Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Halloween Week 1.5

OK, as I explained last time, there's a reason this one's a .5   The remaining half will be added to next week's entry with bonus.  I'd say I can imagine your disappointment on this matter, but I might be lying on your behalf then.  So, to avoid such a potential mixup, I'll simply ask that you bear with me until next week when we get this all balanced out again.

Now then...back to work

See, THIS is how I plan to tell my children the story of Frosty the Snowman.
...of course, in light of this, they may not be my children for much longer, but it would SO be worth it!

10/6 Sauna

This is the reason why I always leave part of the list to the suggestion box.  It's because this is how I get introduced to stuff I otherwise would not have heard of or even thought to look up.  In this case, I was pretty surprised with the payoff.

Let me start by saying this now, if you're looking for just a light bit of a scare story, then you may want to pass on this one.  Not cause it's bad, because that's not the case, mind you.  It's because this is actually a pretty damn dark movie in terms of its subject matter.  In a way, part of me keeps wanting to compare it to The Devil's Backbone - in both cases, it's a piece set in a period of history where the film's more horror-based elements are used to frame some much darker issues than straightforward supernatural elements.  In this case, however, the ghosts aren't that harmless, or that simple to explain.  Much of this film, like TDB explores the idea of what war does to people - in this case, it's in a much more direct light, as the film's protagonists, Eerik and Knut (Ville Virtanen and Tommi Eronen respectively) both have changed greatly from their time in combat.  In particular in the case of the former: where Knut largely had his ideals destroyed, Eerik as we first see him seems almost inhuman in his casual nature towards those he's had to kill.  In this case, however, the horror that starts with what they've become quickly turns as they find themselves haunted in various ways by their actions, all guiding to a curious sauna in the middle of a swamp.  Fun fact of the day: In Finnish culture, the sauna is believed to be capable of washing away one's sins.  See?  You can learn things here...not that often, but it can happen!  Whether or not they truly gain redemption is not only for you to find out, but also decide as well.  In the meantime, this is a rather curious film about facing up to one's past sins and the horrors war does both externally and internally.  It's a pretty dark film in this regard, and one that will leave you wondering just what to make of its finale, so if that sounds like it will be up your alley, by all means give it a watch.  Just be sure to know what you're in for on this one, since, while not particularly brutal, it really is a film that works more on a slower burn.

Coming up next on 'The Frugal Surgeon'...

10/7 - Sisters

Looking at this film on paper, it feels like something that could go wrong on several levels - a story involving the twin dynamic, homages to Hitchcock, and the second half's twist are the kinds of elements that we have all seen done in varying degrees and with varying levels of success often over the years.  Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to see Brian De Palma actually manage to take these often overused elements and do them well.  In particular the Hitchcock element, as this film is clearly made by a director who understood what made the man's movies work.  It also helped that, as a bonus, De Palma got Hitchcock regular Bernard Herrmann to compose the score of the movie.  Though even without that score (that certainly does help, don't get me wrong) the film manages to carry its plot and scenes in many of the similar ways.  Additionally, while the twins angle is a part of the story, much of the film explores it from other angles - much of the first half is a murder investigation, driven by a reporter (Jennifer Salt) who suspects the police are sweeping it aside due to a racial angle.  As she tries to get to the bottom of the case, she unearths something that, prior to this, we only have a passing hint of.  Said investigation itself again pulls a tricky balancing act, in that it's one of those stories that makes you think you have it figured out, only to pull another surprise out.  Surprises that, thankfully, actually still work within the overall narrative.  Alongside Salt, the other main standout in the cast is Margot Kidder as the movie's prime suspect.  As someone who mainly knew her through the Superman movies and the 1970s version of The Amityville Horror, her role in this film was surprising - a mix of demure and violent that I would not have previously expected of her.  It was a standout role in that regard and between the two leads, the film's acting carries well.  It's kind of a shame De Palma hasn't really been able to recapture this sort of stylistic thriller since then, really.  Especially as, even outside of the homage, his style adds several nice touches (including a couple of scenes that make great use of dual-camera to capture a full scene without throwing the pace by cutting back and forth.)  Hopefully De Palma does eventually recapture this part of his style.  Would be nice to see if he's still got another in him like this.

Tonight on an all new 'I Drink Your Blood', wackiness ensues when Pete decides to prank the new neighbors by giving them all rabies!  It'll be a bloody good time tonight at 8 on the Third Row Network
( now, cause the FCC will shut the network down before the first commercial break.)

10/8 - I Drink Your Blood

I was intrigued by this film even before watching it.  This was largely due to its dual role in film history - first and more notably as one of the more infamous films subjected to censorship in the 60s and 70s (this film may make a serious bid for having the most edits made of it.)  The other role, somewhat lesser, is in the film's reflection of how the Manson family pretty soundly drove the last nail into the casket for the hippie movement.  In this case, the film's director has even admitted they were an inspiration on the film's Satanist hippies.  That said, the film also proves an interesting entry into the 'revenge' genre of horror films that were pretty prominent in the 60s and 70s as well.  In this case, it actually makes for a bit more of a creative form of revenge than many of the others - to be expected when the main perpetrator is a young boy.  Said revenge, rather than being the main plot of the film, becomes the catalyst for the greater threat.  A few spiked meat pies later and the film finds itself the epicenter of a rabies outbreak that makes up the bulk of the movie.  It's a nice way to shift the tone, even if it doesn't necessarily always carry itself as well.  Appropriately, I found myself reminded of Cronenberg's 'Rabid' at times.  Some interesting ideas and some segments of the film are well executed on their own, but the overall film is a mix of ups and downs.  The buildup of the first half is well done, but once the outbreak is in full swing, the second half feels somewhat uneven, with some parts unfortunately just lacking the shock they seemed to be trying for.  To their credit, the actors make a good effort of the story all the same, even when some of them are supposed to be ravenous maniacs.  If nothing else, the movie is still worth the watch if you have any interest in film history for the reasons listed above.  Though it certainly does have its benefits beyond just those, as outlined above.  A fascinating time capsule of horror, as it were.

Pictured: Exhibit A

Now, before we continue, I would like to make a curious side observation about one of the actors in this - one Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, the actor who plays cult leader Horace Bones.  Maybe this is just me, but I can't help but look at him and see and hear a curious resemblance to infamous actor/director Tommy Wiseau.  Now, they say he was crippled in the 1970s and died in 2003...but given some of the other theories about Wiseau, would this really be that out there?

For the record - I am fully in favor of this as a means of decorating for Halloween. should also be worth noting that this is probably why the neighbors have restraining orders filed against me

10/9 - Trick 'R Treat

The horror anthology is one of those ideas I've always felt was somewhat underutilized in film.  Sometimes, brevity is a plus, and there are some horror films that have enough story to make a great shorter film but fumble when it comes to actually making enough material to cover a feature.  With no idea what to expect of this movie when I started watching it, I was very happy to see it really helped show the capabilities of what the anthology can do.  Additionally, was surprised to see this film, rather than using a framing method many other anthology films use, instead chose to have them flow into one another, with characters crossing into other stories as things run out of chronological order.  Made for a fun bonus in watching everything unfold.  That said, the individual storylines were all well-done as well, making a good blend of some creepy scares and some wonderfully dark humor (probably one of the best stories involving Dylan Baker as a Mr. Rogers-esque school principal moonlighting as a serial killer.)  Another interesting element to the film is how the stories all explore different elements of Halloween customs - the pranks, the parties, the original mythos that the holiday was founded on, these elements are all covered in the various stories.  Additionally, alongside Baker, the rest of the cast carry their stories along well, among them Anna Paquin as a girl looking to have her first time on Halloween night, Brian Cox as a recluse who finds the holiday coming for him whether he wants it or not, and several young actors in a story of a school prank that goes hideously awry.  It's a shame this movie got short-changed out of a theatrical release, really.  Writer/director Michael Dougherty and his cast had a very well put-together series of short, but effective horror tales that manage to be both creepy and funny as Hell.  So far, this is the one I'd say in particular is worth watching at Halloween - a good time and really helps capture the feel for the holiday.

German Expressionist Architecture
Efficient - Debatable

Safe - Good Lord, no
Stylish - Hell yes.

10/10 - The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

and so we round out this entry with a touch of the classic.  Robert Wiene's silent film is still considered one of the definitive classics of silent cinema, and one can see why on the rewatch.  The film has a very distinct personality amid silent films - between its extremely stylized sets (what you see above is one of the more sedate designs) and its mystery story whose ending leaves you questioning much of the film, the title has left a considerable mark. 

That said, it still holds up as an interesting story nowadays.  The style alone makes this one worth the watch, but the story itself is also a rather curious one.  Adding to the very abstract style of the film are the performances of the cast (which, in silent cinema, can run from being very good or just not aging well.)  In this case, the dreamlike nature of the story and its questions of reality and hallucination are added to by some of the performances, in particular Werner Krauss as the titular madman Caligari and Conrad Veidt as his sleepwalking accomplice Cesare.  This is one of those classics that had stood the test of the time, and if you have any sort of interest in the roots of horror cinema, you owe it to yourself to give this one a watch.
Additionally, like last year's Nosferatu, I have to say - if you're going to look this one up, show some discretion.  Its public domain status means there's a lot of different companies distributing versions of it of varied and sometimes disappointing quality.  For your best bet, look into the version distributed by Kino Entertainment.  The remaster they have for it, while still somewhat damaged at points, still looks in good condition for a movie of its age.

With that, yeah, we're coming up short for this week.  As promised, next week will pick up the slack, plus a report on goings on observed at New York Comic Con.

Keep an eye out for it!

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh, good for you bringing up Trick 'r Treat. Really underwatched movie.