How are we more than halfway through the month of October already? How have I watched 16 things in 16 days when I can barely manage that amount of viewing in an entire year?
And HOW did I sit through this entire movie? YIKES. To say it was a slow burn is an egregious understatement. I think instead I might say an “excruciating slog.” But at the same time, I don’t think it was awful, like not the worst thing I’ve ever seen kind of awful. I am not sure how those two things can both be true at the same time, but here we are.
As House of Darkness opens, Hap (Justin Long) and Mina (Kate Bosworth) are tootling along a dark road, he is driving her home from the bar where they initially met, earlier that evening. There is an awkward abundance of clumsy small talk in which Long repeatedly backpedals and sticks his foot in his mouth, while Mina’s contributions to the conversation are a mixture of enigmatic non-answers and frank observations that further fluster her companion. She then inexplicably invites him inside her home, a huge, creepy, olde-timey mansion. I say “inexplicably,” but oh–we know. We know from the very beginning what’s going to happen and I think that’s why every minute lasts an hour in the journey to finally get there.
What ensues is an agonizingly humdrum game of cat and mouse wherein Mina teases and flirts with Hap, or at least that’s what Hap thinks is happening. In reality, she’s playing with him–not in the coquettish way he thinks, but rather how a calculating predator may toy with their prey–and unbeknownst to him, she is drawing out this mockery of a one-night-stand and savoring every strained and ill at ease moment of it. Hap, being the mediocre white man that he is, has every confidence he is getting laid this night; he as much as says so in a furtive phone call with a coworker he had been at the bar with.
I think House of Darkness had interesting potential. If it had been shorter and punchier–this was a story that could have been told in a half-hour run time. If the dialogue had been more clever (it was so, so dull.) If there had been *something* to make up for the lack of surprise. We know from the beginning where this story is headed, so my thought is that you need to either completely flip our expectations on their head, OR make the place where we know we’re ending up that much more over the top and batshit insane. Make it worth the ride for folks who go into a story knowing exactly how it is going to play out.
Anyway, I did say it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. And I will stand by that. But I would not recommend this one. It’s not surprising and it’s not scary, and if you have a problem with characters being awkward or embarrassing themselves, I will warn you that there is a lot of that in this film. Yvan overheard me watching it and I could feel him cringe halfway across the house (he’s the kind of person who makes an excuse to leave the room if we are watching something where this happens.) If, in spite of all of this, you want to watch House of Darkness, you can find it for $6.99 on YouTube, AppleTV and Prime, OR you can pay nothing for it, like I did–because I found it in my library streaming through Hoopla.
“Mirada de Cristal” (Crystal Eyes)was a film I stumbled across while looking for something else. “Eyes of Crystal” was the film that I had noted on my list, but what I found instead was a 2017 Argentinian neo-Giallo set in the stylish fashion world of 1985 with a glittery, gaudy telenovela spectacle feel. When I tell you that the first 10 minutes of the film were the best .99 cents I have ever spent in my life, I genuinely mean it.
Supermodel Alexis Carpenter was an asshole. We only meet her for a few minutes in the film’s opening scenes but we learn everything we need to know about her in a dressing room sequence before she is to appear on the runway; she’s vain and self-centered diva and most likely on a lot of drugs, maybe all the drugs; she’s rude, she’s nasty, she throws a cup of scalding hot espresso into a very nice makeup artist’s face. She then takes to the runway (which is sort of meant to be an alleyway but it feels a lot like the gloomy goth darkness of the opening club scene from The Hunger) and acts like a brat, swigging champagne and spitting it on the audience members, and then somehow she gets electrocuted, catches fire and goes up in a terrifying blaze, perishing spectacularly in front of the models, and guests and all the world.
One year later, as a new show is being organized to honor the late Alexis and her legacy on the anniversary of her death, someone dressed as a showroom dummy is killing everyone associated with Alexis, one after the other. The sets and cinematography and costumes are marvelous. Even that ridiculous home that the magazine editor/fashion designer lives in! It looked like a doll’s house! I think it WAS a doll’s house! And although we don’t get to know all of the characters very well, they still seem fairly fleshed out in a way that we actually do know them a bit, or at least enough. The rest of the story is thin and there’s not much of a plot but with a film like this, who cares? I would have recommended this wholeheartedly before I even finished the film, and I still do …with the caveat that you have to be okay with a lot of campy ridiculousness in your horror pastiche viewing. If you do give it a go, please let me know what you think!
