Day 31- 31 Days of Halloween- Seytan (aka Turkish Exorcist)- 1974

Day 31- 31 Days of Halloween- Seytan (aka Turkish Exorcist)- 1974

There was a long standing tradition for Turkish remakes of huge Hollywood blockbusters. These remakes have miniscule budgets and are made quickly so that they can be released soon after the original.

The Exorcist was remade in Turkey for a tiny proportion of the original’s budget. This means that we get hilarious special effects, truly garish decors and the worst hairstyles ever committed to celluloid.

 

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But whilst we know what we’re getting this film is a true cult movie through and through. It might be cheap and tacky but its also what a lot of more expensive films struggle to be- utterly charming, engaging and a pleasure to watch.

Let me leave you with a question- would you rather watch a film like this or a Hollywood studio multiplex movie that has a budget of millions but also has characters you couldn’t care less about, an uninspired plot and CGI that makes the film look more like a computer game?

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I hope these Turkish remakes get restored and released on Blu ray. I’d buy them.

Day 30- 31 Days of Halloween- It Follows (2014)

Day 30- 31 Days of Halloween- It Follows (2014)

A young girl has sex with her boyfriend only to be informed that hes passed on a curse to her. From now on she will be followed by a supernatural entity. If the entity reaches her it will kill her. Only she will be able to see it. The only way to get rid of the curse is to have sex with someone else and pass it on.

Any modern horror film that isn’t a remake or reboot is a bonus. This film’s premise is innovative and imaginative.

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But I just didn’t connect with any character or care what happened to them. The film feels like a series of teenage dramatics that become tiresome after a while.

The film also feels like some update on the after school special which tackles an issue of the day. Don’t screw around or THIS will happen to you! Give me Jason Voorhees as the punisher of the teenagers who are doing the do before marriage anyday.

But, as I said before, at least this was an original idea- a rarity in the horror genre these days.

2 out of 5

Day 27- 31 Days of Halloween- The Sadist (1963)

Day 27- 31 Days of Halloween- The Sadist (1963)

Three schoolteachers stop at a garage on their way to a baseball game at Dodgers Stadium. Their car isn’t running properly and so they need to look at it and maybe try to fix it. But thats not their biggest obstacle- they come face to face with Charlie Tibbs and his girlfriend- a couple of killers who are accused of murders in Arizona and are on the run. Charlie has a gun and insists that they work on the car so that he can get away in it.

This film is like a play that has been filmed- there is primarily one main setting (the film reminded me of Cujo in that respect). But this doesn’t mean that the film is static and boring. The one setting is used innovatively and this means that the film is directed with verve. There is also a sense of ‘us versus them’ with the schoolteachers in their Sunday best (shirts, ties or a nice conservative dress) whilst Tibbs is looking every part the juvenile delinquent in his denims and sporting a greasy quiff. Tibbs is obviously based on real-life serial killer Charles Starkweather.

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This film is brilliant- will the teachers get away, when and how? The film ramps up the tension and suspense and never lags- theres no scenes that feel unnecessary. The film is also very extreme for its time. It was even rejected by the BBFC when it was submitted for classification in 1964.

Arch Hall Jr in the lead gives an extraordinary performance as Tibbs- the Sadist in the title. His face and facial expressions are almost other-worldly and supernatural as is his portrayal. Quite extraordinary.

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Watch out for the poignant scene in which the schoolteachers hear on the radio the baseball game they should be at instead of fighting for their lives.

Theres also some innovative direction within the film- it almost feels like Tibbs’ gun in the first half of the film is an actual character.

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I didn’t know about this film until recently. I’m glad I do now. Why isn’t this more widely available on DVD and Blu ray?

Apparently this film is a favourite of director Joe Dante’s- a seal of approval anyone would be proud of.

4 out of 5

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Day 24- 31 Days of Halloween- Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

Day 24- 31 Days of Halloween- Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

Whilst on holiday Virginia bumps into her old friend and one-time lesbian fumble, Bet. Virginia’s ‘friend’ Roger asks Bet to continue with them on their travels but whilst on the train the next day Virginia is angry at the attention Bet is getting from Roger who insists that he and Virginia are actually just travelling buddies and nothing more. Virginia decides to jump from the train when its moving slowly through a deserted town called Berzano. Bad move. Berzano is home to a medieval Satanic cult who many centuries before were killed for their religious beliefs and sacrificial practices. The eyes of the worshippers who were all hung were pecked out by birds. These blind devil worshippers now come out at night from their graves to hunt for the living to feast on.

And so begins this Amando Ossorio Spanish-Portugese gorefest that was made in 1972 and helped spearhead a resurgence in Spanish horror.

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This film is a cracker- great locations, a downbeat tone to proceedings and its pessimistic as all hell. Whenever something can go wrong it does and badly! Theres also a brilliant pace to the film with the viewer never being bored by any sequences. All killer, no filler.

Watch out for the character of the morgue keeper who takes great delight in showing the dead bodies of the recently deceased to those who have to identify their bodies. Theres also a hint that he does unspeakable things to the corpses in his spare time. He seems to love his work and way too much!

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A special mention to the costume people and hairstylist. The characters in this are dressed in the grooviest of 1970’s couture with all of the women having gorgeous ratted up hair. Perfect 70’s Euro horror.

Oh, and watch the original Spanish version called La Noche Del Terror Ciego. The American dubbed version has scenes of gore missing as is the flashback to Bet and Virginia getting all lesbianic with each other. Its also resequenced and not as good.

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An astounding film.

4.5 out of 5

Day 15- 31 Days of Halloween- Freaks (1932)

Day 15- 31 Days of Halloween- Freaks (1932)

I first saw this when studying film at University.

Tod Browning tries the sideshow carnival trick of sensationalism to try to bring audiences in to gawk at the disgusting freaks of nature. But he has a trick up his sleeve- he treats the ‘freaks’ as human beings, utterly likeable and as having feelings like everyone else. For this, I love this film. And for this the film was cut, censored or just banned on its original release.

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The vilest people in the film are the ones who are able bodied but scheming. The beautiful trapeze artist is trying to swindle the show’s male dwarf out of his inheritance. The other performers find out and reek their own brand of revenge.

This film is clearly an influence on John Waters, particularly Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversion in Multiple Maniacs.

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Be proud of what makes you unique. What an amazing message.

Day 3- 31 Days of Halloween- The Exorcist (1974)

Day 3- 31 Days of Halloween- The Exorcist (1974)

I feel like I’ve grown up with this film.

This was one film that I remember seeing on the shelves of video stores when I was a child but didn’t get round to seeing before it mysteriously disappeared. Absence made the heart grown fonder and I knew I must see this forbidden fruit.

But when I was at school a friend of mine had the video as his Dad ran a video store which was very fortunate. I borrowed The Exorcist and watched it with my father whilst we were eating our evening meal. A bad mistake.

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Then in 1993 on my 18th birthday I went to see the film at the Odeon in York with some friends where it was being shown as a one-off midnight screening. The print was in terrible shape. But it still scared me so much that I spent a sleepless night tossing and turning in bed thinking about what I’d just seen.

Then in 1998 the film was rereleased in cinemas in a digitally remastered form. It looked and sounded amazing. Again I saw it.

Then in 2000 came the ‘Version You’ve Never Seen Before’ that incorporated deleted footage and CGI at different parts of the film.

For my money, the best version is the original.

Yes, everyone knows about the famous (or should that be infamous) scenes that are actually more shocking and effective on screen then in the telling. But this is a multi-layered complex film and demands repeated viewings to reap everything the film has to offer.

Captain Howdy, Burke Dennings, Friedkin playing with our senses in certain scenes (check out the scene where Chris sees Karras and Dyer for the first time but we don’t hear what they say as theres a jumbo jet going overhead or the dream sequences involving the St Christopher necklace falling to the ground and you’ll see what I mean), the epic and haunting otherworldly sequence in Northern Iraq, Chris’ speech about why she wants an exorcism (some of the best acting I’ve ever seen- although I could say the same about all of this film), the desecrations, ‘Have you seen what shes done? Your cunting daughter!’, ‘Your mother sucks cocks in Hall!’, ‘The sow is mine!’…theres so much to love.

Look out for actor Paul Bateson in one of the murder scenes. He was later charged with murder and was the inspiration for Friedkin’s later masterpiece, Cruising.

