got the great, American produced, All Quiet on the Western Front, based on a book written by a German veteran, which also came out in 1930.  And then...nothing...for years. Nothing that mattered or, I guess stood the test of time is a better way to put that.  There's Kubrick's masterpiece, Paths of Glory, which came out over a quarter of a century later.  As for modern, post MPAA films those are few and far between, and almost all of those use the war as a backdrop to other things  There's War Horse (backdrop to a horse's life), Legends of the Fall (backdrop to Brad Pitt's flowing locks), and....Legend of Bagger Vance (backdrop to.....shit, I didn't see it).

The problem is, World War I isn't very cinematic.  I mean, sure, trench warfare which, for the last year or so of the war was almost exclusively the mode of fighting, is inherently terrifying.  The problem is these guys weren't moving around much.  They were dug in, stationary for days, weeks, months.  They waited...and waited through shellings, gas attacks, etc.  I'm not even sure, based on any of the movies I've seen (or what little I've read) what the strategy was beyond trying to stay alive and wait out the enemy.  So, I guess this is all cinematic in the way an extreme horror picture can be cinematic.  There is tension, there is gore...but also this is the real shit, which does not exactly make for a pleasant afternoon at the picture show. 

So, against all this, we have a picture, a bleak as shit picture, that focuses on a group of German Infantrymen, Western Front, last year of the war, dug in, running out of supplies, trying to survive...if no longer seriously trying to win the war.  There's Karl, the German soldier longing after his wife, back home.  There's the student, who lusts for a French girl, Jacqueline, who happens to live close enough to the Front for him to visit.  Then there's this guy, caught ooh-la-la-la'ing the student and the French peasant.  I'm not sure he'd be able to pull off this look after 1945:

There's also the Bavarian (big burly soldier) and the lieutenant, who in one of the most effective and terrifying scenes of the picture become trapped in their living quarters as the dirt caves in around them.

This is an incredible picture, every bit the equal to All Quiet and possibly, more powerful in its aversion to sentimentality.  The melodrama is toned down here as the picture mostly focuses on the men in the field although Karl's sojourn home (he flees the lines and is eventually able to return to them) almost results in a terrible domestic murder after he finds his wife in bed with the butcher's boy (the war has taken it's toll on those away from the lines as well; widespread starvation has forced those left behind to engage in some untoward activities -- like sleeping with the butcher's boy, for example).

Probably the weirdest part of the picture is when the French villagers perform for the dug in soldiers by singing about blooming daisies (allusion to the peasant girls that the German soldier's -- in particular the student -- pine after).  Then the guy with the violin and the clown come out and everyone shuts the fuck up, it's like an Abbot and Costello routine.  There are a couple of scenes that mercifully, take you out of the battle because when you do get back, that shit is unrelenting.  

These are real soldiers, grunts.  They swear (yes, not an American production so "shit" or "scheisse" get thrown around), they fuck (or, let's be honest here, commit rape, mercifully-again that word-, offscreen).  The battle scenes, like in All Quiet, are terrific, and terrifying.  It's impossible to tell one infantrymen or, more precisely, Germany's infantrymen from the French infantrymen once the shells and artillery start to unload and guys are running and diving in all directions.  At one point, the student engages in hand-to-hand with a French soldier and they both plummet into a flooded trench.  This calls to mind the scene in All Quiet where Paul finds himself stuck in a trench with a wounded French soldier, who will not die.  The stark, horrific poeticism of that scene is contrasted here with a struggle that is not shown onscreen.  All we know is the student is stuck in that submerged trench, wounded or not, shell shocked for sure, calling out for help that will not come.  The picture does not linger on his struggle.  Nothing is explained beyond this is war...and it really sucks.

Predictably, once the Nazi's came into power this film was banned in Germany as unpatriotic, pacifist bullshit.  Of course they banned it.  I'm of the mindset that the only anti-war films are the World War I films.  We rarely see the brass directing troops in open fields, no missions to blow up bridges, or kill some Nazi's in the Eagles Nest.  The closest thing to a mission in this film is when a runner is sent to alert his own forces to stop shelling their own troops.  There's no heroism (well, not movie heroism, anyway.  Just by being here these guys are heroic) and hell, certainly no jingoism.  This movie is as sympathetic to the plight of the French (mainly the villagers) as it is to the Germans.  There's no room in these trenches for John Wayne.  This is, simply put, the must-see war film, nay (War Horse reference) film, of 2018 since I'd imagine we'd all be seeing it for the first time.  If you like your war films bleak as all hell and depicting a miserable mud soaked existence, then look no further.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)

In honor of the release of the new trailer for the upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters (which is not to be confused with the Americanized version of the original film -- from 1954 --  which was also called Godzilla: King of the Monsters) I decided to write up a recently purchased Godzilla film that I had previously not seen.  The winner being the 5th film in Toho's "Millennium" series (1999-2004) called Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. which was preceded by Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002) and followed by Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).  This film is a direct sequel to Mechagodzilla and even, unlike a lot of these films, maintains continuity with original films in, and apart from, Godzilla.  In this case, 1961's Mothra, which doesn't even feature Godzilla.  In that one, Mothra goes on a rampage  and destroys Tokyo because two fairies that are her keeper (or she is theirs?) are stolen by some villainous type.  I don't know, it's been a while since I've seen that one.  Also, not a fan of Mothra.

Anyway, it's the aftermath of the previous film.  Mechagodzilla is being refurbished and Godzilla is out to sea.  Holy shit, the pacing at the beginning of this thing, the first 5 minutes really, is just incredible.  We get location after location (Mecha's service station; deep sea, Pacific, the Caroline Islands, US Pacific Air Base, Hawaii, Japan Air Defense Center or whatever, etc) before finally settling on news of a "UFO heading for Hawaii".  Terrific scenes of Mothra, jutting in and out of cloud cover while being pursued by F-15s.  One of the pilots breaks the tension with "singing...I hear singing."  More dive bombing through the clouds and eventually the TITLE is amazingly slapped onto the screen.  I was jarred awake.

