Don’t Breathe

I’m back and I’m reviewing this summer’s most talked-about thriller, Don’t Breathe directed by Fede Alvarez. This is probably going to be my last hurrah since school starts in two days, I’m still working, and I’m officially on-call to work on my clinicals for mortuary school. I’m glad I got to see an amazing movie before my nose is back to the grindstone.
Before I start the review, I’d like to give a shout-out to Otto’s Tacos at 141 Second Ave. in New York City. I went there for post-movie tacos and churros with my best friend. The shrimp tacos were outstanding. There was a problem with our order of churros so they gave us a fresh order with extras. I was not expecting this many churros! The staff was nice and the food was great without being pricey so if you want good tacos on the east side then go to Otto’s.

We were expecting two or three churros but got a damn basket full of them.

We were expecting two or three churros but got a damn basket full of them.

I saw this poster at the movie theater (City Cinemas Village East, a really swell little theater) but there’s another one I’d rather discuss.

Can we take a moment to discuss this poster?

I know I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to poster design, but the late 1990s into the early 2000s were such a dead zone for poster design. I love Wes Craven but I wonder if it’s something to do with the movie Scream because that movie had the famous poster with the super-closeup of the character’s face and suddenly every movie poster was like that. Now, this poster is the kind where you can learn something about the movie instead of just telling you who it stars. I wonder if filmmakers who are close to my age (Fede Alvarez is five years older than me) remember how great poster and VHS artwork were in the 80s and are emulating that style. This poster looks like the kind of movie you’d choose at the rental store and you’d have to bargain with your mom before she let you rent it.
I also realized the poster reminded me of something but it took me a couple of days to put two and two together. It’s very similar to the poster for another Wes Craven flick, The People Under the Stairs.

Incidentally, this is also a movie about poor people robbing rich people although I have a lot more sympathy for the robbers in The People Under the Stairs. In Don’t Breathe, Rocky (Jane Levy from Alvarez’s remake of Evil Dead), Money (Daniel Zovatto), and Alex (Dylan Minnette) rob rich people using information and keys that Alex gets from his father’s home security company. Rocky wants to run away with her sister from her family who are one step away from being Rob Zombie movie awful. They think they’ve found an easy score with nameless Blind Man (Stephen Lang), a blind veteran with a large settlement from his daughter’s wrongful death. Unfortunately for them, the Blind Man is physically formidable, smart, and mentally unhinged. Also, the Blind Man’s house is like Jame Gumb’s house if Jame Gumb cared less about couture and more about death traps. I can’t really say more about the story without giving away major spoilers.
Now, for those who are unfamiliar, The People Under the Stairs follows the protagonist named Fool. His mother has cancer and his family has just been evicted from their apartment by their slumlord landlords. Like in Don’t Breathe, Fool and his sister’s boyfriend decide to rob their landlord’s house because they supposedly have a stash of gold. I have greater sympathy for Fool because the stakes are so much higher for him. His mother is dying, their apartment is no longer theirs, and it’s not like he can just go out and get a job. I have a harder time mustering sympathy for the protagonists in Don’t Breathe, especially Alex. Alex’s character acts morally superior but he’s betraying his own father with every heist. At least Money is forthright about what they’re doing.
The movie was incredibly tense. It felt much quicker than its full length because I was so fully engaged with it. The cinematography was intense, especially when the gang first breaks into the Blind Man’s house. It captured how disorienting it must have been to be in this stranger’s house.
The music accented the action well and was actually quite beautiful while maintaining the tension. Plus, there were very few musical jump scares which is nice.
The visual effects were nice and very different-looking from the ones used in Evil Dead. Don’t let anyone say that Alvarez is a one trick pony. The makeup on Stephen Lang was also quite good, his scars and eyes looked painful but subtle.
The fight scenes were brutal and intense. One scene in particular gripped me, after the Blind Man discovers the gang in his house. He just starts punching the wall and that’s when you realize that he’s not just prepared to defend his home, he’s full of rage. I also liked a sequence in the basement after the Blind Man cuts the lights on the gang. What’s hunting someone in the dark to him? He already lives in the dark. The sequence definitely owes a bit to one of my favorite scenes in The Silence of the Lambs.

