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?

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