With Mothra active, Godzilla stirs, and the race is on to get Mechagodzilla operational in time.  Essentially, in these films, we get two types of Godzillas.  Destroyer of Tokyo or protector of Tokyo.  This is the former.  Mothra, after her first film, has typically been on the defender spectrum although there is some question here.  Her twin fairies, quite annoyingly, make an appearance and implore the Japanese to not use Mechagodzilla because it's a super weapon created from the bones of Godzilla or some shit like that.  Mothra doesn't like that and, through the twin fairies, threatens to, once again, level Tokyo if they don't deactivate Mecha G.  So, we've got quite the human conundrum here.  1) they can say "fuck it" and put all their eggs in the Mothra basket which is weird, because admittedly, while looking very cool here,

Mothra is still just a fucking moth.  Or, 2) "Fuck you, Mothra, we're fixing Mecha G and when we're finished with Godzilla we'll hurl giant moth balls at you or whatever, you bitch."  They choose "2" (spoiler) and I guess Mothra's threat was mostly empty cause that shit barely comes up again.

Similar to most Godzilla pictures, we get a few slight human type characters in here.  The only ones that affected me in any way were Chujo (mechanic on Mecha G), grandpa (he and Mothra apparently go way back according to the black and white flashback) and pilot, Lt. Asuza, who has a non-sexual love interest thing going on with Chujo.  Also, there's Chujo's nephew, Shun.  The human characters live, they learn, they love, they yearn, some die (not the ones listed above, but I'd imagine some do).

Full disclosure, I've never been a big fan of Mechagodzilla or Mothra.  Mecha G always just seemed like a way to get the human characters to be more involved in the actual monster battles, as opposed to simply observing and fleeing.  I'm fine with that, in theory, but I've always preferred kaiju (Japanese for giant monster) on kaiju fighting.  Mecha G always seemed like a bit of a stiff to me.  As for Mothra, she was just always too kitschy.  She never appeared formidable though she does have a a weapon or two at her disposal (the key weapon here being the ability to shoot her scales which I guess works to immobilize Godzilla -- of course that particular weapon is considered a "last resort" and only used when Mothra knows she's finished).  And then there are the twins.

A couple of mini faeries that, as previously mentioned, take care of Mothra (or vice versa).  I don't know, this shit is too cute (also kitschy), delves too far into fantasy land.   Whatever, I dealt with it well enough.   Finally, we also have Mothra's children...a couple of fucking larvae that swim from Mothra's home island after hatching, mid movie, to come and join the fight against Godzilla.  Their weapon of choice is the ability to spew webbing at Godzilla, again the power of immobilization.  Neither they, nor their mother, have a weapon that could be considered a kill shot.  They're lovers, not fighters, I guess, except when it comes to Tokyo back in 1961.  Here they are swimming.  They leave mid-battle and arrive just in time to help Mothra.  These god damned things should be in the Olympics.

Again, I'm in a truth telling mood.  This is not my favorite Godzilla picture (and certainly not my favorite of the Millennium series -- that would be Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah!  Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, which is probably a top 2 or 3 Godzilla picture.  It's incredible).  The main issue I have, besides Godzilla's opponents, is just that Godzilla is not very interesting.  A lot of these movies don't do a lot with the guy as far as personality but, when they do, the material is elevated astronomically.  Here Godzilla wakes, he makes his way to a city, he destroys the city, he fights his opponent(s), and then he usually gets tired, let's them immobilize him and gets carried out to sea.  Shit, I guess he was fine.  This movie was fine.  I think I just prefer Godzilla as savior which is why I tend to enjoy when the monsters he fights are on his level.  Mothra and a couple of babies doesn't really cut it (though she does get an incredibly moving death scene -- sorry for the spoiler).

Regarding, Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019):  TAKE MY MONEY, NOW PLEASE.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Spiral Staircase (1946)

Well damn, I figured I'd give this thing a shot again.  I watch movies.  I watch a lot of movies, though not as many as I used to.  I guess I'm getting old.   Not as old as this movie I watched called The Spiral Staircase.  This picture was good, possibly great, certainly unique.  Set in early 20th century, in a small New England town.  A talkie set during the silent film era featuring a protagonist who can't talk.  She's mute as a result of some trauma or other.  I wonder if not being able to vocally communicate plays into this particular story about a murderer who stalks disabled women?  Also, this film's views on disabled women is......interesting?  The first victim is described as "dim witted"?  I think one victim was described as "lame" which is a thing people used to say about people that....couldn't walk well?  Now they just say it about horses and this blog, any blog.  Also, I think one victim had a scar or something.  So, this killer targets women that are vulnerable is the point.

The picture opens in the screening room at some Inn where a projectionist cranks a lever and projects a silent film on a wall.  The crowd gasps, gawks, oohs and ahhs.  There's an old lady providing live piano accompaniment.  It's not unlike most arthouse theaters today.  The movie they're watching is called "The Kiss".  It looks bad, but was probably the highlight of the year for most of these hicks in the year of our lord 1906.  Anyway, while the picture plays downstairs a poor, "lame", woman is murdered in her room upstairs.  We see the killer's eye peering out from the closet as she changes.  He descends, she screams, the crowd downstairs reacts and moves upstairs to check out the ruckus.  This was a silent film after all...and also it wasn't called "The Scream".  Missed opportunity.

