It’s been a heck of a week folks. Not only is your erstwhile horror movie hostess dutifully making good on the challenge, but I’m also in pre-production on my horror movie short for film class right now. I’m excited…but exhausted. And running
close to past my deadline. So this week is going to be a bit different than past weeks: I’m going to give you the list of films I watched, but I’m only providing commentary for those that stick to the foreparts of my brain…and even then, only for first time views. If you want thoughts on others, let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to discuss!
Anyway, the list for the evening of October 5th through right now (early morning October 13th).
14. Exit Humanity
15. The Reef
16. The Shrine
18. The Reflecting Skin
19. Phantom of The Paradise
20. Midnight Son
22. Tale of Two Sisters
26. The Dunwich Horror
27. My Bloody Valentine (remake)
28. Little Shop of Horrors (musical version)
29. Rocky Horror Picture Show
True story: I skipped swimming classes the one summer I could’ve taken them as a child because I’d just seen Jaws and was absolutely terrified of the water. In fact, I’m still kind of terrified of it. The thing is, there are things in the water, and they’re much more comfortable there than I am. Heck, they’re much more comfortable there than Michael Phelps is. They’re fifty bajillion years worth of comfortable there, or something like that. Math and science aren’t really my strong points. Anyway, yeah, sea creatures scare me, and sharks especially, and The Reef is a pretty damned good shark movie. You should watch it.
Here’s a note to all potential horror filmmakers out there (myself included): If you cast an Ashmore brother in your movie, that movie will be good. Okay, ahem, moving on. The October Challenge, for me, is primarily about discovering something new and cool. I’ve always loved that about the horror genre; back in the day, I’d search all the little mom&pop video stores and devour everything in their horror section. I’d order the films of Todd Sheets and other grassroots filmmakers from the back pages of Fangoria magazine, always looking for that buried treasure. It was an adventure. These days, the excitement of discovery is largely absent…I love the internet, but it means everyone has seen everything and talked about it somewhere before I even have a chance to start looking. To some degree, that’s disappointing. Still, every once in a great while, I stumble onto something and am like, “where the fuck have you been? Where the fuck have I been?” The Shrine was one of those (maybe because of it’s totally bland title?), and like Blood Moon last year, may go down as my favorite unexpected thing of the month. Which immediately makes it one of my favorite things, period. It’s not transcendant, but it knows itself and doesn’t over-reach. It incorporates a lot of horror elements in smart ways…Lovecraft, J-Horror, exorcism movies, and so on. Most importantly, it’s fun while also being actually creepy. The director, Jon Knautz, made a bit of splash in the horror world a few years back with his debut film, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. I thought that one was cute, but perhaps not deserving of the praise. The Shrine is a much more assured effort, more deserving of praise, and a more worthy testament to Knautz’s storytelling prowess.
What Would I Do With It? This is a one-shot of Call of Cthulhu, or maybe Trail of Chtulhu, for sure. It’s a mystery scenario with a Lovecraftian MacGuffin and *spoiler alert* a high player character body count. In fact, it reminds me of any number of CoC scenarios that already exist.So anyway, for your CoC pleasure, here’s the Shrine (using my 5th edition book, but this should work for pretty much any version up to current):
The Shrine: In the woods outside the tiny Polish village of Alvania, a perpetual fog hangs…a terrestrial cloud of cloying, motionless mist. But it’s not the fog you have to be worried about; the fog is there to protect us, you see, to mercifully hide from our vision something as old as time…something that needs only for us to gaze upon it to work its evil. The shrine resembles a devilish gargoyle of sorts, seated upon a pedestal, but its menace is more palpable than any mortal sculpture. It wants you to look at it, and once you have, it never stops looking at you.
The people of Alvania are aware of the shrine, and of the sickness it brings with it. Their seemingly irrational xenophobia disguises a greater purpose; they regard it as their sacred duty to shield the strange statue from the eyes of all outsiders, and when someone has become infected, they hunt them down and ritualistically destroy them. This ceremony involves pounding a mask with two huge spikes directly through the afflicted’s eyes; whether this is a purely symbolic act or something that is actually necessary is unknown, though there is a sense that eyes are particularly important to the thing that inhabits the shrine.
GMS ONLY: SAN loss: 1d3/1d10 for looking upon the shrine. The shrine is patient zero of a particularly horrible, supernatural disease: Once a player character has taken any SAN loss at all from looking at it, the evil of the shrine infects them. From that point forward, the world will start to take on an air of menace, growing worse with time. People, even loved ones, will be “revealed” to be monsters. Shadowy forms will dart in and out of the periphery of the character’s vision. The natural laws of the world will sometimes bend and break. These incidents should not, in and of themselves, trigger SAN checks, but acting upon them very well may…killing a monster, for example, only to discover it was really your boyfriend should definitely qualify. As a character’s SAN dwindles, the hallucinations should become more powerful and pronounced. When all SAN is lost, the character becomes a vessel for the ancient “god” of the shrine (most likely an avatar of Nyarlothetep, as usual, but could be any Lovecraft entity you desire). It should go unsaid that the goal of the inhabiting spirit is to lure the character into sanity-cracking opportunities.
Phantom Of The Paradise
It’s ridiculous I hadn’t seen this film yet. As a kid, I would’ve hated it, but as an adult it hits many many of my sweet spots. It’s really splendid early De Palma (i.e., good De Palma)…absurd and fun and weirdly joyous. A nice trick to pull, considering it’s such a weird amalgamation of influences: Faust and Phantom of the Opera primarily, but also glam rock, Touch of Evil, and so many other things I’d hate to try to count. Also, we get to hear Jessica Harper sing, which is a plus in my book.
This started out as yet another one of those “realistic” vampire films that have become so popular in the last couple decades. You know, the ones that treat it like a “disease” or an “addiction”, or whatever. And for the most part it sticks to that. But wow, it got better and better throughout its running time, and the final couple setpieces were real doozies. This isn’t Let The Right One In, but it’s not bad.
Here’s a weird film that I could probably watch a dozen times and still not quite know what to say. It is, for the most part, the story of woman’s life told in three stages, with each stage taking on the characteristics of a different kind of horror movie. Her childhood plays like a ghost story, her adolescence a woman-in-peril tale, and her adulthood is a slasher/intruder film (this last act is especially squirm-worthy, as it features some straight-razor violence that put me on edge…and that’s no small feat). What connects them is that they all follow the style of the giallo…in fact, it seems quite obvious the filmmakers were trying their best to channel Dario Argento (maybe trying too hard, actually). It’s virtually dialogue free, relying on sights and sounds and impressions to do its thing. Amer has things to say about gender, I’m just not sure I’ve processed them all. There’s some obvious tension around the protagonist’s sexuality, which is hi-lighted by the fact that every single male presence becomes a source of menace or fear. It all feels very threatening. But if there’s some meaning to be had, I was far too distracted by all the sounds and colors (and everything else going on in my life) to be bothered with it. But damn if it didn’t provoke a visceral reaction.
So nearing the end of the second week, the total is 29 films, with 19 of them being first-time views. Not bad, and I still have two discs of Hammer, the Coffin Joe anthology, and the 6 Film To Keep You Awake anthology that I promised myself I was going to watch this October. Plus the big horror movie party coming up at the end of the month…five more new movies. I need to get cracking!
So how is your October going? Seen any good movies? Played any scary games? Doing anything awesome for Halloween?