In the 80s with new horror films like The Evil Dead pushing the boundaries of the genre, television companies thought that older horror films ceased to be scary and so could be shown during the daytime. And so I saw Nosferatu which was made in 1922 one Bank Holiday morning. It couldn’t possibly frighten me, right?
It scared the shit out of me. And watching it again now it still freaks me out. An unauthorised adaptation of Dracula (the estate of Bram Stoker sued and wanted all copies of Nosferatu destroyed. Luckily this didn’t happen) this is beautifully shot and directed. In fact I could look at any frame from this movie and drool. This is an early example that a horror film didn’t have to be some kind of example of low culture but could actually be art.
Max Shreck’s Nosferatu is pitch perfect and the very embodiment of evil. This film stays in your head long after its finished with certain images being so striking and horrifying that they become seered into your psyche.
Every day in October I will be reviewing a different horror film.
Some of the criteria I’ve used for the choice of films are
– a film from each decade from the 1920s onwards
– films from a number of different countries
– a Friday the 13th film as within October this year the 13th falls on a Friday!!! (mind blown)
The rest of my choices were films that I had wanted to see for ages but hadn’t gotten around to or were films that I have seen before but was dying to revisit (three of the films have ratings already by myself. These are some of the films that will be revisited and be reviewed again to see if my opinion has changed).
When I had my list of films they were then fed into an online randomiser so that they could be mixed up. With my randomised list I made one change- I made sure that the film watched on the 13th of October was the Friday the 13th movie. But thats the only change.
Here are the films-
Day 1- The Nanny (1965)
Day 2- Battle Royale (2000)
Day 3- The Exorcist (1973)
Day 4- Piranha (1978)
Day 5- Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) and Tales From The Unexpected episode ‘Flypaper’ (1980)
Day 6- The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)
Day 7- The Fog (1980)
Day 8- Eyes Without A Face (1960)
Day 9- Phantasm (1979)
Day 10- Nosferatu (1922)
Day 11- Blood Beach (1980)
Day 12- The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Day 13- Friday the 13th Part 4- The Final Chapter (1984)
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.
And so I saw this entertaining, offbeat and lurid horror movie when it had long become out of print.
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.
Off kilter, quirky and full of character. Check it out. 3 out 0f 5
An American diplomat adopts an orphaned child whose mother died at birth unbeknowst to his wife who has just given birth to their (supposedly) stillborn son. Their new child however is the Antichrist. Hilarity ensues. Just kidding.
This film is perfect in many ways. Direction, cast, cinematography, music, screenplay. If ever it feels like the movie could curdle into camp it then reins itself in. The scariest horror movies deal with the huge conflict between good and evil. Us mere mortals are in no position to scoff or deride such things. This is one of the many reasons why this movie is so bonechilling.
Whilst I could name all of the performances I love in this film I would just be reciting the entire cast list. My favourite performance? Damian himself. He says very little but his performance is flawless. And watch for his facial expression at the very end of the movie when hes looking directly at the audience.
The Antichrist is adopted into the world of politics. Makes you think doesn’t it?
4 out of 5
Halloween 2 (1981) – Day 15- 31 Days of Halloween
It takes a great big set of balls to make a sequel to a film that is recognised as a classic. One such film is Halloween. Is the sequel any good?
Well, yes it is actually. There are many things to love.
One such thing is that the film carries on straight after the events from the first film. Laurie is taken to hospital and Michael Myers follows her. This is audacious in the extreme. It also means that the feel and look of the original need to be similar to the iconic original. And whilst Carpenter isn’t directing this time (he co-wrote the film with partner Debra Hill and co-scored with Alan Howarth), new boy Rick Rosenthal does a pretty good job. It feels for the most part like the first film but that doesn’t mean that its as good. But if Halloween is A+ then Halloween 2 is B+.
The hospital provides the perfect setting for the terror to continue. Yes, there aren’t many people in the building but its a small local hospital. Stop nitpicking, horror geeks. The setting also means that Michael can use medical implements to kill with- ironic when these instruments are intended to save lives rather than shorten them. Hence, Michael’s weapon of choice is a scalpel. In other scenes he also uses syringes (inserted into eyeballs!) and a therapy pool is turned up to boiling and a nurse is dunked underwater until her face receives the face-peel from hell whilst drowning at the same time. This scene was severely cut in the UK video release. In its uncut glory it really is something to behold.