By the time they make it upstairs, the woman is dead (strangled) and the assailant has vanished.  Our main character was at the picture show.  Her name's Helen.  She's a mute.  She gets a ride home with Dr. Parry who tended to the dead woman.  Her home is the Warren estate, where she works tending to the bedridden matriarch Mrs. Warren.  On the ride home (horse and buggy style) they encounter, who I immediately deemed suspect #1, Freddy.  Freddy's a young lad who stops the doctor in hopes he'll stop to check in on his ailing father.  Dr. Parry takes a rain check.  He's too busy being smitten with Helen.  Freddy's a creepy little kid.  I forgot to snap a picture of my television screen so you'll just have to take my word for it.  He's definitely suspect material.  We don't see him again.  I wonder what happened to his papa?  Also, everyone's ailing in this fucking town.  His pa was probably in his 30s, but I imagine he looked to be about 65.

So, they finally reach the Warren home and this is where the movie decides to stay for the duration.  It's a big house, gothic as shit.  There's even a spiral staircase in there somewhere.  It's an incredible location.  The house contains a cast of characters and the rest of our suspects.  We've got Professor Albert Warren, the oldest son.  We've got Steven Warren, the youngest son recently back from Paris.  His arrival home correlates precisely with the start of the murders.  Maybe too obvious.  There's Nurse Barker, the cantankerous care provider for Mrs Warren that everyone seems to hate, especially Carlton the Bull Dog.  We've got Blanche, the young woman the two Warren brothers fight over.  And then there's Mr and Mrs Oates who I had trouble placing in the context of what was happening.  As far as I could tell, they lived at the estate (maybe caretakers?) and Mrs Oates was drinking all of Mrs Warren's brandy (and possibly her ether too).  And then there's this guy, Nurse Barker's arch nemesis and an obvious suspect.

Nurse Barker trips over him constantly and refers to him more than once as a "useless loaf".  At this point, I can't be positive that the eye I saw staring at victim #1 from her bedroom closet wasn't a dog's eye.

So, we got an old fashioned whodunit with some decidedly modern trappings.  It's almost a proto-slasher or even a proto-giallo.  Women die while the killer remains unknown until the end.  There's even the old person (Mrs Warren) telling the young woman (Helen) to leave and never come back if she knows what's good for her which is not that far off from the old coot at the gas station warning the kids away from Camp Crystal Lake in whatever Friday the 13th film that happened in.  Probably all of them.  Helen not being able to speak must have seemed like a masterstroke at the time but if you hired the wrong actress it could be a disaster.  Luckily, this actress has an expressive enough face and vintage silent era eyes.

Truthfully, I'm not really sure how to categorize this movie.  It's a mashup.  We've got a horror picture.  Light and shadow used to creepy perfection, especially when characters descend down the stairway or into the basement.  There's a film noir buried in here somewhere as well.  Consider this wonderful line from Dr. Parry (did I mention he's lusting after Helen?) in response to Stephen making a lewd comment directed towards her:  "The only thing keeping me from striking you in the jaw is the absolute certainty that it will break your neck".  He's a doctor so we kinda believe him.  There's also a bit of a love story which culminates when Helen has a fucking bizarre waking dream where she is getting married to the doctor but gets stuck on the "I do" part.  The men in this picture also say things like "run along now" to the women after they've grown tired of them.  Imagine that line making it's way into a picture today?  That would be weird.

This was made 20+ years prior to Wait Until Dark and in that one at least Audrey Hepburn could speak.  I won't spoil the finale or the reveal of the killer only to say it was (the finale) and wasn't (the reveal) shocking.  I can't imagine what audiences must have thought.  The film grossed under $900,000 at the time but doesn't that translate into something like 8 billion dollars today?  I have no idea.  Whatever, this is a good one.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Schlocktober Fest, 2018: The Final Chapter

If the hardest thing I had to do this year was watch a horror movie a day during the month of October then I've either had a pretty good year or I don't work very hard.  Still, this shit was exhausting.  I'm going to unwind in November with a book I probably won't finish.

October 30, 2018
Blood and Black Lace (1964)
viewed on: Shudder

Mario Bava, sometimes considered the grandfather of Italian horror, directs this ridiculous early entry in the giallo genre.  Essentially, that's Italian for "yellow" or "pulpy".  Most giallos centered around a string of murder set pieces and a "guess who the killer is (?)" type of game for the audience.  Like most color Bava films this picture is incredibly lush, wonderfully set designed, and filled with melodrama.  What we have here is a fashion house full of models, models that get picked off one-by-one in increasingly brutal ways.   Why don't you go ahead and guess who or what the killer is?

Surprise!  It's The Invisible Man.  The end.

Ok, I'll keep going, I guess.  It's not the Invisible Man.  Just a man (or woman) with a panty hose on his (or her) head.  We see the killer early and often in this picture.  Since none of the characters wore a fedora and face concealing panty during normal, non-kill laden,  times I was able to surmise that this must be a disguise.  Anyway, we have our suspects.  The house manager, because he's the only man (other than the two idiotic detectives) that spends any time of consequence hanging around the ladies.  Also, it's almost always a man.  Suspect #2: the recently widowed, house madame.  Recently widowed?  That's not at all suspicious.  Uh, yeah....they're pretty much the only two suspects in this thing.  No spoilers here.