I like movies that make me think about the characters and ask questions about their lives. The Blind Man is such a compelling character for someone who doesn’t even have a name. Think about this, we’re given a clue to his daughter’s name (“Emma” is written on a wall in a bedroom in his house), but it’s like this guy is so forgotten by society that he doesn’t even get a name. Make no mistake, he does absolutely monstrous things that I won’t discuss because that is spoiler-heavy. But, at one point he had a family and people who loved him and that he loved. Where’s his wife? Does he have no friends left? Society has failed everyone in this movie but especially the Blind Man. People don’t just wake up monsters. I was actually so sad for him when I noticed that his daughter’s picture was upside down in one scene.
For me, there were two weak points. One was Money’s dialog. It didn’t sound convincing. I live in a neighborhood that isn’t as blighted as the Blind Man’s but is still pretty awful (A really bad major city in New Jersey). His dialog sounded the way people who aren’t from the hood think people in the hood talk.
The other weak point was this quirk with the cinematography. The camera would pan, then stop and focus on an object for slightly longer than necessary. Then you’d see the object come into play in a later scene. It was like this; “Pan across a workbench. Stop and focus on a hammer and hold for five seconds.” It was like being in a video game when an object is slightly highlighted so you know that Lara Croft can use it to solve an Incan puzzle. It was jarring and took me out of the moment.
What makes up for these issues are the actors’ performances. They were all believable. Jane Levy is put through the ringer (again after Evil Dead) but she makes a formidable Final Girl. Despite my criticism of the characters and dialog, Daniel Zovatto and Dylan Minnette bring a sincerity to their roles. They could have gone for stereotypes but didn’t. Stephen Lang brings a brutal gravitas to the role. A lesser actor could have dismissed the character and made it a cookie-cutter horror role. Here’s a quote from his recent Reddit AMA;

First thing in research is looking at behavior. You can find blind people doing extremely extraordinary things on the internet – jumping out of planes, driving cars, doing sculpture. It’s not what I was going to be doing but it makes you wonder – one can perceive blindness as a tremendous disability or explore all the different ways one can excel at being blind. I threw that into my internal mix, conceiving working through the phases of despair and self pity after his combat injuries, to work through that and arrive at a place of resilience and forward progress where he decides to not only survive but to assert himself. That was a great thing to learn. Many things contributed to the role, and it was very important to me to be familiar with the geography of my home. Moving through the house with speed and economy and confidence I was able to establish my sense of mastery over my own universe – which is vital – the king of the darkness as it were.

I’ve seen the Blind Man compared to the shark from Jaws but I think that Michael Myers is a better comparison. You can stab Michael Myers with a knitting needle, a knife, and a coat hanger, and then you can have Dr. Loomis shoot him six times but he always comes back. So does the Blind Man.
Do I recommend this movie? I do, it was an interesting, unique thriller. Honestly, my best friend and I guessed what the twist was going to be and we were right. But I’ve also watched and written about 231 horror movies, so that’s probably just my familiarity with the genre and not a reflection on the movie.
When people find out that I love the horror genre, the number one complaint I hear is “Nothing new is being made!” Well, this is new and unique. There are many compelling new horror films being released but people might just be looking for them in the wrong places.
If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss it, feel free to do so in the comments. If you haven’t seen this movie then don’t read below this point.

Posted in 21st century, crime, psychological, things involving me, thriller | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Why do I do this to myself? If you know me, then you know that my relationship with Pinhead is complicated. He scares me but I respect his swagger. I really got lucky with this movie, then, since Pinhead has maybe fifteen minutes of screen time.
This sequel to the original Hellraiser is directed by Tony Randel with Clive Barker staying on as executive producer. If this movie had a theme, I’d say it was the banality of evil because the bad guys in this movie are so dang banal.
The movie starts with a two-minute flashback that I call “Pinhead: Origins.” An army guy (that I only know is Elliot Spencer because I’m familiar with the Hellraiser universe, I don’t think we even hear his name in the movie for over an hour; Doug Bradley plays Elliot Spencer and Pinhead) solves the Lament Configuration (Fancy name for the Rubik’s Cube O’ Death) and we see a quick montage of him becoming Pinhead.
Then forget that you saw that because we’re back in the present. It’s right after the events of the last movie and Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) is in a mental hospital after telling her account of what happened to her dad, stepmother, and uncle.
She begs Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) and his assistant, Kyle (William Hope, who played Gorman in Aliens to destroy the mattress that her stepmother Julia (Clare Higgins) died on.