The Exorcist is the horror motherlode. 5 out of 5- a true masterpiece.

Dirty Harry (1971) *****

Dirty Harry (1971) *****

A film I know word for word as my brother and I were obsessed with it when we were growing up.

A classic but a problematic one. The cop who flaunts the law and the rules to catch his prey. Hes proud of hating everyone and all groups (the character in this film and in so many Clint Eastwood movies seems to be politically incorrect decades before political correctness became an actual concept). Hes a one man lynch mob who follows his instincts and isn’t afraid of blowing away a suspect and asking questions later (I wonder if one of these questions is ‘Was the dead actually guilty?!’) This character is a right-winger’s wet dream- who cares about a fair trial and the law when these things take so long and might not (seemingly) provide actual justice. The Daily Mail’s readership must love Harry.

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Harry’s policing would also include beating interviewees for confessions and said victims somehow developing breathing problems whilst in police custody.

Of course in this and subsequent films Harry is always shown to be right. Its a wasted opportunity that a Dirty Harry film wasn’t made that shows that Harry blew away an actual innocent person. At the films climax there could be a scene after that shows that the wrong person was killed and that the crimes being committed beforehand were actually continuing. Its not late for such a movie to be made. It would have the ‘Bring back hanging’ mob in uproar.

But for all of the bending of rules and trigger happy exploits of the main protagonist during the course of the film it is established that whilst he may be an authority hating maverick its because he actually wants law and order and for the citizens of San Francisco to be safe. The scene in which he runs from phone booth to phone booth to save the kidnap victim shows his willingness to undertake near impossible feats if there is a chance of a saved life at the end of his toils. There is also the scene of the kidnapped girl’s lifeless and naked body being dragged from its underground lair which Harry watches from the distance. This scene is a rare moment of tenderness in such a rough and tumble movie and is genuinely moving. Harry is established as having his priorities right even if they are accomplished in questionable ways.

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But to quote Last House on the Left this is only a movie. Aside from the films politics this a rollicking good ride. It perfectly captures its time effortlessly and can be seen as some kind of American time capsule regarding the era it portrays. This was a divisive and fractious period in American history which manifests itself throughout the film. Whilst this was the time of hippies and peace and love this was also the time of Charles Manson and Altamont with more dark times ahead for America.

Whilst Clint may be the star of the film there is another star that is just as important and that is the city of San Francisco itself. It is photographed to perfection with every scene being memorable due to the amazing locales. The neon ‘Jesus Saves’ sign, the huge crucifix monument, the grandeur of City Hall…the list is endless. All beautiful and integral to the film to such a degree that they feel like an actual breathing entity. This film would have been inferior or cliched if filmed in New York for instance.

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An anti-hero as hard boiled and gritty as Harry Callahan deserves a villain just as idiosyncratic. Thankfully this film provides just that and then some. The character of Scorpio (named as Charles Davis in the film’s novelisation) is brilliantly depicted by Andrew Robinson as utterly unhinged, homicidal and completely batshit crazy. This character is obviously based on the Zodiac Killer who was operating in the Bay Area at the time of the films conception. In fact this is one of those performances that not only goes the extra mile but goes considerably beyond that. Watch the scene in which Scorpio hijacks a busload of schoolchildren and gets them to sing ‘Row Your Boat’ whilst saying that hes taking them to the ice cream factory. This level of insanity reminds me of Betsy Palmer’s turn as Pamela Voorhees at the end of Friday the 13th in terms of getting into ‘the zone’.

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Add to this a barrage of brilliant and quirky supporting characters (shouts go out to Inspector Frank “Fatso” DiGiorgio and Hot Mary) and the stage is set for a blast of a film.

Lalo Schifrin’s score is both funky and also very, very disturbing. The music is just as brilliant as the rest of film. Thankfully the full soundtrack is available to buy both physically and as a download.

Everything is in place to make this movie a masterpiece- iconic, quotable and career defining. There was also a rash of vigilante/maverick cop movies influenced by Dirty Harry led by Michael Winner’s Death Wish (also highly recommended).

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Just don’t start wishing for the kind of justice Dirty Harry or the sub-genre it spawned seem to condone.