The Forest (1982) – Day 21 – 31 Days of Halloween

The Forest (1982) – Day 21 – 31 Days of Halloween

I first saw this when I lived in Sydney, Australia. There was a great video store there called Dr What. Instead of replacing old titles with newer movies they just add to their collection. This is more like a movie archive than a video shop.

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And so I saw this entertaining, offbeat and lurid horror movie when it had long become out of print.

Dr Whats

A group of four city folk decide to go camping in them there woods. They quickly realise that things aren’t as they should be. A killer is hunting them for food (isn’t KFC just easier?) and the ghosts of firstly his dead children appear to the campers to warn them (you can tell theres something strange about them as their voices sound like they’re speaking in an echo chamber) and then the ghost of his dead wife.

The idea of these apparitions appearing to guide the living and warn them of the killers presence is a novel idea and very effective. ‘Where is he know?!’ asks one of the campers. ‘Right behind you!’ replies the children with relish. And they’re right!


It appears that the killer bumped off his wife after catching her in the sack with another man. The flashback fight scene between these two men has to be seen to be believed. Kinetic and deranged are two words that just don’t do it justice.


The fact that Killer Dad explains this backstory to two of the campers is reminiscent of an early Scooby Doo episode. But with actual ghosts rather than a janitor wearing a rubber mask resplendent with flourescent paint. Oh, and if there were throat slashings.


And add to that a doom laden 80s score which includes a few unintentionally funny pop ditties and you have the recipe for a great movie.

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Off kilter, quirky and full of character. Check it out. 3 out 0f 5

Night of the Living Dead 4K Restoration Premiere Press Release

Night of the Living Dead 4K Restoration Premiere Press Release

More great news today! Heres the press statement regarding the 4k premiere of Night of the Living Dead-

Press Release: NEW YORK, October 19, 2016—The Museum of Modern Art announces the addition of George A. Romero’s horror classic Night of the Living Dead to the upcoming To Save and Project festival in November. The iconic horror film, widely diminished by duplication due to infamous copyright issues, will have its world premiere in its originally intended quality, thanks to a painstaking 4K digital restoration by MoMA and The Film Foundation. Director George A. Romero will attend the world premiere on November 5 at 8:00 p.m. at The Museum of Modern Art to introduce the screening. Tickets for that program go on sale October 22. An additional screening will take place at the Museum at 7:00 p.m. on November 12.
Perhaps the most influential horror film of the last 50 years, Romero’s classic is also one of the most abused—subjected, because of its public-domain status, to well over 100 home video releases of deteriorated quality. The film has now been restored to its full, original glory by The Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation, working from the original camera negative, which was carefully guarded over the years by the members of Image Ten, the Pittsburgh partnership that originally produced it.
Night of the Living Dead has long been the subject of restoration discussions after a missing copyright notice upon its original 1968 print left it open to duplication and public rerelease. Recognizing its cinematic impact immediately, MoMA first acquired an original print in 1970 for its collection. Now, decades later, the Museum presents this important motion picture in its best possible state after a painstaking audio and image restoration.
“It’s an honor and a thrill to have MoMA restore and present a horror movie that I and a group of Pittsburgh friends created nearly 50 years ago,” said Romero. “After working closely with MoMA and the Film Foundation on this restoration, I know the meticulous work that has gone into creating this new restoration and I am excited to terrify new audiences and devoted fans with a version that returns our film to the quality we originally intended.”
“Our annual To Save and Project festival showcases the best new restorations of masterworks and rediscoveries of world cinema. George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead set the standard for horror, and the figure of the zombie in its myriad incarnations on screens large and small. Until now, however, it has been impossible to truly appreciate the film’s formal beauty and visceral power,” said MoMA film curator and festival co-organizer Joshua Siegel. “Our state-of-the-art restoration draws upon the best original visual and audio elements previously thought to have been lost, ensuring that audiences will be able to enjoy Night of the Living Dead as originally intended by its creators for generations to come.”
“The Film Foundation is thrilled that George Romero’s groundbreaking film is being restored from the original camera negative and track. We hope this will allow a new generation to experience the film and appreciate the elements that made it so innovative at the time, and give it continued power and relevance today. George Romero’s involvement in the restoration means that this version will be definitive, and the only one that truly reflects his vision,” said Margaret Bodde, executive director of The Film Foundation.
The film was restored by The Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. The restoration was overseen by George A. Romero and Image Ten—most especially, Gary Streiner, Russ Streiner, and John Russo—with restoration work done by Cineric Inc, NYC, and Audio Mechanics, Burbank, CA.
Among its many influences, Romero’s film is credited with creating the zombie as we know it today: the reanimated corpse with a taste for the living, seen in everything from The Walking Dead to Shaun of the Dead. Despite its humble Pittsburgh working-class origins, exploitation genre ties, and inadequate handling by the original distributor, Night of the Living Dead has set numerous precedents for motion pictures throughout the world. It was the first film of its kind to cast an African American actor as the lead character based solely on the strength of his performance, and tramples widely held taboos of the time—from respect for the dead and authority figures to traditional family relationships and the narrative tradition of heroes surviving to the film’s conclusion.
Night of the Living Dead premieres as part of The Museum of Modern Art’s 14th annual edition of To Save and Project, an international festival dedicated to celebrating newly preserved and restored films from archives, studios, distributors, foundations, and independent filmmakers. Running from November 2 through 23, 2016, To Save and Project is organized by Joshua Siegel, Curator, and Dave Kehr, Adjunct Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.
Tickets for all screenings are available two weeks prior to their screening date, beginning October 19. Tickets for the first screening of Night of the Living Dead will go on sale October 22.
Special thanks to Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan and Cindi Rowell for their assistance on this exhibition.”

Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer 4K Restoration Confirmed

Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer 4K Restoration Confirmed

Dark Sky have just confirmed that Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer to get the 4K treatment.

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Over at Bluray.com its quoted that ‘In celebration of its 30th anniversary, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer returns with a thrilling, cinematic presentation that cements its reputation as one of the most harrowing and original American films of all time. Dark Sky Films, a division of MPI Media Group, proudly presents it in a brand-new 4K scan and restoration from the 16mm original camera negatives, and featuring a new 5.1 audio mix from the stereo 35mm mag reels, all approved by director John McNaughton.’

There is a limited cinema release before the Bluray release also.

The Savage Bees – Day 13- 31 Days of Halloween

The Savage Bees – Day 13- 31 Days of Halloween

I first learnt of this film when I saw the poster for a double bill it was playing as a part of outside my local cinema back in the day.


I then saw it as a kid when it was on television. It was the last thing I watched before going to bed and it scared the crap out of me.
Was it still scary when I watched it more than thirty years later? Well, no but its still a decent enough movie.
My favourite scene- the guy who tries to fend off the killer bees by using a sword. Of all things.

Camp 70’s B movie (or should that be bee movie) fun.
3 out of 5

Burial Ground – Day 12 – 31 Days of Halloween

Burial Ground – Day 12 – 31 Days of Halloween

Zombies, gore and guts. Oh and spaghetti.


Whats noticable about this film is the incest subplot involving the effeminate manchild character called Michael played by Peter Bark. I didn’t know about this when I first watched the film. Its now seered into my mind for better or worse. This film is for titmunchers of all persuasions.
3 out of 5

 

Chopping Mall – Day 11 – 31 Days of Halloween

Chopping Mall – Day 11 – 31 Days of Halloween

Corman romp about security robots in a shopping mall that malfunction and take it out on a group of teens who are there after closing time.

With this being Corman there are some great cameos from stable regulars like Mary Waronov, Paul Bartel and Dick Miller.


A great sense of humour and some gory moments. File under ‘cheesy’.

The Watcher in the Woods – Day 10 – 31 Days of Halloween

The Watcher in the Woods – Day 10 – 31 Days of Halloween

I remember watching this as a kid on VHS in the 80s and loving it.

Now as a gay horror fan whos all grown up watching the film feels different.
Firstly, its because the great gay icon Bette Davis is in it. Safe in this knowledge I know that this isn’t just any run of the mill performance in a horror film. Ms Davis makes every scene her own, reviting each line her own way and with her own meter. Its as if shes too big for the film. Every scene shes in is special.

The divine Ms Davis

Secondly, I now watch this knowing its a very rare gem- a Disney horror film. And whats really shockkng is that this is very scary indeed! And judging by the film’s alternate endings and the idea for the original opening scene (as yet, unavailable to watch) the film was intended to be even darker. I think Disney must have not wanted to completely sully their family friendly name with an out and out scarefest.

The monster from the alternate endings that was cut from the film

Atmospheric, haunting and intelligent. This is a must see. Just don’t underestimate its power. 4 out of 5

Beyond The Door – Day 9 – 31 Days of Halloween

Beyond The Door – Day 9 – 31 Days of Halloween

A mark that you’ve made a great movie is when your film spawns a number of imitators. One such movie is The Exorcist.


One such imitator is Beyond The Door. But whilst some imitators are pale and shoddy rip offs, this film is amazing.

Starring esteemed actress Juliet Mills this deals with her posession and pregnancy.