Bonus: I went going through my perfume cabinet to try and hit upon the perfect olfactory combination for this lurid arthaus melodrama, and I think I hit upon it: Regime de Fleurs Glass Blooms evokes these frosty brittle models in their shivery, shimmery finery, and Frederic Malle’s Synthetic Jungle is all plasticky murderous mannequin, and together, they are perfect!
Like many of the movies I’d passed over for some reason or another, as soon as I hear Stacie and Anthony chat about them on Gaylords of Darkness, I immediately changed my tune. The Red Shoes is a great example of this. Now I don’t recall if either of them actually liked the film, but I feel like they were quite passionate in their discussion, and that always piques my interest and spurs me to get in on the action of whatever they are talking about.
Loosely based on/inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of a young girl so enamored with her pretty red shoes that she wears them to church in spite of her elder’s warning that god doesn’t like that slutty vain shit, the girl is then visited by a series of beardy old farts and nosy angels who curse her feet and shoes to dance beyond her control, even after she dies. It’s pretty gruesome; at one point she even gets an executioner to chop her feet off, but her proto-Louboutins just keep dancing. In the end, she’s filled with remorse and prays; the angel reappears and “gives Karen (that’s really her name) the mercy she asked for: her heart becomes so filled with peace and joy that it bursts. Her soul flies on to Heaven, where no one mentions the red shoes.”
Well, thank god no one brought that whole episode up and embarrassed Karen in heaven.
The 2005 Korean film adaptation loosely based on The Red Shoes makes so much less sense than the already deranged source material that I don’t even know how to describe it. And as a matter of fact, one reviewer went so far as to condemn the film as “intolerably stupid.” But…I don’t know. I feel like there’s something there, even if it was so convoluted and disjointed as to be mostly incomprehensible gibberish. But is that just me not being able to keep up with the story? Or did they just do a really awful job telling this weird story?
Sun Jae, in a panic, because she thought she’d lost her daughter, Tae-soo, on the way to ballet practice, arrives home to find her awful husband in bed with his mistress (who is wearing Sun Jae’s shoes while they are boning! I can’t get over how rude that is!) She also realizes that Tae-soo had been home all along. Next thing we know Sun Jae has left her husband and she and Tae Soo are moving into a creepy, crappy apartment together. There are also several scenes taking place in another crappy building where Sun Jae is talking to and developing a relationship with an interior designer and I think this is meant to be someplace under reconstruction for her ophthalmologist clinic, but that is not at all explained very well, so I was getting very confused. I thought at first that penniless-after-leaving-her husband Sun Jae had somehow hired this guy for her own apartments, but how was she affording it and why did the space all of a sudden look so different? Also, how were we supposed to know she was an eye doctor? At one point she was in an eye clinic to get an injury looked at, and we see that she is friends with one of the technicians, but I in no way extrapolated from this that Sun Jae herself was a doctor.
Sun Jae finds a pair of (velvet?) pumps on the subway and brings them home. She soon finds that everyone in contact with the shoes becomes violently obsessed with them, and shotly thereafter meets a grisly end–which is concerning because Tae Soo seems to be wildly fixated on them. We find out by way of a dual storyline taking place in the past that the shoes are without a doubt just straight-up cursed, and also very pink and not at all red. We didn’t need ghosts to tell us that, though. It’s pretty obvious. Also, they are, and I realize this is very subjective, quite fug. Detectives become involved, people go to the hospital, it’s all very confusing, there’s a very long, scary chase scene that ends in an abadoned subway station sequence, and at the end of it, I am not sure what’s happening.
I need to preface that last statement with yes, some things become evident, I did catch some twisty twists. I know I have friends and readers who take things very literally and without fail there will be someone in the comments walking me through everything in this movie and I know you folks are very earnest and mean well. Like the person on social media who took me seriously when I posted this and felt it necessary to fill me in. At one point in time I would have gotten really irritated about this, like “can’t you read the room?” or I might think it’s a little mansplainy. But over the years it’s become clear to me that I just know a lot of people who know a lot of stuff and they just want to tell you about all of that stuff. That’s how some folks relate and socialize and connect with other people, and me getting annoyed about it is maybe a little bit shitty. But I guess the other side of this is…please don’t take everything I say seriously. And I know that’s how many folks’ brains operate, and I’m sorry if I am confusing to you in that regard!
