Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Halloween!

Well boils and ghouls, we made it! Halloween 2020! The scariest Halloween in history. Taking part in this blog countdown is always fun, but this year was particularly great, because it meant I got to distract myself with 31 (technically, 32) films I'd never seen before, and watching fictional horrors on my TV was waaaaay better than watching the real life horrors going on around us.

I hope and pray next Halloween is less...intense. But this was so fun, I think I'll try and do the same thing next October, with another 31 new-to-me horror flicks to watch and write. So if you've got any favorites you'd like to recommend, please do so in the comments!

Thanks again for stopping by, and a huge thanks to the folks at the Countdown to Halloween for keeping this tradition alive. I hope the rest of your Halloween--and the rest of your year--is fun, and safe.

Here's the complete list of films I watched, with links to their posts:

A Tale of Two Sisters
Black Box
Blood and Black Lace
Blood and Lace
Brain Damage
Chopping Mall
Evil Eye
Eyes Without a Face
Ganja & Hess
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II
Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer
Host (2020)
Hour of the Wolf
Lake Mungo
Last House on the Left
Legend of Hell House
Les Diaboliques
Possession (1981)
The Burning
The Ghost Ship
The Seventh Victim
The Spiral Staircase
Train to Busan
Whistle and I'll Come to You
Willow Creek

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 31: Diabolique (1955)

I started this countdown with a French horror film, so I figured why not end it with one too, although I am not sure I'd call Diabolique (AKA Les Diaboliques) strictly horror. While it does have some creepy moments, and is definitely set up as a horror story, I think it fits much better into another genre, although to say which genre that is would likely give up some of the film's surprises.

One of the best things about this countdown was being able to see how so many of these films ultimately influenced movies that came later, and how those movies in turn inspired other films, and so on, and so on. The more movies you watch, the more you realize how almost every director borrows or steals from what has come before, and believe me, plenty have borrowed from Diabolique. (Looking at you, Hitchcock. Paging you, Kubrick. I see you there, Mr Castle!)

And with that, we've come to the end of the Maniacal Movie Countdown to Halloween! Thanks so much for stopping by, be sure to visit the other blogs in the Countdown, and stay tuned for a final round-up post later today!

 Diabolique is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel and Amazon Prime.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 30: A Tale of Two Sisters

A Tale of Two Sisters is an evil stepmother fairy tale with blood and ghosts, and watching it made me wish I had more ghost stories and fewer slasher stories in this countdown. Come to think if it, I needed more witches and goblins as well!

There are some really creepy moments in Two Sisters, but I have to say I saw its twist coming almost immediately. It was made in 2003, and a lot of films both before and after it have used the same twist. But really, there are only so many types of twists a horror movie can utilize, and a "twist" is baked into so much of the horror genre, that I'm not faulting the movie for it. I'm just warning anyone who has watched a lot of horror movies that they may need to be satisfied with what the rest of A Tale of Two Sisters has to offer. 

Moments like this.

You know what? This countdown also needed more movies with table clearing and flipping!

  A Tale of Two Sisters is currently streaming on Shudder and the Criterion Channel.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 29: Willow Creek

Normally, a film like Willow Creek would piss me off. Another found footage horror film, and one that "borrows" so much from The Blair Witch Project it could almost be called a remake? Instead of witches, our amateur documentarians are in search of Bigfoot, with the ultimate goal of reaching the location of that famous Bigfoot footage shot in 1967.

But Willow Creek is so well done, I can't hate it. Director Bobcat Goldthwait, being a comedian, smartly injects a lot of humor into the beginning of the film, as his two leads (Alexie Gilmore as Lucy and Bryce Johnson as Jim), interview locals--some real, some actors--and argue amongst themselves about the existence of Sasquatch. Bryce is the true believer, and the director of the doc, while Lucy is a skeptic, and his sometime camera person.

This humor is clever because it throws us off our guard, so when the movie gets scary, we don't know what to believe. A 20-minute, uncut scene in the middle of the film firmly places the film into the horror camp, and it's just masterfully done. It's the only post-Blair Witch found footage film I've seen that has come close to matching, and in some ways, outdoing, what that film did.

  Willow Creek is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 28: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968)

A friend recommended the short film Whistle and I'll Come to You, which I had actually never even heard of before. It was produced for a BBC television documentary series called Omnibus, and is not a documentary, so don't ask me to explain that, and is instead based on a short story by M.R. James. 