Dr. Channard

Dr. Channard

It seems like Dr. Channard doesn’t believe Kirsty but he’s actually been searching for a way to solve the Lament Configuration. Why? Who knows. He says it’s to understand. It seems like he wants to understand consciousness and death but opening an S&M torture hell dimension seems a little extreme. This is a problem the movie has, the character’s motivations never seem clear. At one point, reanimated Julia dubs herself the Evil Queen, but why? What is she even working towards?
Dr. Channard runs home and summons Julia from the beyond pretty quickly. Like Uncle Frank in the last movie, it just takes some blood. Julia shows up in a much more complete state, just missing her skin. The effects with the body horror really shine, even if they suffer the same jerky stop motion in other sequences. The body horror is top-notch.
Meanwhile, Kirsty is receiving Hell-o-grams that her dad is trapped in Hell and is as skinless as a Lean Cuisine chicken dinner.
Luckily, Kyle has witnessed Julia’s return and realizes that Kirsty was telling the truth. Dr. Channard falls for Julia pretty immediately, despite her utter lack of skin and clearly being evil.
This is what I mean about the banality of evil with these characters. They’re motivated to total, unrepentant evil, over the littlest things. At least Voldemort had a master plan and wasn’t just thinking with his Voldepenis.
Kyle springs Kirsty from the hospital and he discovers that Julia’s been feeding on patients that Dr. Channard has provided. Julia dispatches Kyle and attacks Kirsty. When Kirsty wakes up, she finds another patient, Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), who’s obsessed with puzzles, solving the Lament Configuration.
The Female Cenobite (Barbie Wilde) is all for claiming Tiffany but Pinhead is all, “No! It’s not the hands that summon, it’s desire.” So there is a kind of logic to the universe, I appreciate that. Also, this doesn’t happen until 51 minutes into the movie. For almost an hour, this is the Julia and Channard Show. Apparently, Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 was commissioned within a week of the original Hellraiser being released. But Clare Higgins didn’t want to return as Julia and the filmmakers realized how popular Pinhead was. Hellbound was supposed to have the last appearance of Pinhead. Thank goodness they changed this, since Julia’s desires are just so petty, and I find Pinhead to be much more interesting. I’ll continue to watch Hellraiser movies, even though Pinhead scares me, if I can learn more about his origins.
Kirsty enters hell to try to find her father, and Tiffany is wandering in this fantastic, circus-like hellscape. There’s a clown juggling eyeballs and a baby sewing its own eyelids shut. The scene has this jarring, dissonant music that’s just great. I’d post pics but Netflix sent me a funky DVD and I had to switch from my computer’s player to my DVD player. So no screencaps of this really cool scene, just trust me, it was one of my favorites and terribly creepy.
Dr. Channard and Julia are wandering in his quest for knowledge with absolutely no further explanation of what he wants aside from sex with Julia, who’s lost her power mullet from the first movie.
But this is Julia and she’s eternally devious and was just looking for a soul to give to Leviathan, who I guess is the big bad of the dimension. Dr. Channard is taken by this human-sized puzzle box and for a brief moment looks like this Francis Bacon painting, “Figure with Meat.” I guess those art history classes weren’t pointless.