Cue plenty of body horror grossness, surreal scenarios (you haven’t lived until you see her eat a discarded banana skin) and much profanity. Add to the mix a potty mouthed child and you have a great cinematic experience. The film is also beautifully shot and staged. It has a feel all of its own.

Apparently Mills is extremely proud of this movie. And so she should be.
4 out of 5

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Day 7- 31 Days of Halloween

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Day 7- 31 Days of Halloween

This is the movie that made me into a major fan of horror and cult cinema in general. I saw this when I was 11 years old on its release onto video. Since then I watched it numerous times and know it off by heart.

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The original UK video artwork

With a film so ingrained into my psyche it would have very easy to watch it again for this review and miss out details and nuances that I would tend to subconsciously gloss over. Such is the tendency on watching a film so many times. I have therefore made a real effort to watch this again with fresh eyes and ears and imagine seeing it for the first time. Here goes.

One thing that strikes me is Wes Craven’s subversion of the horror genre. Like Halloween, this film is presented as a teen movie. Tina talking to Nancy about the dream she had the night before is punctuated by Rod talking about waking up with a hard on. The teen girls talk is penetrated (pun not intended) by a horny teen male’s talk of sex. But then Craven subverts the 80s teen genre with the brutality of the following events just like Romero subverted the horror drive in sub-genre with the brutality and pessimism within Night of the Living Dead. ANOES reads like a knowingly atypical 80s teen movie up until Tina’s quite extraordinarily violent demise.

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Teen movie girls just hanging out

The scene of Glen playing the airplane sound effect tape also plays like a scene from an 80s teen movie. Again, Tina’s death shows that this is no ordinary 80s horror movie depicting teens. Instead it stands out as an intelligent horror film that is just as violent as the most shocking video nasty Mary Whitehouse was trying to ban.

Not only is Tina’s death too graphic for an average 80s horror movie, its also too innovative. Tina literally climbs the walls and ends up on the ceiling. If Lionel Ritchie wants to dance on the ceiling then Wes Craven wants to portray a more realist depiction of the 80s- a bloodied victim being lifted skyward and killed on the ceiling.

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Teen movie subverted

Tina’s death also subverts horror film conventions like Psycho and Night of the Living Dead did. The female character we presume to be the female lead is dispatched of early on in the film just like Marion Crane was in the shower and Barbara was made incapacitated via her catatonic state.

Thus it is left to Nancy Thompson to become the film’s heroine. She fulfils all of the classic attributes for being a Final Girl. Where as Tina has been shown to have just had sex with Rod, Nancy is shown as chaste by rejecting her boyfriend Glen’s invitation for a game of hide the salami.

There are several incidents and signs that make Nancy realise the truth about the dream world, whatever happens in it and how elements from this world can be brought into the real world. The burn on her arm during the classroom dream, the single feather she sees floating out of her bedroom window, the cuts on her arm and the appearance of Freddy’s hat she retrieves in the dream clinic are all used for Nancy to gain knowledge which leads to Nancy eventually applying this logic to bring Freddy out of her dream so that he can be defeated. This demonstrates another Final Girl attribute- shes smart.

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The Final Girl uses her resourceful and logic to hatch a plan

There is a sequence that shows where Nancy may have got her Final Girl attributes from- her mother. When Nancy is almost killed in the bathtub, Marge deftly picks the bathroom door lock. Maybe this resourcefulness has been passed down from Marge to Nancy. Later in the film Marge confirms Nancy’s Final Girl status by saying ‘You face things, thats your nature. Thats your gift. But sometimes you have to turn away.’ This also predicts the end of the film.

Nancy’s proactive qualities are also shown by her taking sleeping pills and drinking copious amounts of coffee. She doesn’t want to succumb to sleep and potential death until shes hatched a plan and had a crack at defeating Freddy.

This plan also shows Nancy’s Final Girl attributes- and her boyfriend’s ineptitude. Nancy asks Glen to stay awake and stand guard over her. She wants to go into her dream, grab Freddy and bring him into the conscious world. He fails, falls asleep and Nancy is left to battle Freddy alone. The fact that she isn’t killed shows her strength and the fact that she can do this alone. Its also a subversion of horror film cliches. Rather than having a guy defeat the killer, Nancy will do it herself.

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Nancy battles Freddy whilst Glen sleeps

There is another example of Nancy’s resourcefulness being highlighted at the expense of inept male characters. Nancy brings Freddy into the real world and as he stumbles into each of the traps she has laid she calls out for help to the cop watching her house. Its only after her repeated screaming for help and saying ‘Get my Dad, you asshole!’ that he says ‘I’d better get the Lieutenant…’ Men are seen as impotent, inactive and ineffective.

