Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sub-Contract Your Spleen-Venting!

Hey guys, I have a request.  I'm going to be chatting with Ike (and possibly Mike) of Mike and Ike's All Star Summer Jamboree (or ASSJAM) podcast over at Geekplanet Online (if you haven't heard it, check out their latest episode, Fork Scorpion, a great interview with Barry Bostwick, who finally, and for the first time ever, clears up what the hell the deal was with that whole thumb-kissing thing in Megaforce!  [See Better Living Through Bad Movies, pp. 124-126 for details]).

We're going to be discussing Halloween and horror films, both good and bad, and -- not to go all Jonah Goldbergian in my crowd-sourcing of research -- I wanted to ask what your scary movie pets and peeves are.  Are there any particular Samhain-flavored flicks you love and make a point of watching this time of year?  And, conversely, are there other films of the same type that hurt you, and make you get mad, and then get mean, until you're just a walkin' chunk of mean-mad?

Let me know in comments.


Anonymous said...

Horror movie pet peeve? This is easy. The "set up the sequel" moment at the end of the movie when it's all over, the mystery is explained, the monster is dead etc., and then the final moment of the movie is used to let you know that, no, it's not all over after all. Imagine Brody and Hooper kicking for shore and the camera shot goes underwater and you hear the theme start up and...fade to black. Man, just thinking of that happening makes me want to go cockpunch Speilberg.

Doghouse Riley said...

1) No one has ever topped the two James Whale Frankensteins.

2) Nothing to do with Halloween, but the most chilling moment in the whole genre is in the ice goddess segment of Kobayashi's Kwaidan, when the woodsman decides to tell his wife the story he swore never to tell, and her sewing stitch freezes in mid-air.

3) Who ever sat through the first Halloween let alone the tenth? Talk about playing tennis with the net down. For a long time my life's goal was to yank the key out of that Casiotone and make John Carpenter swallow it sideways.

Kathy said...

"The Haunting" with Julie Harris.... you'll be frightened of bass drums for years after seeing that movie. Yes, in the scariest (and it is bone-chilling) scene, the unseen monster is a loud drum.
Even scarier than the cello-shark in Jaws.

It would be very interesting indeed, to read a WO'C review of The Haunting. One can laugh, years later, at the spasm of fear felt when the visitors to Hill House notice the doors always close themselves even when propped open with heavy objects. "In Hill House doors were always sensibly shut."

-and yet, not a single explosion or monster!

Chris Vosburg said...

"The Black Cat" (1934) with Karloff and Bela, Dir. Edgar G Ulmer, is a favorite of mine. The satanic rituals engaged in later in the film give it a sort of halloweeny vibe, but mostly I just can't get over Karloff's extremely weird and intense performance as Hjalmar Poelzig (often referred to with the honorific title of "engineer" as in "Tell Engineer Poelzig we have arrived." It's a personal joke of mine that as an engineer myself, when I meet a doctor who introduces himself as Dr Somebody, I'll reply "glad to meet you, I'm Engineer Vosburg; call me Chris."

And Oh God, the set and prop design of Engineer Poelzig's house. An art deco wonderland of electric wizardry and gadgetry; it's just the coolest looking set ever built.

For fun, I'd succumb to Ed Wood's final entry in the Kelton Trilogy, "Night of the Ghouls."

Well, ghosts, anyway. Lots of the usual dependably laughable Ed Woodery, with many of the same characters from the Ed Wood stable as in his previous "Bride of the Atom" and "Plan Nine", but with a couple actual creepy moments. Oh, Ed, how do you do it?

Li'l Innocent said...

I like a GOOD ghost story. And I hate over-production and mindless SFX piled on like, well, I can't think of a properly repulsively excessive simile. Like piling Dick Cheney on top of John Yoo. Is that mean-mad enough?

"The Uninvited" is the pluperfect example of what I mean by a good ghost story. I've seen it anyway 5 times and it still lifts the hair on my neck like a cold sigh passing.

I don't suppose anyone here but me has seen it, but decades ago the BBC made a TV film of a classic Brit supernatural short story called "Whistle and I'll Come To You, My Lad" by M.R. James, which starred the late Sir Michael Hordern and was directed by Jonathan Miller. Short, brilliant, economical, scary as hell. Brrr!

Closer to home, there was a U.S. TV version in the late 60s of Fritz Leiber's sneakily terrifying "Conjure Wife" aka "Burn, Witch, Burn". There has been at least one other film version of it, but the b&w TV adaptation is the one I'd like to see again.

Do not fiddle with things best left alone. And lock your doors at night. The year is turning toward the dark...

Chris Vosburg said...

Good ghost story, you say?

I greatly enjoyed The Others (2001), Dir Alejandro Amenábar, a really classy, and classically gothic ghost story, and the only special effects are digital enhancements of exterior shots (more fog!).

Very nice work by Nicole Kidman (don't start, Annti, please!) as a tightly overwound widow desperately striving to protect her children from an alarmingly growing number of things going bump in the night.

Stacia said...

A perfect double feature with The Uninvited is The Unsuspected, a murder mystery with a hint of the possibly paranormal. It's not strictly a Halloween or horror flick but it pairs well with a variety of true horror films.

My other favorite double feature is The Haunting followed by The Innocents; just try not to shiver your skin off when Kerr shouts "Miles!" to the unlistening heavens.

Brian Schlosser said...

KWillow, I think a better WO'C feature would be the abhorrent and despicable remake of The Haunting. The novel is my hands down, all time favorite horror story, and the Jan De Bont version... Oh my God... Awful... (Maybe I'll write one up and share with the class?)

Mr Riley, I have to respectfully disagree. "Halloween" is a classic! Just watched it again with the Mrs as part of a Horror Marathon (preceded by Eraserhead and followed by Poltergeist). Jamie Lee is amazing, and makes the movie. The surprisingly measured pace and total lack of visible blood remind me of Psycho. And Good old Dr. Loomis... Of course, the extremely shitty series of sequels DOES tend to drag it down in reputation. (Halloween Water is pretty good, though. See: Curtis, Jaime Lee; participation in)

Gonna answer Scott's request in a separate comment, cuz spoilers.

Brian Schlosser said...

!Spoilers inside!

Ok, as for Scott's request, my Top Horror Peeves:

#1. The "Screamy Face" shock scene. Paranormal Activity? Great movie with a fucking stupid ending thanks to the Screamy Face.

#2. Shock scenes in general. The "Open mirror, nothing, close mirror AHHH! Someone's there!" shot, the "OMG! The Killer! Oh, its just the guy from down the hall" shot, even the old "Ahhhh! Oops, just the cat" shot. Hoary old devices, and so overused that they take me right out of the movie. Rule of thumb: if you have to rely on the sudden loud noise on the soundtrack to scare the audience, you have failed as a filmmaker.

#3. Jittery Japanese Ghosts. Long black hair? Pale skin? Moves like a spastic mantis? Enough already! It was good at first (Kairo, The Ring), it is annoying as a bedbug with herpes now.

#4. Reboots. Ok, this could be a problem with the entire movie industry, but it seems like Horror films get it worse. Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes... etc, etc, etc. Not one of these remakes has been as good as the original. Most have been much, much worse. Take the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake... how do you NOT do better than a bunch of amateurs sitting in a house in Texas that's filled with meat rotting in the summer heat? But somehow they managed.

Brian Schlosser said...

Damn character limits...

#5. As Anon said, the "set up the sequel" scene. Now, this is not a totally NEW device. Halloween used it. Nightmare on Elm Street used it, among others. But the BEST horror films have the guts (see what I did there?) to end in a way that makes a sequel impossible, or at least makes any sequel immediately seem like a cheap cash-in. Take my vote for best horror film of the last decade, The Descent. In the director's preferred (ie, not the American) ending, the entire cast has been whittled down to one, who, as the film ends, is trapped alone in the dark, surrounded by cannibals, totally insane. THAT'S how you end a horror movie! (There is a sequel. And it was a cheap cash in, and makes no sense) Other great horror movies with a definitive ending: The Exorcist, John Carpenter's The Thing (Mac and Childs are both human, kids. There is no point arguing about it. And then they freeze to death.), The Blair Witch Project, The Haunting, Freaks...

#6.Scary kids. Another once creepy trope made dull through overuse. Also, scary dwarfs. Dwarfs were scary just one time: Don't Look Now

#7. Exorcisms. Yet another case of really scary once, not so much any more. And really, the horror in The Exorcist is much deeper than "Demons (and crucifixes) get all up in some girl". There are questions of faith, questions about the meaning of old rituals in the modern world, all sorts of subtext. And, yes, the demon infested 12 year old is fucking terrifying. The modern spate of exorcism movies try to recreate that last bit and fail to address the rest. And they suck as a result.

Brian Schlosser said...

final bit...

#8. "Based on true event" movies. First of all, not they aren't, unless you count "There was a house once that someone once heard a knock on the wall". This trend started with The Amityville Horror, way back when, and has gotten worse over the years. Now it seems every horror movie has "Based on True Events" either in the trailer or at the start of the movie. It's weak and cheap writing. Unless your name is Joel of Ethan, DON'T DO IT.