Meanwhile, Kirsty has found her dad’s house but Uncle Frank is really there. He tricked Kirsty because his torment is being surrounded by beautiful women but being unable to have sex. Reeeeeeeally? That’s his torment? How did he even get through high school… Julia saves Kirsty by destroying Frank, not out of any affection, mind you, but in revenge for Frank stabbing her.
You think Dr. Channard is dead but it looks like he’s become Pinhead Two: Electric Boogaloo and he’s ridiculous. He has these worm penis-things coming from his hands and he has this biomechanical robotic penis coming from his head. The worst part? He somehow kills all the Cenobites. There’s something so pathetic watching Pinhead die, although I suspect he wouldn’t have died if Kirsty hadn’t reminded him of his mortal identity.
Julia loses her skin. Literally, it comes off like taking off rubber gloves. Kirsty is out of commission and Channard is advancing on Tiffany when Julia shows up again, looking a little worse for the wear. They kiss and it’s an uncomfortably long scene, seriously, it’s about two minutes long. Tiffany solves the puzzle box that’s been bouncing around and it turns out that that wasn’t Julia at all. Kirsty put on Julia’s damn nasty skin to save herself and Tiffany. The two-minute long kiss bought them time. Solving the puzzle box kills Dr. Channard and they return home.
But that damn mattress is there and a workman emptying Channard’s house gets sucked into it. Would someone please, PLEASE, just destroy the murder mattress?
My favorite part of this movie? Kirsty Cotton. Nancy Thompson and Laurie Strode get a lot of attention as final girls but I think Kirsty is so resourceful, especially for someone facing the actual powers of Hell.
I’m pretty scathing in this recap and I know this is going to upset some horror fans but I stand by what I said. While the effects were good (Some of them. A lot suffered from the stop-motion scorpion demon effect from the first movie, especially the penis worm hands) the plot was muddled and the character’s motivations were mostly unclear, especially regarding the bad guys. The performances of the baddies were good but I just couldn’t care about anything they wanted. I love Clive Barker’s writing but this movie is a mixed bag. Just because something is considered iconic doesn’t mean it’s good. I only recommend this movie if you’re a Hellraiser completist. I’m a completist so there’s a good possibility that I’ll watch the whole damn series, no matter how terrible it becomes. I expect my suffering will be legendary, even for hell.

Posted in 1980's, body horror, demons, famous movie monsters | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

An Ode to Barbara from “Stranger Things”

Stranger Things debuted when I was mired in finals so I didn’t have a time to watch it when it first came out. So I’ve been binge-watching it now and finally finished it yesterday. Surprise, surprise, I love it!
The music is perfect, the performances are strong, and the story is spooky. On a level, I know I’m being pandered to based on my nostalgia for media from the 80s but I don’t even care because the attention paid to the details makes it worthwhile.
Things are going to get spoiler-ish from here on out so stop reading now if you don’t want things to be spoiled.
Stop now!
I’m here to talk about my favorite character, who I wish we’d seen in more than two episodes, Barbara “Barb” Holland (Shannon Purser).
Barbara is Nancy Wheeler’s (Natalia Dyer) best friend. She’s loyal to her friend but isn’t afraid to call her out when she does stupid things, like hanging out with a gang of jerks because they’re popular.
Stranger Things follows a group of misfits and obviously appeals strongly to the misfit demographic. Maybe that’s why Barbara appeals so strongly to fans?
She’s older than the group of boys the show follows. And she clearly doesn’t care what people think of her, but she still hurts when she’s rejected by her friend. At least Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin have each other when things get rough. Barb’s at that age where you watch the people you know become popular and you’re just kind of left behind.
Barb sitting alone on a diving board is all of us who ever went to a party, against our better judgment, and hated every minute of it, but really hoped this time would be different, that this time we’d fit in. Oh, Barb, I’d probably accidentally cut myself with a bottle-opener too.
I really wanted Barb to survive the Upside Down, I wanted her to be a fierce final girl. She tried but she wasn’t.
Barb, you deserved better.

Posted in 1980's, 21st century, supernatural, tv | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Predator (1987)

I’m back after a hiatus where I switched jobs and finished another semester at mortuary school. I chose a movie to watch for fun and ended up with the 80s action flick Predator in my continuing effort to catch up with the movies of the 80s.
“But Predator isn’t horror?!” I hear you say. One, why do you have to be that way? Two, like the song (Only 1000% less rapey) I like the lines blurred in horror. My favorite movie is The Silence of the Lambs, and I will argue anyone to the death that a movie about a serial killer skinning chubby women and keeping them in a well is absolutely horror, along with thriller, and police-procedural. Horror that mixes genres is 1000% better, like adding peanut butter to chocolate.
This movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dutch, the leader of an elite special forces unit trying to find missing hostages in Central America.
Fun fact for my non-American readers; this movie spawned not one, but TWO state governors. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor of California and Jesse Ventura was the governor of Minnesota. What a time to be alive!