ANYWAY I think the actors did the best with what they were given to work with here, and the cinematography was wonderfully gloomy and desperately creepy, and little Tae Soo was phenomenal as a terrified child. I don’t think this film was intolerably stupid, but I do think there were a lot of things that made absolutely no sense here and it made my brain hurt a little bit.
In 1990, when What Lies Beneath was released, I was 14 years old. I don’t think I would have had any interest in it at the time and probably filed it away under “something that boring middle-aged people watch.” [EDIT: this film was released in 2000 and I don’t know how I came up with 1990! But it’s kinda funny that I got it mixed up. SO…I was 24 in 2000…and I still don’t think I would have had an interest in it.]
I don’t know that my snap judgments are any more informed now that I am myself a boring, middle-aged person, but I saw this show up on HBOMax, and I thought, eh, maybe now’s the time.
I consider myself a life-long horror fan, but the type of horror I am interested in is always changing. When I was a teenager, it was the ridiculous, over-the-top spectacle of things like Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive. In my twenties, I dropped the ball. I was trying to be too many things to too many people; very cool, almost scarily TOO COOL new friends who I thought had absolutely no interest in horror, boyfriends with weirdly-timed-and-usually-when-it-most-suited-them Christian streaks. I was distracted and didn’t have a lot of time to pursue any of my interests, save a standing Friday night date with a family friend, and sometimes horror was on the docket (but of course, that was very mainstream, in the theatre horror.)
I then moved to New Jersey. This, in many respects, was a huge mistake. I’ve told the story on this blog countless times but the short version is that I moved away from friends and family and everything I knew to pursue a very unhealthy and very doomed relationship. The good thing that came out of this is that in my profound loneliness, many of my former interests blossomed. And in 2004 and over the next few years, there was so much horror to discover…especially now that I had a Netflix subscription! Japanese and Korean horror, The New French Extreme, all of the torture porn–no matter how transgressive, subversive, or obscure, I wanted to devour all of it.
Now, I think I’m a little pickier about what’s on the menu, but the one type of horror story that I’ve never really watched a lot of are these …well, let’s call them “domestic thrillers.” I don’t love that term, it makes me huff in annoyance and roll my eyes, but I’ve seen it used to describe a subgenre of books I have been reading a lot of lately. One article explains this psychological horror subgenre as “When Home Is Where the Harm Is,” and another fills in the details thusly: “the plot lines for domestic thrillers are set within homes, families and spousal relations and delve into the dynamics of trust, mistrust, and suspicion. They deal with dark themes and use infidelity, money trouble, deception, mental illness, or untold family secrets as the medium through which often shocking, if not outright provoking, experiences are portrayed.”
And let me tell you when it comes to the books I am reading in the past year? I have been INHALING these stories. I don’t know why, and I don’t know what switch has been flipped in my brain, but these twisty tales of suspicious wives and shifty husbands and neighborhood noir have been a balm and comfort food for me. Somehow though, that comfort food vibe does not translate to film-adaptations of these types of stories. And I think I have pinpointed a piece of it, one that is so much more apparent on the big screen.
These movies/stories have very, very white lady energy. Like rich white Karen or Carol or whoever wearing chinos and boat shoes and going quietly nuts in the family lake house white lady energy. To star in one of these stories, you’ve gotta have a lot of privilege, is what I am saying. I don’t know that I have the language to write about this in a coherent and nuanced way, and this became clear to me when I brought it up to my youngest sister and she started asking questions about it, for which I did not have coherent or nuanced responses. So let’s just call it an observation for now.
So: What Lies Beneath. Michelle Pfeiffer is suffering from a bit of empty nest syndrome as she sends her daughter off to college. She is a former cellist, but she gave up her career when she married her (doctor? scientist?) husband, Harrison Ford, and they live in his late father’s enormous lake house on which they have recently completed renovations. New neighbors move in and have noisy fights; and after a particularly nasty one, Michelle Pfeiffer sees the wife through a slat in the fence that next afternoon muttering and mumbling in a terrified way. That evening, Michelle Pfeiffer sees the husband dragging a body-shaped bundle into their car and driving off. She soon begins seeing and hearing creepy things, and believes that the dead neighbor wife is attempting to communicate with her.
The story unfurls from there and we learn what we always learn in these instances and what every fictional detective always tells us about spouses. But if you have not seen it, I will say no more.
What Lies Beneath was not the comfort food of my books, even though it was mostly the same kind of story. But I did get to see Michelle Pfeiffer in a perfectly perfect green space-dyed funnel-necked sweater in a scene where she was talking to her therapist (our beloved Henry Deacon from Eureka!) AND the wife from next door was none other than Eowyn!
I have been wanting to see Last Night in Soho ever since I first heard it mentioned, but after last night’s viewing, I realized that I had gone into it with absolutely no idea what it was to be about. Mesmerized by the groovy, dreamy, colorful time-traveling mystery vibes, I never bothered looking into it further or read any reviews to see what folks had to say about it.
If I am not being too picky, I’d say that I enjoyed this story of timid country-mouse Anna, moving to the city of London to pursue her fashion design dreams. Anna is a rather sensitive soul, both in her personality and behavior as well as her psychic ability. She often sees the ghost of her mother hanging around her and her gran’s house, and it seems like a friendly-comforting presence, but we do learn that at some point earlier in time Anna had a bit of a mental breakdown of a sort, ostensibly related to these sensitivities, but I’m not sure if we ever learn more about it than that.
Anna attempts to settle into her student housing situation but her roommate, the singularly named Jocasta, is quite horrible in all the typical mean-girl ways. Anna says “fuck this” and finds a bedsit above a garlicky French bistro, run by a cranky Mrs. Collins. Things start to go weird almost immediately, as on a nightly basis Anna is transported to the swinging sixties where it seems from our perspective, she both watches and becomes budding starlet, Sandie–whose existence goes from dazzling romance and glamourous nightlife to grimy and gross under the predatory management of slimy Matt Smith, and which involves “entertaining” a slew of handsy, faceless men. Anna becomes increasingly jangled and disoriented in her waking life at design school, in her job at the bar which she obtained in order to afford the alternative housing, and in her growing friendship with John, an adorably sweet fellow design student. These visions culminate in a moment of blood and violence, and Anna’s reality utterly fragments.
As a person who is terribly, overwhelmingly sensitive to how humans behave toward one another, this film was such an interesting study in how shitty and shifty people can be, but also how gorgeously, heartbreakingly kind, and empathetic they can be, too. I don’t guess it’s the point of the film at all, but two interactions nearly brought me to tears. They both happen at the bar where Anna is working. John (the film’s sole Black character, I should add) shows up to check on her because he is worried, and they have a bit of small but really lovely interaction and he is just such a wonderful character amidst a throng of nasties. I wish they’d given him a bigger part, I really do. And the second moment in this vein also happened at the bar; Anna asks her boss Carol if she believes in ghosts. Carol’s response was just so thoughtful and reassuring. I really loved it:
“Ghosts? Why, are you scared down here? Look, I believe every old house, public or not, has its history, but this place? If this place is haunted by anything, it’s the good times. The good vibrations and I don’t mean The Beach Boys. When it’s empty in here all I hear is the laughs. Every gangster, every copper, every red-faced lush has been in here and all those high spirits have soaked into the walls. You could probably get drunk just on that.”
I had said that if I wasn’t being too picky, I would say that I enjoyed it. But. The film really fell apart for me at the end and about that all I will say is that it was visually beautiful and transportive and marvelously immersive, and I wish they had just run with that angle for the entirety of the film. We won’t get into all the rest of the whys, as I try to keep my thoughts here relatively spoiler free, but I’ll leave it with that while I guess I liked it okay enough, I did not love Last Night In Soho.
I’m always up for some creepy horror anime, so when I found Housing Complex C, an adultswim offering on HBOMax, I figured “aha! this will be perfect binge watch for 31 Days of Horror!”
What I did not realize is that there are to be only four 25-minute episodes in total, and at the time of this writing, only two episodes have been released. So there’s not much I can say about it other than that I am tentatively intrigued.
Exuberant and friendly, nine-year-old Kimi is one of the tenants in the run-down Japanese seaside titular Housing Complex C. There are a handful of old codgers who are always sitting around outside grumping and gossiping, Mrs. Wada, the even grumpier and definitely racist old lady building manager, and a few other characters that we vaguely get to know. In the first episode, Kimi and the oldsters go exploring a dim, dusty storage area under the building in order to find a shaved ice machine that someone had stowed away down there at some point. They make a strange and unsettling discovery in the form of a grotesque, mummified little dog, and a stone with some esoteric elder sign-type chalk markings that one of the seniors pockets on the way out.
Some new folks move into the building. The Koshide family, a Mr. & Mrs. and their 10-year-old daughter Yuri, along with a group of foreigners who are there to be “fishing interns” in the town, for whom Mr. Koshide is the manager and consultant. Of course, Mrs. Wada is already prejudiced toward the newcomers, so things are awkward and tense from the start. Kim and Yuri strike up a tentative friendship and the episode ends on a mystery, with one of the apartments abandoned, its inhabitants disappeared and piles of moss left in their wake.
With glimpses of fish-people out of the corners of the eye, the murky seaside locale, the ancient underground tunnels, and of course the elder-signage, we’re no doubt working up to some sort of Lovecratftian horror story here. The apartment complex itself, creepy and worn down, reminds me a lot of the film Dark Water, right down to the poster art. I’m keen to see what happens, though I will be a snob and say I hate watching these things dubbed, I much prefer subtitles, and some of the voice actors here, especially Kimi, are annoying to the point of grating.
Bonus Material! I just finished Paul Tremblay’s Cabin at the End of the World, and speaking of grumpy, when I reached the last page, I didn’t realize it was the last page (because HOW COULD IT BE) and I grumpily shouted WHAT THE HELL! I wasn’t planning on reading this home-invasion/psychological horror story, but when I saw that there was to be a film adaptation of it, it goosed me a little because I’m not about to watch that without having read the book first, right? I am also that kind of snob.
Hey kid, want some spooky music? I am a sucker for eerie scores and soundtracks to movies that don’t exist, and here’s one that was recommended to me recently (thanks Daniel T., always a source for amazing new sounds!)
While I was compiling a list of suggested viewing for myself this month, I hit upon the idea that I was going to throw several made-for-tv movies in there, because they just seem way less intense and stressful than a barrage of feature length films. I did a little research on “best made for tv horror” and Kolchak was something I’d never seen and which seemed to show up again and again, so I considered adding it as a possibility. This list is included below, for reference and possible interest.
Yvan happened to be peeking over my shoulder as I was putting this together and exlaimed in distress, “If you don’t watch Kolchak with Tony, he will be HEARTBROKEN!” Which…okay, now that he mentioned it, my brother-in-law has been offering Kolchak as a feature for every movie night we have at his house, on his big projector screen. Fine, then! Kolchak movie night at Tony’s it is!
This pulpy supernatural crime thriller debuted as a movie of the week on ABC in 1972, following quippy everyman reporter Carl Kolchak as he determinedly stumbles down the vampiric rabbit hole of a string of Las Vegas murders. It’s dated in all the obvious ways and more than bit sexist, but I think I can see why it’s generational horror comfort food. The horror is on the light side, but again, this was the early seventies and it aired on weeknight network television, so that’s to be expected. It was fun, and it entertained me for an evening, and that’s what this month is all about, so I can’t complain. Also, Kolchak was a funny guy! So if you’re looking for a horror comedy that’s easy on the scares and gives a real sense of time and place, this would be a great pick
Interesting tidbit: the script was written by Richard Matheson, who horror fans will recognize as the author of Hell House, I Am Legend, A Stir of Echoes, etc.
What was NOT entertaining or interesting, is how, on the way home from movie night, we had a bit of a real-life horrifying experience. Now that we’ve moved closer to everyone, it’s about a 15-minute drive between our neighborhoods (as opposed to the 2-hour trek we had been previously making for a visit.) About 5 minutes into our homeward journey, on a somewhat quiet road around 10:30 pm, a car screamed past us and then spun out of control RIGHT IN FRONT OF US — and then careened off the road into the darkness and smashed into a tree!
We pulled over, and while I called 911, Yvan raced over to the car to see if they were ok. In an incredible piece of luck, this all happened practically right in front of a fire rescue station. The firetruck and ambulance were there almost before the 911 operator picked up. And impossibly, thankfully, all of the idiots in that car were fine. I was still shaking when we arrived home and got into bed. LORDY BE. Please don’t drive like bozos, people!
A few weeks ago at a family dinner …which is a weird thing to reference; I never had “family dinners” with my own family, but now that I’m married to a big family and we’ve moved to be near them, I have family dinners twice a week. It’s a lot. But at the same time, it’s something I’ve never had, so I’m cherishing it, too…but okay, my point, and I do have one: after Sunday supper a few weeks ago, my brother-in-law mentioned the Fright Night movies, and I said I had never seen the sequel, Fright Night Part 2. He suggested a marathon, and that’s what we did last night!
The above artwork is not the original poster art for the movie, by the way, it is by Ralf Krause and I found it on an “alternative poster” website. I also found this database where you can see some of the Fright Night movie posters and marketing from other countries.
It’s been about 30 years since I had seen the original Fright Night and I think I can say that not only did it stand up, it was so much more interesting watching it as an adult and all the experience and baggage that goes along with that. I’m going on the belief that most everyone has seen this movie, but just in case, the one-sentence summation is that a teenage boy who believes that his new next-door neighbor is a vampire who has been doing some casual murders around town, and attempts to enlist the local tv station’s late-night horror host to help him kill the monster. The teenager in question here, Charley Brewster, is played by the guy from Herman’s Head, if anyone remembers that show? And the “vampire killing” horror host is of course Roddy McDowell, and Charley’s girlfriend Amy is Marci from Married with Children.
Chris Sarandon as suave, creepy vampire-next-door Jerry Dandridge was much more fascinating to me this time around, and that much more uncomfortable for me too– with him leering over Charley’s mother at night, and doing that vampire-mind-control seduction thing on Amy, who ends up in a very sheer nightgown at one point—and who took her out of her clothes and put that nightgown on her? That nonconsensual nightgowning also makes me uncomfortable.
Jerry Dandridge has a “roommate,” Billy Cole, who was his carpenter and daytime protector, and vampire-servant, basically. But what was Billy Cole? He was not human, as we can see when he was eventually reduced into a pile of sand and goop and exploding bones. The internet speculates that he was a golem, but whatever he was, he was a lot more fun this second time around.
And do you know what was just as fun, and twice as scary? The effects! Unholiest of molies! Evil Ed’s and Amy’s vampiric transformations are still, so many years later, utterly nightmarish. I mean, come on:
I am so glad that I watched this again! It is a lot of ridiculous fun and a perfect balance of horror-comedy that actually is a bit frightening, too. But do you know what was maybe even more fun…?
This amazing gang of vampires is from Fright Night Part 2, which was utterly nonsensical and even better and perhaps more essential than the first one in terms of 80’s horror viewing. Charley’s in college, in therapy, and now believes the vampires from the first film were the result of group hypnosis. He’s got a new girlfriend whose hair and beautiful round baby face remind me a lot of Topanga from Boy Meets World, a show I never saw once, but for some reason, I’ve been thinking about her hair for several decades. They decide to visit “vampire killer” Peter Vincent, as Charley’s been ignoring his calls, and it would be good to make amends and put that part of his past to bed. After a nice visit to Peter’s spectacularly awesome apartment with its beautiful green walls and archways and tons and tons of horror paraphernalia, Charley is feeling better about things but becomes deeply unsettled when, as they are leaving, a glamorous quartet enters the building and takes the rickety little elevator to the upper floors.
Are they vampires? Oh, for sure. There’s an incredibly dressed, velvet-clad, rollerskating genderqueer vampire, who as far as I recall, did not speak a single line of dialogue. There’s the gorgeous Regine, in town to do interpretive dance and steal Peter Vincent’s job! There’s the guy from the X-Files/BtVS! And some comedian in a bomber jacket who I recognize from his more recent roles (he was in The White Lotus, he played the guy that Jennifer Coolidge was fixated on) and I don’t know if he was mean to be a vampire or werewolf or what, but who cares, because at some point, this gang goes BOWLING.
This movie is wild. It’s sort of like three movies in one because it switches gears so often. And it really brought me back to such a weird place. In 1988, 1989, 1990, I was 12, 13, 14 or so. Just getting into my teen years, figuring things out, not knowing what life was about or what was expected of me, and there was just so much existential angst and uncertainty. And in my memory, those feelings and uncertainties are wrapped up in late, hazy nights, too tired to even sleep, anxious about everything, and watching snippets here and there of late-night horror movies. And the thing is, I don’t know if some of these movies are as strange and surreal as I recall, or if it was just that, in my half-dreaming state, everything took on a bizarre unreality.
There was definitely a moment in Fright Night Part 2 that made me feel just like I was 13 again. A fever-dream slice of seconds where there was something that you thought was meant to be safe, and all of a sudden, it wasn’t… and what was on its way to normal, was all of a sudden batshit insane again. (If you’re watching, it’s when Topanga’s hair–I forget her name– is in the car with the therapist in the middle of the night and they are stopped at the railroad tracks. They are meant to be on their way to save Peter Vincent, but when he turns to face her, he has fangs! The fangs stand for EXISTENTIAL ANGST!)
Anyway, these are less reviews, and more reactions, I guess? And my other brother-in-law is in town and I am being pressed to hurry up and finish this because we are apparently trying to pack in a lot of family time while he is here and everyone wants to go out and look at new cars for us. Ours are old and rusty but we work from home and no one’s trying to impress anyone over here, but I have learned with this family, you just have to let go and let god or whatever. Be up for whatever and go with the flow. They’re Icelandic and there’s an Icelandic saying, “þetta reddast” which I think basically means “it’ll all work out” and that’s what I try to tell myself with these guys, hee hee.
I doubt I can talk any of them into watching the new Hellraiser with me, though. I guess I’m alone on that one!
Here’s the thing. You didn’t know you wanted a semi-feral little girl coming-of-age story/ after-school special/fairytale-hybrid with Gríma Wormtongue and Arwen Evenstar in supporting roles as shady daddy and earnest sheriff, respectively. Ok, that’s the end of the sentence. Because I can’t assert that you actually, in fact, do, want this.
…but I think I did?
Young Anna has never seen the outside of her small room, though she yearns desperately for it through her barred windows. Locked away since birth (one assumes) the attic room where she is kept is her entire world, and “daddy” is her only friend. Daddy tells her of the Wildlings, monstrous beasts with razor-sharp teeth and claws who have gobbled all the children–she is the very last, and she must never go outside, lest the Wildlings find her, too.
The colorful gummy bears atop her birthday cakes multiply in number to mark the passage of years, and Daddy begins giving her daily injections on the enigmatic premise that she is, in some way, becoming unwell. That this practice begins at the onset of menstruation is deeply unsettling, and more unsettling still is when he shows up in her room one morning with a gun, instead of a needle…
Anna wakes up in a hospital room where town Sheriff Liv Tyler begins asking her questions, and Anna, who knows nothing other than the room in which she was raised, is unable to answer. Foster care is bound to get involved, but inexplicably, the Sheriff takes Anna home with her. This seems to happen a lot in movies and I would love to know from my professional friends in the mental health community–does this really happen? Can law officers and doctors or nurses or whatever, just take in these stray orphans and feral children, like in the movies? Is this based on anything real? I can’t imagine that it is.
I don’t want to say too much more, but despite the fact that this does somehow really have the feel of an afterschool special (though I am hard-pressed to tell you what the moral of the story is) I really enjoyed this fantasy-horror film tackling myth and monster and the savage biology of transformation and also just being a horny teenager who is going through some shit, I guess.
And, oh, gosh, Liv Tyler. I do love her, even if she is kind of …one note. But is that always a bad thing? At one point when the story starts ramping up a bit, and when the sweet, breathy Sheriff turns steely-eyed and stern and says, “I think you should let me handle that,” you almost expect her next words to be “…if you want him, come and claim him!”
I stumbled upon Wildling while I was scrolling through Tubi, I was looking for a sort of wild-card pick, something that I’d never heard of and which wasn’t on my lists or even on my radar. I’m glad I found it.
Ok, remember early on, how I said there may end up being a one-sentence review in this bunch? Well, here we are.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism: “it’s fine.”
It’s been a few years since I read the book, but I feel fairly confident in saying that although the Amazon Prime adaptation seems pretty true to (my memory) of the story of Abby, whose best friend Gretchen becomes possessed by a demon, it’s missing some essential heart or soul or ….something…and ends up being one of the frequent instances where the book is just better than the movie.
Grady Hendrix’s goofball brand of horror-comedy is always such a treat, and I’m not sure they’ve captured that essential Grady Hendrix-ness here. I don’t even know exactly what I mean by this, but if you’ve read enough of his books, I think you’ll have at least an inkling of what I mean.
But if you’re here for a relentless onslaught of 80’s nostalgia with a side of corny but heartwarming teenage friendship, a sprinkling of wormy body horror, a soupçon of embarrassingly bad CGI demonology, and a muscular Christian rock band hunk of Bash Howard from GLOW, and you’re like eh, “source material, horse venereal,” then you may dig this.