The scene which precedes it in which Nancy lays the traps in her house for when she brings Freddy out of the dream sphere. This has to be one of the most empowering scenes in horror history. Craven loves his booby traps with them being an ingredient of both Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. But they have never felt so satisfying as in Nightmare. This is true Girl Power rather than the fake manufactured kind peddled by The Spice Girls in the 90s.

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Girl power

The scene in which she shows the peak of her Final Girl qualities is the penultimate scene with Nancy showing Freddy that she feels no fear towards him anymore and turns her back on him- the ultimate act of power and defiance. She literally takes away his power and becomes all powerful herself.

Freddy Krueger’s cruelty manifests itself throughout the film. This man was a child molester and murderer ‘the most loathsome of creatures’ as Craven said and the seriousness of this isn’t passed over. Freddy likes to inflict harm to himself to disgust and repulse his victims. Hence he slices off two of his fingers when pursuing Tina and slices himself open during Nancy’s school dream. Both of these acts are done whilst smiling sadistically. Freddy seems to revel in the Grand Guignol act he can transform his body into.

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Grand Guignol

There are also signifiers towards the sexual and violating nature of Freddy’s crimes- the scene where he says ‘Come to Freddy’ to Nancy and then flicks out his tongue vulgarly is repulsive in the extreme. Also the scene involves Freddy’s tongue coming out of the telephone receiver demonstrates another violation. The most obvious example of Freddy’s sexual intent of his crimes is when Nancy is in the bath. Freddy’s glove appears from in-between her legs. This scene depicts Nancy as victim in the most vulnerable of situations in the same way that Hitchcock did with Marion Crane in the shower.

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Freddy’s sexual threat

And yet these aren’t the only examples of Freddy’s need to violate and invade. He wants to intrude into the different spheres of his victims lives- their homes, schools, even their bedrooms. And yet his biggest violation is the sphere of their sleeping lives. By violating this sphere he can affect their conscious non-sleeping spheres also.

Craven seems to be critiquing Reagan era America within the film. The neighbourhood is shot to look idyllic on the surface- gleaming white houses with no trace of any dysfunction at all. Advertising at this time was saturated with these kind of images.

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The American lie

However, Craven is ironically sending up the images seen so frequently in the adverts of the day. Scratch beneath the surface of the characters living in these houses and theres parents hiding a secret and the lynching of a child murderer after several of their children had been murdered by him. Maybe this influenced David Lynch and his portrayal of small town life in Blue Velvet.

The ultimate signifier that things aren’t quite right in this idyllic town is that whenever the neighbourhood is shown in this Norman Rockwell way, the angelic little girls are shown to be actually jumping rope to a rhyme about Freddy. This is a crack in the shiny veneer of the manufactured lie.

Another way in which Craven is showing the rancid underbelly of Reagan America is through his depiction of the law in the film. Policemen are shown to be either inept and pathetic, sometimes dangerously so. Rod Lane dies in police custody and is of Hispanic descent. This painfully mirrors news stories then and now as this is still a pertinent issue. This is portrayed in the film as the loaded look Rod’s father exchanges with Nancy’s cop father during his son’s funeral when the priest says that ‘He who lies by the sword must die by the sword’.

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The Police as ineffective and incompetent

The example of the policeman who is supposed to standing guard over Nancy outside her house as she brings Freddy into the real world also shows that the police are inefficient and this can result in lives being lost. Institutions valuable to American society under Reagan aren’t functioning properly.

There is also another valuable insight into American society at the time of the film’s production. When Tina is killed in her bed, Rod sees no killer just Tina being killed by an invisible force. This is eerily like a filmic representation of AIDS, the invisible killer that is killing thousands of people in their beds. With hindsight this is telling of the mentality of the Reagan led era- it was decades before Reagan even acknowledged AIDS as a disease that needed to be combatted even when people close to the Reagans such as actor Rock Hudson was dying of the disease.

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Silence = Death

The fact that the film depicts a female character as resourceful, strong and assertive as Nancy also goes against the female gender role the Reagan era wanted women to aspire to. It wanted women to be wives, mothers and homemakers. They should have no aspirations or ambitions let alone possess or demonstrate any redeeming qualities.

Watching this film again was a treat. I loved the film as a child and my opinion hasn’t changed. The film is multi-layered, insightful and above all a kickass horror film experience.

Heather Langenkamp’s amazing portrayal of Nancy heads a brilliant cast. The photography is stunning as is Charles Bernstein’s menacing synth score. Only the rushed and lacklustre ending marrs the film.

This rightly deserves to be seen as a horror classic.

4 and a half out of 5

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