Dutch and his team finds a group of skinned corpses and realize the mission may not be as straightforward as it seems.
That’s basically the plot, it’s really not complicated. The Predator picks off the team, one by one, until Dutch is the last one standing. It’s like a slasher but the victims are men instead of teenage girls and it’s in the jungle, not a house.
Like Jaws, the viewer doesn’t see Predator a lot, at least until the end. This is a smart move to build suspense and hide any deficiencies in the costume (Although, we also owe a great debt to Stan Winston and James Cameron for the end design of Predator.)
What I liked about this movie was the choice to add shots from the Predator’s point-of-view with the thermal imaging. It creates this flat, claustrophobic effect similar to the end of The Silence of the Lambs.
What I appreciate about this movie is the surprising wit and one-liners. Maybe it’s because my movie-watching habits came of age with the works of Joss Whedon and the pun-loving Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I love a hero that’s witty. Watch Dutch tell a rebel soldier to stick around.

For me, the interesting part about Predator is how it endures in pop culture. Check out this scene from the “Modern Warfare” episode of Community.

Posted in 1980's, action, aliens, creatures, famous movie monsters | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Body Bags

Man, oh man, do I have some serious love for the 1993 anthology flick, Body Bags, directed by John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper, and starring John Carpenter as the creepy coroner who bookends the stories. John Carpenter also did the music with Jim Lang, so we’re treated to his awesome synth music.
This movie brings just the right balance of gore and funny and, with its many cameos, is like a gift to horror fans.
“The Gas Station”
Alex Datcher stars as Anne, a college student working the overnight shift at a gas station in Haddonfield, Illinois.
That town has a killer problem. She deals with an assortment of weirdos, creepy devilish artwork in the bathroom, and the fact that a killer (Robert Carradine) is stalking her.
I think this might be my favorite segment. There is a legitimate sense of dread but it doesn’t have the brutality of “Eye.” Anne is a resourceful final girl and it’s delightful watching her take out the killer.
“Hair” is the funniest of the three segments. This segment was also directed by John Carpenter. Stacy Keach plays Richard Coberts, a middle-aged man who’s self-conscious about his thinning hair.
He sees an ad for a miracle hair thickening treatment and, voila! He has a long mane of masculine Fabio hair.
But there’s a price, as the hair doesn’t seem to stop growing and starts taking over the rest of his body.
There’s some great body horror in this segment, as we see hair coming out of wounds and eyes. Keach has a legitimately funny and sad performance as someone who’s so insecure and whose vanity has such bad consequences.
The last segment is directed by Tobe Hooper. Mark Hamill stars as Brent Mathews, a baseball player whose career is endangered when he’s in a car accident and loses an eye.
The Queen of Fashion, Twiggy, stars as his wife.
Luckily, Brent qualifies for a revolutionary eye transplant, courtesy of Drs. Bregman and Lang (Roger Corman! and B-movie mainstay John Agar).
Things get dark as Brent finds himself dreaming about killing women and having sex with them. Turns out the eye donor was an executed serial killer. Brent unravels and becomes more obsessed with killing women, including his wife.
This one was hard to watch. It had a distinctly different feel from the other segments. I’ve used the word “brutal” to describe it earlier and I think that’s accurate. You can feel Brent’s anger as he becomes more and more possessed and Mark Hamill really turns in a great performance as he goes crazy.
Apparently, this was supposed to be a Tales from the Crypt kind of the show but it wasn’t picked up so we’re just gifted with this little gem.
I’m not sure if this is on purpose but I was struck by the similarities between “Eye” and “Hair” and the “Hell Toupee” story in The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror IX,” when Homer gets a hair transplant from Snake after Snake is executed and starts acting like Snake.

I’m not sure if this was on purpose, I’ve only found some Simpsons-themed Wikipedia entries that mention it.
For me, one of the funnest things about this movie were the cameos. Sam Raimi and Sheena Easton had roles. There was also;
Greg Nicotero torments Stacy Keach with his luscious hair in "Hair."

Greg Nicotero torments Stacy Keach with his luscious hair in “Hair.”

Wes Craven in "The Gas Station."

Wes Craven in “The Gas Station.”

