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.