Wednesday, June 23, 2010

and we are so fragile, and our cracking bones make noise

First up, the Resident Evil franchise is spawning another film; and this time out, it's in 3D. 3D is making a big comeback; it could last long enough for folks to actually convert to 3D-enabled equipment to watch 3DVDs. Might be a good thing; plot-heavy or not, at least there are connections from the last film, and, stylistically, it looks phenomenal. I'm willing to donate funds to at least see it; but maybe not opening day, depending.

Meanwhile, Miss Searlait of Roewenwood is branching out her chore list again. This time, it's feeding birds:


Her notes are just winsome and fun to read, and while she makes her items for the Gorean market, most of them are also perfectly appropriate in non-Gorean Caledon...and Winterfell...and anywhere in more modern terrains someone might want to scatter birdseed.

Like, all those chicken people.

I tripped across a list of the ten best lesser-known horror films. I'm still not sure I agree, but here's their ten:

#10 is Dead End, released in 2003:

It seems to be a fairly pedestrian wrong-turn movie (Dad knows all, takes the shortcut; slayings ensue with backwoods crazies armed with axe and chainsaw), but apparently, it has some chills in store for avid horror fans. It's available on Netflix and is still in print.

It has no connection to, as far as I can tell.

#9 is Tenebrae, also called Unsane, released in 1982 from Dario Argento:

One of the first of the giallo films, it has a plot which has been redone rather endlessly: a writer goes on vacation in a foreign country, only to discover someone out there is committing crimes based on his latest novel. Unsettling no matter how familiar, and remember, this is one of the first iterations.

It's available on Netflix and, amazingly enough, it's still in print.

I have no idea if there's any connection to the Christian Tenebrae service or not.

#8 is Black Christmas, made in 1974:

It's prototypical "black holiday" fair, and this is another bell that's been rung endlessly in the horror genre. The difference here is, the bell rang for the first time in this one. IMDb calls it "gothic suspense film noir"; that's as good a description as any.

Impressively enough, it has enough adherents to rate a special release DVD three years back, complete with newly-discovered scenes and featurettes that couldn't fit on the original VHS release. It's also available on Netflix.

#7 is The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, also by Dario Argento:

I have to admit, I want to like this film. I really do. I hear good things about it, amazing things about it; in point of fact I recently tracked it down and had it shipped to my house.

And I grant you, watching it the week my computer fried, in recovery from (minor, but present) foot surgery, I may not have been in the right mood for a 1970s Italian horror film.

Still. I sat through five minutes, yawned, and turned it off. It just didn't compel me.

It's available on Netflix, and there's a special two-disc edition available on Amazon.

#6 is one of the single scariest films I've seen in a lifetime of watching horror films, Jacob's Ladder:

You wouldn't expect Tim Robbins to pull off serious, surreal, twitchy terror, but he works in this one. Between the first showing of the rapid, insectile-quick head movements is seen some truly terrifying medical interplay, creepily suggestive dancing, and the is-he-or-isn't-he dénouement that less ties everything up, then leaves you with that unsettling huh feeling. Highly recommended if you like that sensation of your skin crawling off, without you in it.

It's available on Netflix and in an Amazon special edition.

#5 is a film called Communion, also known as Alice, Sweet Alice

This one came out in 1976. It was Brooke Shields' debut film, and while it wasn't the first 'creepy kid' movie (not by a long shot), it was one of the first that played with our notions of killing and gender. Can a little girl be responsible for savagely slaying another person--sister or not? Can a female kill? These were unsettling questions as feminism became a force in Westernized culture.

And let me tell you, those masks--the semi-translucent, 'made-up' plastic female face masks? They're harder to find now, but from 1960 to 1990, they were everywhere in the US. Every single costume shop had at least one mass-produced version you could pluck off the wall for a dollar--or less. They were ubiquitous, which just made "Alice" that much more frightening.

It's available on Netflix and for purchase on Amazon.

#4 is Night of the Creeps from 1986:

which amuses me greatly. Night of the Creeps, quite honestly, is what Scary Movie wanted to be--and failed miserably at being. It's a fun, edgy, bright horror-comedy that links up to virtually all the known names in horror, a lovely, perverse little homage to the greats. And there are zombies and brain parasites! Whee!

It's available on Netflix and on Amazon.