Tom Arnold and Tobe Hooper as morgue assistants.

Tom Arnold and Tobe Hooper as morgue assistants.

This movie is perfect for people who like their horror gross and liberally sprinkled with humor.

Posted in 1990's, aliens, anthology, body horror, comedy, possession, serial killers, slasher | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An American Werewolf in London

Hey guys. I’m back after a hiatus for school.
I’ve never really been into werewolves before. I just never really found them interesting until I read Harry Potter, really. I immediately liked Remus Lupin. He was kind to his students and managed to be funny and was probably the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher that wasn’t a secret Death Eater. I always imagine how awful it was for him to wake up on November 1st, 1981. He woke up that morning and found out that two of his best friends were dead, a third was presumed dead, and the fourth was responsible for all the deaths. Yet he still managed to have a positive and kind nature, unlike my favorite character, Snape.
I love the book version of Remus Lupin and I think that David Thewlis did a good job of portraying him but, damn, that movie transformation.

This is mainly why I’m not into werewolf movies. It’s just really rare that I see a screen werewolf that’s convincingly scary. Poor Remus, he deserves better than that mangy, skinny werewolf.
Another example–I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Oz is one of my favorite characters but werewolf Oz looks like a gorilla wearing a fruit-bat mask.

That’s my main complaint with werewolf media, I rarely feel scared by them. So I was really reluctant to give the John Landis production An American Werewolf in London a chance. I’ve been burned too often by cheesy werewolves. I’m really happy that I was wrong because this ended up being a thoroughly enjoyable movie.
David Naughton and Griffin Dunne play David and Jack, two college students backpacking across northern England. They seek shelter in The Slaughtered Lamb pub, a place packed full of Harbingers of Impending Doom.
They get lost in the moors and are soon attacked by a large animal. Jack dies and David is hospitalized in London. David begins to have visions of a decomposing Jack telling him that he’s now a werewolf and that victims of the werewolf’s curse survive in limbo after death. The only way to lift the curse is to kill the most recent werewolf.
These effects still look quite good, even after thirty-five years.

These effects still look quite good, even after thirty-five years.

The movie has several strengths.
It’s incredibly funny. I particularly like the scene where Jack and all of David’s victims are in the porno theater and trying to convince David to kill himself. It’s just a very funny scene in its Britishness, everyone is so damned polite except maybe the hobos.
David is a genuinely likable character. He has a a self-deprecating humor that’s nice and he seems like a genuinely nice guy, not an Urban Dictionary kind of nice guy. I’d actually say that can be applied to Remus Lupin and Oz as well. I can’t say that I’ve encountered a lot of unpleasant, gross werewolves. A movie focused on a character like Fenrir Greyback would be very different.
What makes the movie scary is seeing someone who’s genuinely good become a monster and the absolute horror of the transformation. Rick Baker, whose work we’ve seen in The Funhouse, It’s Alive, and Squirm, just really outdoes himself with David’s transformation.
The final result is scarier than I expected, it actually looks like a beast that could be dangerous.
For a movie that’s thirty-five years old, there’s quite a lot of male nudity. I’m not complaining at all. It’s weird how imbalanced it’s become all these years later, I’m speaking about the media in general. It’s very strange watching older movies that portray men and women healthily enjoying sex when the subject is so fraught and dysfunctional nowadays.
More specifically, the wolfman is inherently sexual since it’s a human struggling with his animal nature but portrayals over the last decade have become somewhat sexless. I haven’t read the Twilight series but I’m aware of Jacob, the Native American werewolf (Because stereotypes are fun!), imprinting on Renesmee when she’s an infant. This sort of bonding for life must seem ideal for a Mormon housewife. Remus Lupin spends most of his life terrified of infecting someone, lives a solitary life, and is horrified when he finds out what he did at the end of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He only pairs off reluctantly, never seems happy with Tonks, and spends a good part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows worrying whether his child will inherit his lycanthropy. Of the werewolves I’ve mentioned, Oz is the most sexual. He ends up leaving his girlfriend, Willow, after cheating on Willow with fellow werewolf, Veruca. After returning to Sunnydale when he’s learned to control his lycanthropy, he reverts to his wolf state when he smells Tara on Willow and realizes that Willow has had a sexual relationship with someone else. David as a werewolf is the sympathetic werewolf of modern times but he’s not the neutered werewolf of recent times.
If you’re looking for some fun and you happen to be in New York City, there is a pub based on The Slaughtered Lamb.
The pub in the movie.

