Thursday, October 26, 2017

Midnight Madness 2017, Part 2

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

As the introduction to this film on TCM explains, part of the reason it may not have been the big hit is because it had the unfortunate timing of being released after Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby". Both films deal with the circumference of fear when a young couple are slowly initiated into a satanic cult, What "The Devil Rides Out" has going for it (besides being a tremendous Hammer production) is its sincere attempt to unnerve AND entertain. Christopher Lee is the rare good guy fighting the powers of black magic and while it does contain some of the inherent kookiness of late 60's Hammer films, it more often than not hits its mark with simple scares and imaginary creatures.

Family Portraits (1993)

Essentially three short films (Cutting Moments, Home and Prologue) compiled into one bleak trilogy, Douglas Buck's ultra low budget efforts aren't "scary" so to speak, but they're disturbing at a basic level. Full of silent, seething rage between its characters and long stares into space, when the violence does occur, it's all the more shocking for how Buck frames and introduces it.... "Cutting Moments" especially. These are the types of stories where acts of violence play out, almost mutely, behind closed doors and when the acts are sprung into the world, the neighbor will say "I never saw it coming. They were such nice people". Buck's career is relatively short, but his work is well worth searching out.

The Bloodstained Shadow (1978)

Antonio Bido's lesser known giallo shoehorns so much plot into its first half, it threatens to implode on itself. Retarded children locked in attics.... a seance.... the ubiquitous black-gloved killer and a painting that may contain the key to the whole thing. It's needlessly convoluted which lessens its impact once the mystery winds to its conclusion. It is a giallo, after all and deserves a Halloween watch.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Midnight Madness 2017, part 1

Wishmaster (1997)

I can't believe I've never seen the "Wishmaster" series. Released in the late 90's- right smack dab in the middle of the years where friends and I would stay up all night, drinking to "Nightmare On Elm Street" and "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man"- this schlock horror series should have been front and center. Alas, I watch it now, sans the swirling appeal of alcohol, and it's pretty bad. The idea of a 'djinn' has always intrigued me, but the transformation of such a nightmarish ideal into a wise-cracking white guy in a business suit (and prison jumpers for the sequel!) is far from the established terrifying history of said creature.

Ouija (2013)

A PG-13 rating and lackluster word of mouth always kept me from indulging in "Ouija". However, the PG-13 rating is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this film about a group of dope-headed teens who experiment with said evil contraption in order to find out what happened to their dead friend. Olivia Cook leads in an effective thriller, free of gore and normal-explicit-horror-film-stuff, relying on old fashioned jump scares and some expertly choreographed scenes to ring every amount of tension from its somewhat narrative. Still, this was a pleasant surprise. Now onto Mike Flanagan's part 2 which, with the same style of rating, hopefully entails some of the same pleasures.

Spontaneous Combustion (1990)

Tobe Hooper has his devotees, but his career is quite the schizophrenic one. By the time of "Spontaneous Combustion", I feel like he'd kind of lost his edge. Still entertaining for its woefully hectic performance by Brad Dourif and unique subject matter about nuclear age test-dummie parents giving birth to a man who can shoot fire and destroy others is very Stephen King-esque. There's not much schock here, but lots of schlock.