This isn't so much a whodunnit as much as it is a series of stalky murder scenes and then, about an hour into the film "of course he/she is the killer (!), and then...30 minutes of denouement.  I mean, we've figured the whole thing out but, just in case we weren't sure, we get a god damned over talky killer(s).  There's a frame job in here somewhere, a diary that reveals all, a medieval hammer to the face, a non-sexy bathtub drowning, and a bunch of shots of a ringing red phone.  As far as I can tell, that's the main motif of the picture.  Ringing red phones.  Red phone rings, gorgeous model answers it with "pronto, pronto", horrible death follows.  The screenplay to this thing was....weak.  Of course, though, it's still worth watching.  Bava isn't considered the Italian Hitchcock for nothing (he just didn't hire writers on the level that Hitchcock hired).  This fucking thing is beautiful to behold.  I spent as much time looking into the corners of frames as I did trying to read the subtitles (which are mostly pointless, you don't need the dialogue to get this story).  Also, please, please, please start making readable subtitles people in charge of making subtitles (let's put the kibosh on tiny white subtitles, already).

Oh yeah, I forgot.  There's one other man in this picture that could be considered a suspect.  The Butler.  The film threw me for one of many loops when he didn't do it.  In fact, the best part of this script is all the loop throwing.  The first scene features lovely Isabella arriving at the fashion house.  My first thought was this is going to be the main girl, how great.  She's magnetic...and beautiful, seems to have a personality.  She's the first victim.  So...I guess this was Psycho-lite.  I think the second loop was the lack of nudity.  The final shot is a red phone hanging by a cord, off the hook.  I think there was a loop in the cord, don't really remember.  If there was a loop in that cord, spooky shit.

October 31, 2018
What We Do In The Shadows (2015)
how viewed: Vampire double feature at Revival Brewery

I'm glad Halloween fell on a Wednesday this year.  It allowed for keeping it low key.  Low key involved hitting up the Revival Brewery (Cranston, RI) where I could throw back 8% beers and take in a vampire double feature.  First on the docket, the 2015 New Zealand mockumentary called What we do in the Shadows.  If you're a vampire, living in present day New Zealand, it would make sense that you'd want to live with other vampires.  It's a good idea for a film and never really gets fully fleshed out (Only Lovers Left Alive tackled the idea a bit).  Here we have four such vamps; Viago (kind and sensitive), Vladislav (the suave-ish one), Deacon (uh...slightly less suave-ish?), and Petyr (he's the 8,000 year old one, looks like Nosferatu -- also, vicious as fuck).  By day, they sleep.  By night, they stalk the city looking for prey to bring home.  Also, there's a camera crew that follows them around.  They're wearing crucifixes.

What struck me most about this film was the way they use their human familiars.  A familiar is basically a human who works for the vampires, procuring their victims, doing their laundry, etc.  I guess Renfield would be the most famous of the familiars.  Most familiars hang around because they want to be turned.  Some hang around too long, well past the age that any rational person would want to spend an eternity living at.  Yet they still hang around, hoping for that bite followed by the sucking of vampire blood (procedure established here and before for becoming a vampire).  Deacon has a familiar named Jackie.  She brings a couple over one night, Nick and some girl.  Nick gets turned and becomes the newest flat mate, which is worth it for the addition to the crew of his best mate Stu (human).  Nick getting turned, that's gotta sting Jackie a bit, but why?  She's got a husband, has some kids, a normal life at home.  I guess the grass is always greener.  Viago also has a familiar but his familiar is now 90 and lives on the other side of the world (their painful separation involved that familiar shipping Viago -- in his coffin -- to New Zealand so he can pursue his one-true-love but using the wrong postage so Viago's voyage lasted 18 months).  They Skype from time to time now (sessions full of familiar lament) but Viago has mostly moved on, still pursuing his one-true-love, who is also 90.  Viago's indecisiveness is his crutch.  What a sad existence these familiars live.

So, this is a good one.  The story just rambles along with interviews, snippets of vampire action (turning into bats, biting into arteries, sniffing out werewolves, fending off vampire hunters, etc), vampire masquerade balls, and some more lamenting from familiars.  The characters are all great.  And, oh yeah, the picture is hilarious.  I probably should have mentioned that earlier.

Bonus content:

The Lost Boys (1987)

I stuck around for the second vampire feature even though I've probably seen it anywhere from 5-10 times.  I don't know, this one is pretty good.  If you haven't seen it, Dianne Wiest and her two sons, Corey Haim and Jason Patric, relocate to the small beach community of Santa Clara, CA.  They move in with Grandpa.  There are vampires.  Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, and Jami Gertz are all there.  It's all very teen and very 80s.  A new rule for vampires gets established in this one, at least I think it's a new rule.  Kill the head vampire and anyone that the head vampire turned will revert back to human form.  It's basically the conceit the film writers came up with so a traumatized audience wouldn't leave the theater thinking about the awful eternity Jason Patric will have to spend looking like peak-era Jason Patric.

That's it, until next year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Schlocktober Fest, 2018 Vol. VII

The end is nigh...

October 25, 2018
Halloween (2018)
viewed on: theatrical

Alright, saw the new sequel to Halloween that erases all the other sequels and it was pretty good.  It's also called, Halloween which is....weird.   In this one, Michael Myers is caught at the end of the first one and then spends 40 years in a state hospital where he wisely uses his time standing in the middle of a, heavily guarded, concrete field staring into space.  Until a couple of true-crime podcasters show up to get his side of the story.  They bring the mask.  It stirs something.  That night, there's a prisoner transfer.  It doesn't end well for anyone.

Anyway, like I said, pretty good.  A great cast led by Jamie Leigh Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode.  The twist I guess is that's she's not his sister in this one.  That was introduced in part II where Myers stalks her around an empty Haddonfield hospital as she recovers from her injuries that she got in the first one.  Also, twisty is that Myers doesn't really think about Laurie Strode that much while he's all she's thought about for the last 40 years.  So much so that her daughter was eventually taken away from her and she ended up living in a fortified house in the middle of the woods, armed to the gills.  Judy Greer is daughter Strode, now grown up and with a daughter of her own (I guess she's the traditional final girl but this picture mostly eschews tradition), and trying to reconnect (somewhat) with Laurie.

Halloween night, Michael's on the loose, there's a high school dance, some #metoo stuff, and some stalk and slashing which is really more along the lines of straight up slashing (Michael sees a victim, almost all chosen at random, and kills them within 30 seconds).  Like the first one, he walks out in the open and no one notices him because it's halloween.  Will Patton is the sheriff.  He's great, not that bright.  There's a teen that looks like Jack Black.  A couple lovable deputies (they compare lunches -- one deputy has a homemade brownie and a gob of peanut butter -- he's my hero).  This feels very much like a David Gordon Green movie.  We're introduced to characters briefly, they get to be funny, and real...and then they die horribly which, come to think of it, isn't really a David Gordon Green trope.  Well, there's some horrible death in Your Highness, I guess.  Watch Your Highness.  Also, of interest, asshole characters don't necessarily get their comeuppance.  This is very not a 1980s picture.  I liked almost all the characters that got slaughtered.

There's even a new Dr. Loomis, referred to once as "so you're the new Dr. Loomis".  He gets to be funny, then fucking weird, and then....I don't know?  Seriously, what was up with that guy? Hopefully in the sequel, he'll get to hear Michael speak (spoiler: I don't think he will).  I spent the first half of the picture thinking to myself "I like this, back to basics, thank god they're not trying to reinvent the wheel" until I started to think "god damn it, they went and tried to reinvent the wheel, didn't they?"   It's good!

October 26, 2018
Tarantula (1955)
viewed on: VOD

Here's a 1950s creature feature with Clint Eastwood in an uncredited role as an air force pilot (we hear his voice, don't see his face).  Like Island Claws (1980), a movie I wrote up earlier this month, this one concerns scientists experimenting with growth hormones on animals to cure world hunger.  You know, they grow guinea pigs and rabbits and stuff.  The intent was never to use it on a tarantula because who the fuck would want to eat that?  Anyway, it happens and we're all the better for it.

This one, unlike Island Claws, is set in the desert, probably also near some nuclear test sites which serves as a double whammy for the poor folks stranded in this isolated community.  We got a mutated biologist names Jacobs (think Elephant Man), fast talking reporter Joe Burch, hunky Dr. Matt Hastings and lady scientist Tiffany Clayton.  The picture is nothing if not progressive ("give women the right to vote and what do you get?  Lady scientists.").  Ahhh...the fucking 50s.

Anyway, the tarantula grows to the size of a mountain and, let me tell you, the special effects (scroll above) are wonderful.  Seriously, the use of perspective in this thing is masterful.  Jack Arnold wrote and directed.  He also did It Came From Outer Space and Creature from the Black Lagoon so I guess all I really need to know is why did it take me so long to see this thing?  If you like horses, you'll be horrified.  Typically abrupt 1950s monster movie ending but, seriously, are we really going to have scenes of characters "coming to terms" after that final shot?

October 27, 2018
What We Become (2016)
viewed on: Hulu

Here's another foreign language (Danish?) movie I watched this month.  The opening title gave me a seizure.  Basically, we got a pleasant little neighborhood that, not so eventually, becomes not so pleasant.  We got a teenager named Gustav and the girl across the street that he spies on with binoculars called Sonya.  Gustav has a young sister.  I forgot her name but she's always looking for her bunny (I think it was called Ninus, my notes are unclear).  Little sister loses a tooth.  This factors in later.  Anyway, things start happening; sirens escalate, old men die while watching television, then disappear, the newscasts become increasingly ominous (although that's nothing too alarming these days), guy gets hit by a car and is clearly dead but the ambulance keeps speeding by as bystanders flag it down, etc.  Also, there's a dead deer in here somewhere.

I loved all this set up.  A family trying to go about their day-to-day business as the world around them starts to crumble.  Military guys in hazmat suits show up.  The neighborhood gets quarantined.  People get sick and then they disappear.  The military might show up at your back patio door and ask to inspect your open mouth through the other side of glass.  Experts on the news refuse to comment on how many people have died.  Everything will be fine, just wash your hands the proper way, etc.  Shit, I forget...hot water?  Do I pat my hands or firmly rub them into the towel?  Fuck, hand dryers are right out these days, aren't they?  Where's the PURELL?

This was a good one, almost a great one, and then it became like that stuff in Twenty Eight Weeks Later when the military leaves and lets the people fend for themselves.  It became pretty standard shit is what I'm saying.  Well done standard shit but still standard shit.   A clear nod is given to Night of the Living Dead with the little girl (the one searching for her bunny -- am I misremembering this bunny stuff?) and then reconvening with her mother and father.  Then the end title flashed on the screen and it was, once again, seizure time.

October 28, 2018
Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
viewed on: VOD

I'm shocked to be writing this but this might be the best picture in this particular block.  Or, well...It's hard to say it's better than Vampyr (up next -- 1932, so it's a classic, right) or even Halloween (2018) but it fucked me up more than any of them.  First thing I did after watching this was put black tape over the camera on my laptop.  Those fuckers can deactivate the little green light, apparently.  They see everything, man.

This is the story of a young man (Matias) who "borrows" (he stole it) a laptop from the internet cafe that's supposedly been sitting in lost and found for weeks.  My guess, it was there for a day.  He logs in (this whole movie takes place on his screen) and immediately starts to replace the autofills on all the popular sites (Facebook, Spotify, Skype, YouPorn, etc).  He then connects with his deaf girlfriend (her name is Amaya) but she's annoyed because he hasn't been going to his ASL classes (his plan, apparently, was to get a faster computer so he could download some apps that would improve their communication -- he's lazy, I respect that).  While this "conversation" is going on, he skypes with the gang (we got Lex -- musician, I think, AJ -- liberal Alex Jones, Nari & Serena -- newly engaged couple, Damon -- British, so smart, and maybe etc...or, no, that's it).  It's game night.