The pub in the movie.

I spent a recent birthday at the Slaughtered Lamb pub on 4th St. and it was a load of fun. There’s a rotating werewolf on display and the drinks are good. My photos like my memory of that night are kind of a mess so here’s a picture of one of my birthday presents from that night and a werewolf foot.

Posted in 1980's, body horror, famous movie monsters, monsters, things involving me, werewolves | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Uninvited (1944)

I’m keeping up my trend of classy black-and-white ghost movies so you might want to straighten your monocles for 1944’s classic ghost movie The Uninvited.  Like my last entry, The Innocents, The Uninvited is consistently high ranked on critics’ top horror lists and is a known favorite of Guillermo del Toro.

It’s a very different movie from today’s haunted house movie.  It relies more on atmosphere and mood than on jump scares or gore.  So don’t watch this expecting to be scared the way you were during Insidious.  The vengeful ghost and huge creepy house actually reminded me more of The Changeling than anything else.

The movie is set in 1937 in Cornwall, England.  Brother and sister Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and Pamela Fitzgerald (Ruth Hussey) fall in love with Windward House.


They buy it for a suspiciously low price from Commander Beech (Donald Crisp).  If I’ve learned anything from ghost movies and Scooby-Doo it’s to always be suspicious of real-estate deals.  The only person not pleased with the deal is the Commander’s granddaughter, Stella Meredith (Gail Russel).


Stella grew up in the house and doesn’t want to lose it.  Stella ends up befriending Pamela and falls in love with Roderick.  By now, Pamela and Roderick have realized that something isn’t right with the house.  They’re awakened by the sound of a woman crying.  Their dog won’t go up the stairs.  Flowers wither in what was Stella’s father’s art studio and there’s a consistent dreary feeling.  Stella attributes the feelings to the ghost of her mother, Mary Meredith, who died by falling off of a cliff nearby.  Is the ghost Stella’s mother or is it her father’s model and mistress, Carmel, who died shortly after her mother?  They hold a seance, with Roderick hoping to resolve the issue and end Stella’s obsession with the house.  Roderick is clearly controlling the glass at first but they do make contact with one of the ghosts.


Commander Beech is disturbed by his granddaughter’s obsession with the house and sends her to Miss Halloway (Cornelia Otis Skinner), a friend of Stella’s mother.  It’s there that Pamela and Roderick discover the true nature of Stella’s mother and how Carmel really died.  I’m revealing nothing here, not because I believe in spoiler alerts for 72-year-old movies, but because it’s fun putting the pieces of the mystery together.

There are two things that really struck me about this movie.  First, was the creative use of lighting in the scenes.  Second, was how pretty gay Miss Halloway’s speech about.

Windward doesn’t have electricity in the movie so there’s the opportunity for lots of dramatically lit, spooky shots.



Now, Miss Halloway’s speech about Mary Meredith.  Miss Halloway runs a sanitorium and has a painting of Mary Meredith in her office.  She explains, “Mary was a goddess, her skin was radiant, and that bright, bright hair…The nights we sat talking in front of that fireplace, planning our whole lives.  It wasn’t flirtations and dresses we talked about.  We were no silly, giggling girls.  We intended to conquer the world.”  It’s so reminiscent of Mrs. Danvers’ obsession with Rebecca de Winter in Rebecca.  I thought it was just me with my modern sensibilities noticing this but people wrote letters to the censors when the movie first came out.  Oddly, the British censors were less concerned with the gay subtext and more concerned with the incredibly vague ghost.


The movie has an odd sense of humor that’s very refreshing.  I enjoyed the banter between Pamela and Roderick and think it keeps the movie grounded and from becoming melodrama.  This movie is definitely worth a view if you’re in the mood for a ghost story from a different era.  Plus, it’s left us with this creepy, beautiful song that was written for the movie and became a jazz standard, “Stella by Starlight.”

Posted in 1940's, classics, ghosts, psychological | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments