Big ups to 100 Bloody Acres for starting in media res. You’ve no idea what this man’s name is, much less why this selfsame man is pulling a body from a wrecked lorry. You’ll eventual grow to like every character in this movie, though, whether or not they’re a victim or victimizer, and it’s a testament to directors Colin and Cameron Cairnes that they were able to make even backcountry madmen likeable.
Additionally, the film manages to walk a very fine line between generating unease of a comedic sort, along with unease of the terrifying kind, a deft act which is a difficult thing to do. It’s a natural inclination to giggle when you’re scared, and 100 Bloody Acres milks that for all it’s worth. Tucker & Dale did it, Shaun of the Dead did it … and so many other films fail in that balance, so it was with some trepedation I pressed “play” on this movie. read more »
Karloff! For all the schlock in which he appeared, Boris Karloff flicks are usually a safe bet for entertainment, unlike his peer Bela Lugosi. What seems like proof of said theory can be found in the opening shots of The Terror, with a trail of blood drops leading to a corpse in a closet.
The Terror is, however, a ghost story. It’s Poe-like in its mystery, and coming as it does from American International Pictures and using sets from past Roger Corman productions, along with the film’s plot of a ghost wandering, with moldering castles and strange confusion, one can be forgiven for thinking that it’s part of the parade of films AIP did with Vincent Price.
Karloff is, unfortunately, no Price. He’s far too stentorian, and his gravitas is nowhere near the campy, scenery-chewing fun of Price’s work. Jack Nicholson, here in an early starring role as Lt. Duvalier, hasn’t yet become The Jack Nicholson. While there are glimpses of the brilliance he’d soon show, the pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue that issues forth so effortlessly and authoritatively from Karloff comes out of Nicholson’s mouth stilted and labored.
And can someone please explain why it took goddamn decades to make a ghost story that was actually scary? It seems like so many films over the years featured nothing so much as following an actor into a room when, suddenly, they’re gone from it! Repeat 10-15 times over the course of an hour and a half, and you’ve got the basis for most ghost stories — the workaday ones, at least. The Haunting, The Innocents, most of Guillermo del Toro’s early work: these all manage to avoid the tropes which trap ghost films into terribly-boring plot doldrums, but they’re obviously the exception, rather than the rule.
Given that The Terror is a pretty slow, pokey movie without much to recommend it visually in terms of panic or terror, the score is forced to do the heavy lifting. The strings in the score quickly overwhelm. They’re rather powerful, and frequently threaten to overwhelm the dialogue and sound effects. Maybe there’s theremin, or maybe the violins are just straining for that high C, but things are very nearly Bernard Herrmann level in terms of composition, here. Granted, they stay at such a high level of tension, it’s only when the brass comes in that you know it’s time to expect something really spooky.
As per usual with these things, the last 15-20 minutes are all action and plot twists and special effects to pay off the viewer after a long slog through boredom, so I’d suggest giving The Terror a pass.
The second Terror Tuesdays goes down tonight at Frank’s North Star in Lawrence, Kansas. This week, we’re having to do switch things up a bit. No “Night Of The Night Ofs” tonight, because there’s a Royal ACLS playoff game at 7:00pm. Given that this is the boys in blue’s first set off playoff appearances in nearly 30 years, we’re not even going to attempt to compete.
So — midnight screening of Night of the Comet following the game tonight. Tallboys will be $2, Andy Stowers is bartending, and I’ll be there. Two out of three of those things are worth making it down to Frank’s (508 Locust St, north of the river).
Today’s post features special guest commentary from Cinapse’s Liam O’Donnell. He and both do this “watch a shit-ton of horror in October and write about it” thing, and so we’ve decided to team up on a few films this month. His column his entitled “Journal of Fear,” and you should totally read it. He also does a podcast called Cinepunx with Joshua Alvarez, and it’s super-fun. Go listen. On to the film … read more »
This week is really flying off the rails thematically, isn’t it? Only ONE Vnicent Price movie in a week devoted to him? Fuck me. However, in addition to a billion other things, we totally forgot American Horror Story started its new season this week, so we absolutely had to watch the premiere of Freak Show on demand last night. read more »
Vincent Price’s campiest role outside House of Wax also features him in hideously-deformed makeup. In his part as The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Price actually never utters a word on screen, as his voice is instead dubbed in, as a result of his vocal chords having been ruined as part of the same terrible accident that destroyed his face and killed his wife. read more »
The Halloween Horror Marathon is taking up an awful lot of my time, so I almost didn’t do a podcast, but I had a stack of new stuff I wanted to share, so I did a short nine songs. They’re all really great, and I highly recommend this installment of Sunglasses After Dark. The new episode will be an hour-long horror / sci-fi / instrumental mix for the holiday, and I’ve been crafting that sucker for months now, so expect to have your mind blow in two weeks.
Today’s installment is me pulling an audible. Looking at the list, the actual film slated was Dario Argento’s Phenomena (aka Creepers), but I just couldn’t handle another Italian horror film again. So, I went another way, choosing the horror spoof Student Bodies. read more »
The final Italian mind bender this week is Suspiria, the crown jewel of Dario Argento‘s giallo crown, according to critics and film scholars. It’s not my favorite — I like Goblin’s score for Profundo Rosso a lot more, and Cat O’ Nine Tails far outstrips Suspiria in terms of plot twists and insane kills. However, Suspiria is the big giant to slay — and, perhaps not coincidentally, the one Argento film I have with a good transfer and subtitles.
The plot is surprisingly straightforward: a bunch of weird things happen at a ballet school, we find out it was ran by a coven of witches, they all die. Now, actually motive and intent are entirely absent, and the deaths of all these people go unexplained, but you know what was going on, if not why, and that’s better than usual for most giallo. read more »