In fact, the murders in this film are a lot nastier and more graphic than in the original. When Halloween 2 was made the slasher genre it inspired was in full swing. This film had something to prove and so the murders are very nasty indeed. Its like the makers of Halloween 2 were trying to show that they were still head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. And they succeed whilst doing so with artistic aplomb.
There also seems to be a grittiness and cynicism underlying the film that is both endearing and entertaining to watch. Examples of this jaded mentality are peppered throughout the movie. A child is admitted with a razor blade embedded in his mouth which alludes to the ‘razor blade in the candy’ urban legend. A female reporter tells a colleague when reporting Myers’ bloodbath from the first film ‘You need the parents’ permission to get a statement. If you can’t get it then get a statement anyway!’ The nurse who deals with the child bleeding from his mouth shows no compassion at all and gets the child and his mother to wait whilst the child suffers. The security guard Mr Garrett is seen reading a comic book instead of doing his job properly. Hence he doesn’t see Myers on his CCTV monitors. The doctor who treats Laurie’s injuries from the first film was at the same party as her parents and is actually drunk on the job. These quirks make Halloween 2 much better than its competitors. Whilst this isn’t George A Romero level social commentary this film isn’t as vacuous as many slasher imitators and still has astute observations to make.
But there are a few (but not many) examples of the film pandering or conforming to slasher movie conventions. One such is the scene in which Mr Garrett goes to investigate a break in. There is the cliched cat scare and also a door being opened to have lots of boxes fall onto the rotund night watchman. Whilst this all happens as a build up to Michael finishing off this character these events would never have happened in the original film. In fact, wasn’t there a cat scare in Friday the 13th Part 2? Thats more the kind of thing to find in that franchise than the Halloween films.
Also, the nudity and sexual references are ramped up in this film. Hence there are more titties and the irritating character of Bud singing a really unfunny dirty version of Amazing Grace. I cheered when he was killed by Michael in such a non-descript way. His vile character deserved no more than this.
Within this film is the revelation that Michael is actually Laurie’s brother. Hence why Myers wants to kill her- hes killed one sister, hes come back for the other. This plot detail doesn’t feel forced and gives the film the truly chilling dream sequence that Laurie has- including seeing an evil looking Michael in his asylum.
Theres also appearances of other characters from the first film. Annie appears as a corpse (!) and Laurie’s crush Ben Tramer is killed by when running from a gun wielding Dr Loomis (more of that cynicism). Freud would have a field day with the Myers costume that Tramer is wearing. Was this the film being really clever by suggesting a kind of subconscious incestuous desire between Laurie and Michael or was it just being really stupid by having Ben coincidentally wear the exact same costume as Michael? The examination of the teeth of Ben Tramer’s charred body fully depicts the sequel’s mentality- where the original used the economy and anonymity of shadowplay and genius framing this film presents the horror in full sight with all of the lights on, warts and all. Nothing is hidden, on any level.
On the whole the film feels similar to the original and pulls off, for the most part, the impossible. Jamie Lee Curtis is as kickass as ever as Laurie (check out the big chase scene- its edge of the seat brilliant) and Donald Pleasance is also excellent (even though some of his dialogue lapses into camp. ‘I’ve been trick or treated to death!’ says a neighbour to which Loomis replies ‘You don’t know what death is!’ I stifled a laugh).
The score is a progression of the original score. Where the original was piano led with a smuttering of synth, this score is all synth with the original songs elaborated upon by Carpenter and Alan Howarth. Its a great soundtrack even though, like the film itself, it isn’t as great as the original. The score for this film was named one of the best soundtracks of all time by Empire Magazine.
This film is great fun. Its as good as a sequel to a masterpiece could be. Which is the highest praise possible. Judging by the other Halloween movies featuring Myers, this could have been a lot worse.
An intelligent, original horror film is as rare as hen’s teeth nowadays. Hollywood seems content on remaking, rehashing and plundering the past glories of the genre with predictably mediocre and overexplained results.
Let The Right One In is one of those rare gems however. Set in snow laden 80s Sweden this is the story of a bullied child who befriends a young vampire. And then the sparks (and blood) fly.
Brilliant written, acted and directed- this film is never less than stunning. Its not often that a film lives up to its hype (The Babadook is an example. Horror fans were so hungry for a great horror film that they called it a classic. Its very good but not a classic) but this does. Its power lies in properly developed characters, silences and the audiences intelligence not being underestimated.
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