Centered on a middle-aged professor vacationing on the English coast, the film is absolutely worth watching for the performance of Michael Hordern as Professor Parkin, as he putters around his room, the coast, and local graveyards, muttering to himself and arguing against the existence of ghosts with a fellow traveler.

Ghosts! Preposterous. 

It's available to view on YouTube, and embedded below.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 27: Coherence

Coherence would make a good double feature with The Invitation. Both deal with dinner parties that turn weird and deadly to the good looking Los Angelinos in attendance, though Coherence is more of a mind fuck than The Invitation was, and veers more into science fiction than horror. (Ultimately, I think The Invitation is the better movie)

The cast is largely unknown, save for Nicholas Brendon, if anyone was wondering what he had been up to since the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (aside from, uh, getting arrested and stuff). He plays a character that's basically himself, which adds an even extra level of meta-comedy to the whole thing, once the premise of the film reveals itself...let's just say, will the real Nicholas Brendon please stand up?

Also, if you plan on watching this one, I'd wait until after the Election.

 Coherence is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 26: Black Box

Black Box is another Blumhouse Production which premiered on Amazon this month, and I liked it a fair bit more than I did the previously reviewed Evil Eye, even if it feels a bit like a Black Mirror episode you might criticize for being too long.

The main draw for me was lead actor Mamoudou Athie, whose performances I've enjoyed in every film I've seen him in, (particularly Patti Cakes and Uncorked), and this one was no exception. Here he plays a young husband and father who survives a car crash that kills his wife, and leaves him with amnesia and short term memory loss that is making it hard to work, and parent. When he's offered experimental treatment to restore his memory, he reluctantly accepts, and...well. This is a Blumhouse picture. Things don't go so well.

The parts centered on identity are better than the parts with the "scary monster," which I won't give away, but if you've seen any horror movie in the past 20 years, particularly anything from Japan, it's far from novel...

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 25: The Burning

Shudder is currently streaming a four hour documentary on 1980's horror films called In Search of Darkness, and really, it's less of a documentary than it is a horror movie version of those VH-1 I Love the [Pop Culture Era/Thing] shows that ran in the early aughts. 

In the "doc," each year is represented, with horror fans and creators talking about key horror films released in that given year, and for the year 1981, The Burning is one of the films talked about fondly as a precursor to Friday the 13th, with effects make-up by Tom Savini, and a cast that includes Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, and the guy who played "Ratner" in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

And sure, it's a hoot seeing George Costanza as a "teenager," but in all, the movie is just OK. I didn't think it did anything better than many of the slasher movies that came after it, but I guess it deserves props for doing some things first.

Strangely, it's not readily available to stream or rent, even on DVD, but there is a pretty good print available on YouTube, which is how I watched it. It's embedded below.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 24: The Seventh Victim

The Seventh Victim, another Val Lewton production, doesn't deal with the supernatural as many of his films did. Instead, nihilism--in the form of a group of upper crust satanists--is the monster.

Needless to say, its New York setting, and satanists who are not what you would consider an exciting group of people, immediately made me think of Rosemary's Baby. I've no doubt a young Roman Castevet and Abe Sapirstein are lingering in the background of that party scene. There's also a moment in a shower that is a clear predecessor to another famous horror movie shower scene you may be familiar with.

The movie is a bit if a slow burn, and at times narratively confusing. But it builds up to an ending that is quiet, and yet immensely shocking for its time.

 The Seventh Victim is available to rent on Vudu.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Musty TV's Maniacal Movie Countdown - Day 23: Dolls

After the trauma of Martyrs I needed a return to silly horror, and Dolls was just the ticket. Made in 1987, it's a much more straight-forward comedy than director Stuart Gordon's previous two films, From Beyond and Re-Animator, due in large part to the performance of Stephen Lee as Ralph. (Sadly he died in 2014 at age 58 of a heart attack.)

Several years ago a friend and I came up with a concept for a killer doll movie that's so good I don't want to even share the premise here lest someone STEAL IT. Thankfully, Dolls, aside from the, you know, killer doll aspect, doesn't have much in common with our idea, just like Chucky, which came out a few years after Dolls, can't be accused of stealing from Dolls. I'm sure.

Casting note: the creepy lady in the mansion is played by Hilary Mason, and she also played the creepy blind lady in Don't Look Now.