Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tristan's Annual Horror Movie Marathon

Every year when October creeps around my Netflix queue gets set to horror for the month. I got a late start this year on account of my New York trip, but I still covered a respectable amount of ground. Unfortunately, Nightmare on Elm Street never shipped despite hanging at the top of my queue all month, and I may have to resign myself to watching it some time when it's in less demand. But allow me to power through the odd assortment of horror/thriller/and otherwise spooky films I did manage to catch.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992): Coppola pulls off overindulgence better than anyone since Sternberg. Gary Oldman, Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes and Tom Waits understand this, and they're wonderful. Winona Ryder and Keanu Reaves don't, and oh my are they terrible.

The Cat O'Ninetails (Dario Argento, 1971): Dario Argento is officially my favorite horror director. He's still getting warmed up here, but the mood he sets is beyond creepy. Ennio Morricone's score sure helps too.

The Company of Wolves (Neil Jordan, 1984): Little Red Riding Hood battles werewolves and her own burgeoning sexual desires. Count me in.

Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009): Proof that Selick is what made The Nightmare Before Christmas something to marvel at, not Tim Burton (although I guess The Corpse Bride already told us that).

Dead Alive (Peter Jackson, 1992): A fun and freaky bloody mess of a film. The last forty minutes sustains a mind-boggling bloodfest that escalated well beyond the point of insanity.

Don't Torture A Duckling (Lucio Fulci, 1972): My first Fulci film. Predictable, but another worthy foray into giallo for me.

Drag Me To Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009): It's good to know that Raimi can still pull off his Evil Dead style tricks, but the end didn't quite work for me. Alison Lohman sure is a trooper though.

Hercules in the Haunted World (Mario Bava, 1961): It's visually quite eerie and gorgeous, but I can't get over how terrible the script is. I can deal with the bad dubbing, but the dialogue really lets this one down.

The Horror of Dracula (Terence Fisher, 1958): Christopher Lee makes a wonderful Drac. Otherwise, it's a just another solid adaptation of the horror classic.

In the Mouth of Madness (John Carpenter, 1995): John Carpenter has such a great eye for horrifying imagery. There's a bit too much of the "why won't anyone believe what I just saw?" for my liking, but all the Lovecraftian frills more than made up for that.

Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987): One of the best vampire movies I've ever seen. High energy, great performances, and a refreshing take on the genre.

Phenomena (Dario Argento, 1985): The script is fairly bad and Jennifer Connelly isn't a good enough actress to rise above bad material, but damn, Argento can still craft a masterful horror film even with these setbacks. There's some frightening set pieces and a few hilarious ones too (intentionally so). It didn't really kick in until the second half, but I highly enjoyed this by the end.

Ravenous (Antonia Bird, 1999): Cannibalism is creepy enough as it is, but I've always liked it best when served with a Michael Nyman score. The film is frightening, but it wisely keeps a good sense of humor about all the grisly details. Robert Carlyle turns in a wonderfully villainous performance.

Spider (David Cronenberg, 2003): Admirably acted and directed, though considerably less daring than I'd hoped for from Cronenberg. Still, I think I liked it more than his other films this decade.

Wait Until Dark (Terence Young, 1967): Very well written, and certainly unsettling. However, I think in the adaptation from stage to screen, something further could have been done to highlight the horror of living in constant darkness (from being blind). Both Alan Arkin and Audrey Hepburn were quite good.

That makes 15 films, so I think that calls for a mini-awards session. Based on my recent horror film viewing:

Best Male Performance: Robert Carlyle - Ravenous
Best Female Performance: Sarah Patterson - The Company of Wolves
Best Scare: the surprise beheading - Phenomena
Best Scene: The bar fight - Near Dark (RU, the whole bloody party scene - Dead Alive)
Best Screenplay: Ravenous
Best Music: Ennio Morricone - The Cat O'Ninetails
Best Art Direction: Bram Stoker's Dracula
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow - Near Dark (RU, Francis Ford Coppola - Bram Stoker's Dracula)
Best Horror Film: Ravenous (RU, Near Dark)

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