So, they play Cards against Humanities or some shit, while Matias tries to reconcile with Amaya and then the laptop's owner messages Matias (he accidentally opened the Facebook with the wrong log-in) and things spiral out of control.  It's called Unfriended: Dark Web so if you guessed some silk road shit that involves an anonymous group of 1%ers bidding on girls, having them kidnapped and then, possibly (I won't spoil it fully) murdered for their enjoyment (and large sums of bitcoin) you'd be close to on the money.  I started out hating every character in this thing (again, we only see them on Matias' screen) and then a funny thing happened.  I started to fucking like them.  Even AJ.  So, what happens to them actually matters.  The tension building in this thing, while maybe not ingenious, is at least really fucking smart.  After it was over, I sat up, went to bed, and didn't even open my laptop which is like a fucking ritual over here.  Shit man, I don't even remember the first Unfriended.  In fact, I was thinking about it the other day and confused it with Friend Request, which is a complete piece of shit.  So, this movie?  Shockingly good.

October 29, 2018
Vampyr (1932)
viewed on: theatrical (Avon Cinema, Providence)

Almost home.  I never thought watching a movie a day would take this much of a toll on me.  It's the ultimate passive sport.  I haven't been to the gym in two weeks.   It's not even the watching and jotting down a couple notes.  I also have to cook dinner and I prefer to be in bed by 9.  I've been staying up until 11 or...gasp....11:30 this month.  Then there's a night where you decide to catch a screening at the Avon Cinema in Providence of a 1932 French-German coproduction of Vampyr (I can't imagine French and Germany having many coproductions in the years to come), put on by the good folks of Magic Lantern Cinema.  And, it was free.

First thought.  Shit, the Avon is incredible.  A throwback to a bygone era.  I've been searching for something to replace the Brattle since I moved because, let's be honest, the hour drive back to Cambridge is...a chore.  The Avon is a classic (beautifully curtained and lit) single screen theater, great for creature feature doubles (I need to contact the programmer).

I'll be honest here, for a moment.  Seeing a black and white, 1932, foreign language, plenty of text on the screen (damn it was almost silent) film on a Monday night at 9pm is not very conducive to my staying awake.  Thankfully, I only nodded out a couple time and was nudged awake by the kindly friend sitting next to me.  What we got here is something which, while somewhat tame now, must have felt revolutionary back in its time.  Allan Gray (he's the main guy) stumbles upon an isolated Inn looking for a bed.  What we don't got here is the gothic trappings usually associated with vampire pictures (and let's be honest, Tod Browning's Dracula came out a year earlier -- ok, ok, Nosferatu came out ten years earlier, but that shit ain't really gothic either -- but I don't think any influence can be found here).  This thing is near psychedelic.  There's certainly a vampire (an old woman) and some dastardly ministers of evil (an Einstein looking mother fucker and some guy with a peg leg).  There's a sickly bed ridden young woman (think Lucy) and there are stakes and coffins.  But, really, what the fuck?

Immediately upon arrival, Alan is wide-eyed at the sights.  There's the shadow of a soldier that he follows.  The shadow then arrives at a bench where he sits next to...a soldier....the very soldier the shadow is a shadow of.  I wasn't sure where they were going with this so I probably nodded out at this point.  If this movie were to be remade today it would probably resemble something like The Apostle (also watched this month) where Alan stumbles upon an isolated community, gets drawn into their shenanigans and then dies, gets placed into a coffin with a window (so he can see out, of course) and then gets carried around the town in what I'm pretty sure is an iconic moment (this movie has many iconic images, including the weird guy with the scythe down by the river).  Also, this is nothing like The Apostle.  There's a wonderful, and horrific, set piece that I saw evoked 50 years later (Witness) where a character gets buried by grains in a mill.  What I liked most about this film is the helping to establish vampire rules. Again, we got stakes.  We got coffins, but I don't think the vampire sleeps too much in them.  There's the whole blood thing.  And then there's the thing where characters get stuck between the dead and the living and sit next to themselves on benches, etc, get replicated, and triplicated before walking pretty girls to the relative safety that exists on the other side of a forest.  I'm not sure if that rule stuck.  Excellent film.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Schlocktober Fest 2018, Vol. VI

October 20, 2018
The Witch in the Window (2018)
viewed on: Shudder

This story opens with a desperate mother trying to protect her young son from the horrors of the world (he apparently stumbled upon some particular brand of nastiness online) by sending him off to spend time with her ex-husband in the country.  Since the movie opens in NYC, we can infer that "country" is Vermont.  Off they go to the land of "what's that smell?"  It's the fresh air...or it's the cow shit.  This felt like a Lifetime movie, for men.  Father and son get to reconnect while fixing up a house that the father bought that he's totally not planning on flipping.  Also, father reveals he has a hole in his heart at one point.  I can't imagine that will come up again.  Oh, and there's a ghost in the house.   The ghost of a woman that, while alive, used to live in the house and sit up in a cozy chair looking out the window for hours, days even, at a time.  No normal person stares out a window for hours, days even?  Maybe we should check on her, one of the boys (now the town electrician) might say.  Yeah, she was dead for days, in that chair.  This was 25 to 30 years ago.  The house has been sitting vacant that entire time and now here come some city folk (father and son) to restore and then flip the house, which is a very city like thing to do.