#9. Lack of gratuitous nudity. Sex and horror go together like... well... like two things that go together perfectly. Used to be you could count on at LEAST some boobs in any horror movie. Now, you're lucky if you get to see the male leads ass. I like sex and death, dammit! If you show me someone hacked to death by a guy dressed as a Fisherman, I want to see Jennifer Love Hewitt's goodies! Ask Job Bob Briggs, he'll agree with me. Of course, the reason for this dearth of flesh delights has to do with my

#10. Biggest Horror Peeve: The PG-13ification of the modern horror film. We may be seeing a slight return to the days of R-Rated horror, but for that 15 years or so, we've been subjected to scads of horror flicks that cry out for an R, that desperately need the extra blood, gore and naughty bits, but are neutered and bowdlerized to get that PG-13. Such are the harsh demands of Profit.

Ok... I had more to say that I originally thought... I guess I take this a little too seriously?

Brian Schlosser said...

And I realize now, after all that, that Scott wanted specific movies... sigh... reading comprehension fail.

Horror flicks that bring a smile to my face: The Descent, The Mist, The Haunting, The Exorcist, First three Romero zombies(Night,Dawn, Day), Evil Dead trilogy, Dead Alive, The Blair Witch Project, Poltergeist, Ghost Story, The Midnight Meat Train, Drag me to Hell, The Uninvited, Insidious, Cloverfield, Carrie, The Shining, Hellraiser, Carpenter's The Thing, Rebecca (the best ghost story without a ghost), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Body Snatchers ('56 AND '78), Misery, Halloween, Rosemary's Baby, Psycho, Alien, They Live, Mr Brooks, The Omen, Re-animator, Vacancy, Cat People, The Sixth Sense, Signs, Night of the Hunter, Frankenstein and Bride, Jaws, Bug (Friedkin film), 1408, The Fly (remake done right), Hostel II, Freaks, 28 Days Later, House of 1000 Corpses, An American Werewolf in London, Saw, Deliverance...

As you may be able to tell, it's pretty much always Halloween at the Schlosser Estate.

Horror films that hurt me again and made me meaner and meaner: I spit on your grave, White Noise, Van Helsing, The Village, Lady in the Water, Halloweens 2, 4, 5, and 8, Friday the 13th 3-? (excluding Freddy vs Jason), Nightmare On Elm Street 2, 4 and 5, Saw 2-?, The Grudge, High Tension, The Skeleton Key, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Resident Evil franchise, virtually any remakes of the movies in the first list.

Oh, and Paul Haggis' Crash. Thats a horror movie, isn't it? It sucks, even if it isn't.

D. Sidhe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D. Sidhe said...

Trying again:

I like Resident Evil. But mostly because Milla Jovovich is hot. Otherwise, I have to say, don't make movies out of video games.

I assume, Mt Schlosser, that you make an exception for the cat scare in Alien. I also have to say, I am happier without the sex-and-violence combo deal. It may make me a prude, but I don't want to be in a dark room with dozens of people who are making neural links between arousal and murder. I don't want to BE one of those people, for that matter.

And "Alone in the Dark" makes me want to hurt people. I like schlock, my collection of idiotic killer shark movies is second to none, but man, that thing was bafflingly appalling.

It goes without saying that vampires should not sparkle.

Shark Night 3D. Spoilers.

I haven't seen it, which is its own sin, I read the MovieSpoiler. You know I like killer shark movies. But this one feels as creepily exploitative as it is possible for an entirely made up killer shark movie to feel:

The killers are killing people to film it because YOU, dear viewer, want them to. YOU, dear viewer, are WHY Shark Week is invariably a full week of When Sharks Eat People For No Good Reason cut with Shark Finning Is Wrong PSAs.

If you just hadn't enjoyed "Jaws" so much, sharks would not be endangered, and the psychos in Shark Night, not to mention the writer OF Shark Night, wouldn't be there showing off their ids in such undignified ways.

I have a lot of issues with the free market. One of the big one is selecting the least useless of my available choices, and then being told that my choices suck so much because that's how I want them.

I fucking HATE Shark Week's "Of Course Sharks All Want You Dead" programming, and the trend toward dramatic re-enactments of actual people dying just makes it worse, and I resent like hell being blamed for it.

Don't pretend your film crew wishes it didn't have to make a movie they find morally objectionable and that it's all our fault. If a movie is going to treat us with actual contempt for being sub-human enough to watch it, I'm going to opt out.

I like my fiction, you know, fictional.

Jay B. said...


I don't even know or care if it's supposed to be a "horror" movie. It's better than the Wizard of Oz and more humane than It's a Wonderful Life. Plus it's got a guy who lives in a sock and can light his own cigarette.

Horror Peeves: Almost everything. If there were anyone even passably human in those things, death itself would kill itself. Thankfully, the Darwin-award nominees do stupid things all the fucking time to ensure their demise. More: Everything Rob Zombie even thinks about.

Contra: Zombie movies are pretty fucking cool.

Jim Donahue said...

I usually make it a point to watch the original "The Wicker Man" at this time of year.

Brian Schlosser said...

@D: Oh, yeah, the cat scare in Alien is exempt. All the peeves I listed were good originally, I just think they are greatly overused.