#3 is Nomads, also from 1986:

Nomads is such an odd film. The article names it "a thinking person’s horror film", which it is, but it's also just weird, in that "Hi, I'm David Cronenberg, and I've just made an art film about homeless people" sort of way. Only it wasn't directed by Cronenberg, and it doesn't specifically feature homeless people; it just feels like it has. Plus, there aren't many films who start off with the main character's death, that still compel you to keep watching.

(That wasn't a spoiler; that's how the film starts.).

Surprisingly, it can't be rented on Netflix, but it can be bought on Amazon. And no, this has nothing to do with Nomads of Gor.

#2 is The Horror of Death, also known as The Asphyx, from 1973:

I had literally never heard of this film. First time I saw the trailer was going through that article. Concept seems surprisingly astute and somewhat perverse as well: a scientist learns that there may be something that occurs at the moment of death, involving the soul; and he sets about to trap his own version, known in the movie's mythology as the "Asphyx". With terrifying results. And lots of screaming.

It's not available on Netflix (but if you download the Veoh player, it's available on Veoh), but it's available for purchase on Amazon.

And #1 is Paperhouse:

and again, I have to say I'd never heard of this one. "Underrated" doesn't begin to touch it if I haven't turned up one single reference before now. It's described both as a "literate horror movie" and as a "dark fantasy drama"; I suppose, based on the description, there are elements of both.

The movie's source material is a book by Catherine Storr called Marianne Dreams. The story in both versions centers around an ill child who creates a fantasy world on paper...that turns out not to be quite a fantasy.

Hijinks, of course, ensue.

It's not available on Netflix; it can be seen in sections on YouTube; and while there's a listing for it on Amazon, there's no indication on when it will be in stock again--if ever.

As the original article pointed out, these aren't the stock ten greatest horror films; these are the ten best that aren't well-known. I'd argue against Night of the Creeps just because it has such a large fan base; same goes for the Dario Argento selections, though to be fair, he is better known for Suspiria and Demons. (Possibly also Four Flies on Grey Velvet, or the Masters of Horror episode he directed, that started the series off in 2005: Jenifer.)

I am looking forward to seeing The Asphyx and Paperhouse; I'll tell you how they turn out.


Sphynx Soleil said...

I've actually seen the Asphyx. Good watch, I enjoyed it. :) Trailer makes it seem more scary than I remember it being though.

Icterus Dagger said...

Interesting. I never considered Jacob's Ladder a horror film before. It's one of my favorite movies, and I generally avoid "horror" movies. It IS disturbing in ways, which is why Mrs. D. hasn't seen it (and why I won't rent or see it if she's not out of town). Perhaps I have a too-narrow view of what a horror movie is. Thanks for provoking some thought, Miss Emilly.


Icterus Dagger said...

Of course this is a real horror piece, but for 2 completely different reasons ;-)


Emilly Orr said...

*shudders at the battle of the aging pop divas*

I think Jacob's Ladder is one of those rare films that can be more than one thing with no sign of strain. On one level, it's very much the prototypical Vietnam war movie--with the expected tropes of coming to age in a country filled with violence, misunderstood savagery, and ill-equipped medical care.

On another level, it was one of the first, if not the first, film to use the now well-understood effect of the speeded-up, insectile twitching. Our eyes instinctively view such movements and are horrified at the deepest levels: People don't move like that. People don't twitch like that. Humans can't move like that...

...they're NOT HUMAN.

Push all that to the side, and you have the dancefloor scene, and the nightmarish hospital scene, just to name two, and yes, I'd say it's quite clearly a horror film--whatever else the film might be.

Magdalena Kamenev said...

Back when I lived ... well, not really in Tinseltown, but Hollywood was a 1-hour bus ride away ... I would go see screenings. Some were film clubs, some were for audience testing, some were to build up word-of-mouth among a particular type of audience.

I saw Nomads as part of a test screening, and it was the first movie I saw in a movie theatre where I ... walked out hating it and regretting the loss of the minutes spent watching it. Don't really remember why I hate it, other than that it seemed muddled and the ending provided little to no closure. I think.

Emilly Orr said...

It hits people that way, sometimes. I've watched it three times; the first time I absolutely loathed it. The second time was with a group of friends who were stoned, while I was trying to remain sober; let's just say they had less fun watching Alien stoned and leave it at that. But it didn't seem to improve the experience.

The last time was with a writers' group, amazingly literate people, only one of which had a fetish for Fabio. (Her bathroom...never mind, you can probably imagine.) They inhaled the movie like it was oxygen, but then dissected each bit of media air that came in. That was fun, actually; it gave me a little distance from the 'why the hell did that even HAPPEN?!?' moments.