We got one (interesting-ish) idea proposed by this movie involving those magic art paintings.  You know, the paintings that if you stare at them long enough, and relax or focus (or de-focus) your eyes in just the right way the image will reveal itself?  I could never figure those paintings out.  Fuck it, I hate them.  Knocked the movie down a peg or two for me.  Anyway, the idea being that the ghost realm is the same way.  So, next time you're wandering a haunted house at night take this little tidbit of knowledge into account.  Back to this ghost, her name's Lydia.  I wasn't sure what her plan was other than to maybe not be so alone.  She just wants company.  There's a funny bit involving the son being sent home by bus and then reappearing (spoiler: it's Lydia in troubled boy form) and helping pops restore the house.  They make a day of it, clearing out 2X4s, knocking out drywall, shoveling stuff, etc.  A whole day of laughing and talking and working.  Then she reveals herself.  What was that all about?  This was a decent picture.  The performances were pretty good.  Believable father-son interactions and not-quite-as-believable father-ghost stuff.

October 21, 2018
Born of Fire (1987)
viewed on: Amazon Prime

Born of Fire is the story of a master flautist who wants to use his flauting powers to destroy the world, with fire, and the somewhat lesser master flautist who plans to stop him with his own brand of flauting skills.  This is the type of picture you might go a lifetime without stumbling upon and then, on your deathbed, totally lament the fact that no one made such a picture (only they did, you just missed it).  I loved this one.  It's like if The Exorcist II had actually been watchable.  The movie opens in England somewhere, then jumps to Turkey and a flautist's search for his father who, I guess, may or may not have been a master flautist.  He's followed by a female astronomer who is never properly named in the picture.  At first, I figured I just missed her name as I'm easily distracted but, no, it's right there in the credits.  She was billed as "woman".  She was a main character!  Why not at least bill her as her occupation?  Astronomer (to be fair, she said "astronomer" but she seemed more "astrologer" to me).

Anyway, come to think of it, I can't even remember the flautist's name.  I think it was maybe Carl?  Carl has a brother, unknown to him until her reaches these mystical caves in Turkey (where 90% of the movie is set), simply named "the silent one".  Also, he was born deformed and is now heavily bearded.  He doesn't talk.  He's....adorable?  Eventually, we see this master flautist and, fuck, is he a sight to behold.  He's all albino like with flames shooting out of his eyes.  He plays the flute well.  If you didn't think this picture would end with a flute battle you would be mistaken.  Along the way, we get lots of fire, possession stuff, snake woman sexy stuff, magical pregnancies, human sized larvae birthing, and some of the best visuals from an 80s movie I had previously never heard of until this week.  I was an impressionable lad.  I would have taken up the flute if I had seen this upon release.

October, 22 2018
The Power (1984)
viewed on: Amazon Prime

I made a mistake and doubled down on 80s movies I had previously never heard of by watching this mostly piece of shit.  Here's the good; 84 minutes padded out by a ten minute opening credits sequence that is simply cheap piano music with white credits on black screen.  The picture opens with a guy giving a lecture on ancient idols or some type of shit like that.  It's a poorly lit classroom in a poorly lit movie.  I would have fallen asleep.  After class, the professor is met by his former friend Matthew where they discuss a particular idol.  Then the professor becomes possessed and then impaled.  Or, wait, the professor was named Matthew, I think.  The old friend was named Francis.  Post impaling, Francis travels to a site in Mexico and then I think he got impaled.  Maybe it was Central America.  A few shootings, perhaps another impaling or two and the story mercifully becomes about what it's going to be about.  A bunch of high school students ouija-ing the shit out of stuff.  Also, there's a newsroom drama in here somewhere ("woman killed by legions of killer bees, now that's a story.  Always report the facts.")  Halfway through this thing everyone was still pretty anonymous to me.  We even have a second Matthew character.  He barely factors in except to confuse this viewer.

Watching this picture so soon after "Born of Fire" it's evident that some filmmakers are good and some are not good.  My favorite scene involved Jerry becoming possessed and trying to shove his girlfriend's hand in the garbage disposal.  Also, I had to wonder, who the fuck is Jerry?  This was close to the end of the picture.  It all came down to whoever holds the amulet holds the power and then I finally understood the title of this picture.  Jerry was "The Power" all along.  Ahhhh, I finally get it.  Cut to "3 Years Later" in a library.....I don't know, who gives a shit?  Perhaps if this had been a professionally lit film I may have followed along or understood what was happening, who anyone was, etc.

October 23, 2018
The Phantom of the Opera (1943)
viewed on: physical media

Here's a classic I suppose.  A classic, beautifully lit film about an orchestral violinist (Claude Rains -- also, The Invisible Man) that gets fired from the orchestra, has his opera stolen, gets acid thrown in his face (his origin story is 30 minutes of a 90 minute picture) and then spends the remaining run-time stalking and slashing in-and-out of the catacombs beneath a beautiful, French opera house.  The cast of characters includes this guy with mustache, that guy with mustache, and one guy that had mustache burned off with acid (I assume, forgot what he looked like pre-acid).  The first thing I noticed about this movie was boy, what a classy score.  A period appropriate, full orchestral affair.  It would be pretty strange if they went minimal ping ping piano music for something with "opera" in the title.   Second thing I noticed was "shit, this might be an actual opera" and "fuck, they took the title literally".  There's a lot of singing in this movie.  A lot of operatic set pieces involving the opera within the movie.  I was fine with it but, for a horror movie, there's very little horror going on.  Maybe ten out of ninety minutes of this picture could be considered actual horror.