As for the sex and violence... well... I do see and respect your point (the first movie on my hate list is that repugnant old turd, "I Spit on your Grave"), and I was more than half joking with that peeve, setting up the PG-13 rant.

However, I think the link between sex and horror IS there. Look at "Dracula"... it's just DRIPPING with repressed late Victorian sex angst. Its the engine that drives the story. Or, for another darker example, "The Exorcist". Much of what makes it so damn unsettling is the theme of forced bodily possession, and of a young girl at that.

As for this: "If a movie is going to treat us with actual contempt for being sub-human enough to watch it, I'm going to opt out.", thank you. That's Michael Haneke's bullshit schtick and I find it insulting.

Anonymous said...

Yo, Anon John here again...
Since no one named it I felt duty-bound to return and mention my favorite ghost story movie: THE CHANGELING starring George C. Scott.
The bit with the red rubber ball made all my hairs stand on end. Permanently.

D. Sidhe said...

Brian: You did make that point, about the cat scares, I'm just having some fun because Alien is one of my very favorites.

Fair enough, as to the sex and violence thing. It's not unlike me railing about people who rubberneck accidents. It's part of human nature, and I am not noticeably exempt, I just don't like it much.

Christ knows, though, most horror movies wouldn't get anywhere without some scantily clad woman screaming and running. And granted, I like naked chicks as much as anyone else. I just can't help feeling that we're all being manipulated into confusing those impulses, though if it worked on people who weren't already sort of unhinged, walking outside would be like Crossed, so I probably need to relax a little. I'm schizophrenic, I hallucinate, and I still go see horror movies. We probably can't hold the movies accountable for the way my mental state interacts with them. I just like an impression that the people producing entertainment at least recognize that there is some kind of a middle range between deranged-freak-proofing the culture and demonstrating that your production is made up of deranged freaks.

And, yeah, the victims-are-people-who-sin thing wouldn't get very far without teenaged camp counselors fucking while someone drowns.

It's just one of those areas where I get weirdly hung up. Honestly, making some of these movies R for boobs might keep the audience restricted away from people (yes, I mean kids) who in general are still sorting out how they feel about sex and/or violence.

My own personal biggest peeve is the bullshit where we watch dozens of people being slaughtered--this is more of a killer monster thing than a serial killer thing--and they seem to feel that they can actually make us care about one of those dozens of people based on the fact that he or she has a collection of physical traits/behavior or verbal quirks that make him or her at least identifiable. If you want dramatic payoff, you must do character development, and a catchphrase doesn't cut it.

Honestly, I also have issues with apocalypse movies. I like zombies, but I spend most of any given one wondering why more people don't just fucking kill themselves. You have to know it's not getting any better.

Meanwhile: Why no naked zombies? It's not that I WANT to see naked zombies. I just don't understand how it is that no one ever gets attacked in the shower, or sleeping naked, or having sex. But, I probably shouldn't be nitpicking plausibility in zombie movies.

Brian Schlosser said...

Oh, I know one naked Zombie: Linnea Quigley, in Return of the Living Dead!

Re: keeping kids from seeing sex 'n death movies: See, I was lucky... I got my juvenile exposure to boobs not through horror movies, but through the National Lampoons my parents thoughtfully left in the bathroom, and that is why I have the healthy sexual programming I have today...

Lancelot Link said...

D. Sidhe - There were a few naked zombies in Night of the Living Dead in 1968 - and they weren't even cut for TV showings!

scripto said...

The first Evil Dead scared me the most. Zombie's The Devil's Rejects disturbed me the most. But I'll go along with The Uninvited or Rosemary's Baby. That's the kind of stuff I like the most. I can take a good splatterfest if it has some supernatural underpinnings. Torture porn like Saw and Hostel? Not for me.

D. Sidhe said...

Well, there are a couple of largely unclothed hooker zombies in Resident Evil 2, I think they were just topless. But Raccoon City always struck me as the sort of place where if a gay pride parade collided with the parade the Joker threw in the Michael Keaton Batman, the non-zombie residents would just kind of shrug and wander off to the set of Hostel.

As to Hostel, etc, I know a woman who is extremely into horror, from the old B&Ws to the new torture porn and everything in between. A friend had invited her to see Human Centipede 2, and she noted that she hadn't seen the first one either. Because, we agreed, once you watch something like that, you can't unwatch it.

So, yeah, there are lines you have to draw for yourself. I personally was induced to near puking by Lethal Weapon once upon a time, but give me something with giant piranhas, and I'm a happy woman.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I like zombies,

Hey, thanks!

Meanwhile: Why no naked zombies? It's not that I WANT to see naked zombies. I just don't understand how it is that no one ever gets attacked in the shower, or sleeping naked, or having sex. But, I probably shouldn't be nitpicking plausibility in zombie movies.

What's implausible about zombies?