So, what DID you watch on Halloween?

I must ask those of you with weak constitutions to please sit down very carefully and grip tightly the arm or the cushion of the item upon which you have chosen to sit. This is going to come as a bit of a shock to those who know me, but something both extraordinary and somewhat alarming has happened over the course of the last seven weeks. It may not seem earthshaking in the overall scheme of the world, but it is certainly filled with just enough portent that I must take note of it. Even so, it is something that literally snuck in the back door, and kept its presence low enough that I myself did not become aware of it until... well, yesterday.

Are you ready for the awful truth?

Over the course of my usual seven-week buildup-to-Halloween movie festival, I did not watch a single film, or even a second of film, containing the following characters: Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Pinhead, Jason Voorhees or Leatherface. On top of that, neither did I view any films in the Exorcist, Puppetmaster, Jaws or Tremors series. Oh, yeah... and no Ash, either. In fact, now that I think of it, I didn't see any films in any of the old Universal Monsters series, either -- no Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Mummy or Creature from the Black Lagoon films spun on my disc player nor did I run into any of them on the tube. Also, because I still haven't seen Saw II, going to the theatre to see Saw III (See-saw! Ha! Get it... ugh...) was out of the question. That's OK, since I was underwhelmed by the first film, and didn't see it as a revival of horror like so many other short-memoried, or flat-out unknowledgable, others do.

What's with the movie series dissing? Nothing conscious at the time, to be sure. Had I run into any of these films, and I had more open time, I probably would have taken them in. Part of it was timing, part of it was forgetfulness (more on this at the end of the post), and part of it was a concentrated effort to catch up on horror films that I had yet to see, none of which belonged to a series format. OK, I did watch the original version of Gojira, but it is miles apart from the remainder of the series, both in style and substance. And... OK, I did see Ju-On in this period, so that does count as part of a series, but I was watching it in conjunction with a regular Sundance series called Asia Extreme. (Ooh, this reminds me, didn't get to The Grudge 2, either... my crimes pile up Gacy-like in my cranial crawlspace. Better throw some more lime on them...) Overall, it was just me playing catch-up on the Netflix list, and at any point, I could have ended up with Parts II, III and IV of any number of titles. And except for Romero's Land of the Dead, the fourth of his zombie epics (which don't have any recurring characters except for the basic concept of zombies taking over the Earth), I didn't...

So, what did I end up with on Halloween? All told, some pretty good choices, considering how scattershot the discs have been showing up in my mailbox. Of the four titles that appeared in time for viewing beginning Halloween morning, all four rated fairly high with me. The most enjoyable of the lot for me was Slither, a terrifically fun little alien-worm-invasion flick starring Nathan Fillion, whom the smart ones among us will recognize as Mal from the late, lamented Firefly series (and film follow-up Serenity). Fillion is the sheriff who has to stop the invasion, though his action mode is just a little klutzier than normal in this one. Some great one-liners, ultra-gory bodily excretions and openings, and some sharp supporting work from the players (including Michael "Henry" Rooker, Elizabeth Banks and Jenna "Pam from The Office" Fischer) make this a ball, but be warned: some parts reminded me a lot of Night of the Creeps and a little bit of Society (with deliberate nods to other films like The Blob) so if you have any genre history stored up in your head, some of it might seem like déjà vu. Not that it matters that much...

The original Japanese version of Pulse has somehow slipped past me over the last few years, so with the American remake certain to pop up before my eyes very soon,
due completely to that hot Veronica Mars chick being in it, I felt it was high time to rip into it. While I felt this version to be gorgeously haunting, my problem with it came not from the film itself, but from my own awareness that there is an American version out there, which forced me to spend the entire movie translating each and every scene into bad Hollywood filmmaking in my head, in anticipation of what I will encounter with the new spin. This may make it seem like I am not going into the American gruntie without a clothespin on my nose, but the trailer (except for Kristin Bell) gives me little hope that it will even come close to this version.

I avoided Wolf Creek like I avoid, well, areas like the Australian Outback or other remote, desolate areas where, surely, the only people hanging about are the sort of people who are either looking for trouble or looking for victims or both. The trailer made it seem like nothing more than "torture porn", and assuredly, there are a couple of sequences in here that will make all but the sort of people who are either looking for trouble or looking for victims or both cringe and squirm in their seats. ("Head on a stick," people, "head on a stick.") But the movie takes its sweet time getting to this point, and allows us to really get to know the characters on all sides of the story, including the Australian Outback, which plays about as important a role here as it did in Walkabout. I wish that the film had gone into the afterstory a bit more (this is supposedly based on real events, which the before and after titles go to great pains to point out), but for a nice, surprisingly suspenseful build, even with the nastiness that ensues, I ended up admiring much of the film.

Which brings me to Lucky McKee and The Woods. Not great, not bad... it has Bruce Campbell in another slightly campy role (even if he is playing it relatively straight) and is from the director of May (whose Masters of Horror effort, Sick Girl, I wrote about a couple of posts ago). These two reasons alone are enough to make me check it out, but let me add one more thing: it has Patricia Clarkson running an all-girls boarding school in 1965, and let me state here unequivocally that I adore her. It takes a lot for me not to notice the "teenage" girls in uniforms, skirts and knee socks running about the place, but Clarkson does just that with her laconic sexiness, even as a possibly-evil possible-witch headmistress. The movie is good but generic fun, though it never goes as far as I wish it would with on the horror front, but it does have a memorably gooey, gory ending. And it has Bruce Campbell -- 'Nuff said!

Oh yes, and about the forgetfulness. It wasn't until the middle of Halloween that the notion struck me that, for the first time in 20 years or so, I had gotten through the month of October without once plugging the original John Carpenter Halloween in for a viewing, either on VHS or DVD. I suppose at that point I could have righted the ship, but I was also then struck by the thought with which I started this post: that I had nearly made it through the holiday month without even realizing that I hadn't spent any time with any of my old ghoul pals of the past.

Boy, are they ever gonna demand reparations next year...

Halloween List:
Slither (2006, DVD) - 7; The Woods (2006, DVD) - 6; Kairo [Pulse] (2001, DVD) - 7; Wolf Creek (2006, DVD) - 6; The Crazies (1973, TCM Underground)- 5; Sherlock Holmes: The Last Vampyre (1993, Biography) - 6.


leon said…
So is your other blog, "Cel Block," dead or not? Just wondering when, if ever, you plan to get back to it.

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