Anyway, we got main girl, Christine Dubois.  She's the understudy that Phantom takes a liking to, tries to get her into the main role.  In the main role, Madame Bank-a-rolly (this is how it's pronounced, not sure of the spelling).  She's not a very good human being, in this viewer's non judge-y opinion, but probably not deserving of what the Phantom has in store for her.  Back to the mustached guys.  One was named Anatoli.  He's in love with Christine.  There's another guy named Verner, money-ed mustached guy behind the desk.  He fired Phantom in the beginning.  There's Raul, another mustached guy in love with Christine.  Shit, it's like a war movie at times in the not being able to tell these guys apart, kind of way.  Along the way, we've got horses on stage, opera singing, garish colors, garish stage sets, curtain climbing, stage collapses, a too-well-tuned piano in Phantom's lair, more opera singing, light horror stuff, and a bunch of French guys in mustaches.  Two stars.

October 24, 2018
Tales of Halloween (2015)
viewed on: Netflix

Horror really lends itself to the anthology more than any other genre.  You really don't need the proper feature length build up to generate genuine scares.  Anyway, here's a good one with contributions from directors I've actually heard of.  At 90 minutes long and with 10 stories (the wrap around, involving Adrienne Barbeau's DJ character from The Fog, makes its appearance in most of the stories but really isn't a traditional wrap-around).  Shockingly, Lalo Schifrin (Mission Impossible theme) does the main theme, probably because his son Ryan (I have no idea if that's their real relationship) directs one of the stories.

Sweet Tooth
Short and....sweet.  Halloween night.  A young kid returns home to devour his spoils.  His babysitter and her boyfriend make out on the couch some and then regale the poor lad with the ol' urban legend involving Sweet Tooth, a young kid who would return home from trick or treating every year only to be sent off to bed while his parents destroyed his treats (by eating them).  Well, one year, the little kid has had enough.  He comes downstairs, catches his parents in the act (by act I mean engaging in some sort of sexually charged candy fest), murders them and proceeds to eat all the candy (by "all" I mean all the candy they didn't eat and all the candy the did eat).

Is Sweet Tooth real or just a story to keep already terrified kids submissive?  It's a hit.

The Night Billy Raised Hell
This one kinda sucked.  Thankfully, it's only a few minutes.  A young trick or treater goes on a rampage of fast food, and looney-tunes mayhem with the devil that lives next door.   By the time you return to your seat with a fresh beer this one will be wrapping up.  Miss.

Throughout these stories the characters are watching Night of the Living Dead.  I like that.  Between Barbeau on the radio and the same movie on all the television sets it really gives you the impression it's all happening at the same time.  Anyway, here's a story about a bunch of twenty somethings drinking and smoking weed before getting massacred by a bunch of killer kids.  Hit.

The Weak & The Wicked
Have you ever seen that movie where a bunch of high school kids act like they're starring in Miller's Crossing and then they do bad things to each other?  This is like that only it's like a spaghetti western and there's a demon at the end.  Also, I'm starting to get the idea this movie isn't going to be very...diverse.  Semi-hit.

Grim Grinning Ghost
A young woman leaves her mom's paranormal party, drives home, listens to some Barbeau and then gets stalked by a ghost that was talked about at the party.  Features some cool shadowy stuff, but mostly just a miss.

Ding Dong
Here's a fucked up little gem directed by Lucky Mckee (hey, I've heard of him).  Jack and Bobbi (Bobbi with an i, so female) are home last halloween.  Jack is pretty meek.  They sit around lamenting that they can't have children of their own.  Jack dresses their dog up like Gretel.  Bobbi rages.  Cut to next Halloween (i.e., tonight).  This time, Jack is dressed up like Hansel.  There's a great montage of Jack and Bobbi handing out candy to kids (with Bobbi dressed as the witch).  Bobbi scares the kids by pulling Gretel's pig tail out of her mouth with piece of scalp attached.  Then we get oven stuff.  Hit.

This Means War
This one does a good job of illustrating the generation gap between Boomer horror and 80-90s metal influenced horror.  We got the old guy who uses quaint, spooky sets (skeleton, cauldrons, etc) and the young guy across the street decked out with leather and ordering all the gory shit from eBay.  Eventually, this one escalates to all out brawl.  Short (they're all short!), fun, and turn that fucking music down, punk.  I'm with old guy.  Side-al hit.

Friday the 31st
At this point, I started checking my watch.  I was enjoying it enough but, damn, too many shorts.  I was missing the character development and set piece build up that 20 minutes would allow.  These were all set pieces, no build up.  Here's take on slasher villains that felt vaguely original. Girl gets stalked and slashed by a Jason Voorhees looking motherfucker.  Alien lands after the slashing, gets squished by poor man's Jason (so, Victor Crowley), then squished alien possesses the dead girl, Evil Dead style.  Tables are turned and now Jason is running for his life.  Anyway, some sweet and terrible practical effects.  Then the UFO flies through the sky in the next episode (I feel like all this connective tissue stuff was added in post production).  Moderate hit.

The Ransom of Rusty Rex 
Here's the Ryan Schifrin episode.  I think Leonard Maltin was in it?  Or was that John Landis?  Anyway, a couple of kidnappers get more than they bargained for when they attempt to ransom Landis-Maltin's weird son-thing.  It was sorta funny, I guess.  I'm starting to think I should have written about the one or two stories I really liked.  Moderate miss.

Bad Seed (Neil Marshall)
Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent, some Game of Thrones episodes) directs the last story about a pumpkin that eats people and the cop on its trail.  No idea how this pumpkin becomes sentient or grows teeth or gains an appetite for human flesh.  A 9 minute run time doesn't really allow you the opportunity to develop this stuff.  Anyway, we got lots of cop movie cliches (including getting dressed down by the captain) plus the pumpkin moves like a crite.  It was fine, ends with some X-Files type conspiracy stuff and then Barbeau chimes in with "the witching hour is over".  I might be done with anthologies for a while.  Side-al hit?  S-hit?