Weather Warning in Effect
There is something alluring about ghost tales being told in the darkness of the night. . . the way in which John Carpenter’s 1980 horror thriller The Fog opens – with a grizzled seafarer (John Houseman) recounting (to a group of wide-eyed children) the story of a ship of sailors who died in a horrific manner off of the coast of their small town one hundred years earlier. Building off of the success of his hit from two years earlier, Halloween, Carpenter once again shows his skills at developing an immersive world – this time creating a realistic ocean-side town packed with intriguing personas (in both films, he does so with a very limited budget). The locale, Antonio Bay, California, is celebrating its one hundredth anniversary, something the townsfolk are very proud of, especially Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh), one of the organizers of the festivities.
Death Becomes Him
Talk about a hook of an opener – an extended tracking shot follows a man from behind as he enters a police station to report a murder. . . his own, and, rather interestingly, it seems as though the detectives were waiting for him. The man – Frank Bigelow (Edmond O’Brien); the film noir, D.O.A., a 1949 mystery directed by Rudolph Maté (a man who made several quality movies, though is better known for his superlative work as a cinematographer – think of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s two silent masterpieces The Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr, or later, Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be and Charles Vidor’s Gilda). Bigelow narrates his story to the men, transporting us back to the beginning of the tale.
The third feature in the Thor franchise, 2017's Ragnarok, directed by New Zealander Taika Waititi (the talented filmmaker behind the comedic horror mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows), is like a well buttered (as in oiled) popcorn flick (of a machine). . . an entertaining, humorous, action-packed sci-fi extravaganza that does not take itself too seriously, all while showing an impressive amount of ingenuity and creativity for a multi-film Marvel saga. With three movies in this particular series (as well as several other mash-ups within the ever growing Marvel Universe), these actors, who we have known for some time, have grown into their respective parts, feeling fully meshed with their onscreen personas. Through the writing of Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost, as well as by way of the flowing direction of Waititi, the comedy is so smooth in Ragnarok that it feels as if we are watching a well-seasoned vaudeville act hitting every mark as they try to explain exactly ‘who’s on first?’ It is a very different tone that works, meshing with recent excursions in The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Strangers in the Night
It is Noirvember once again. . . the only time of the year when cynicism, doom-laden prospects and other dark themes should be sought out and applauded. The first film noir to grace Filmizon.com this November, 2017, is 1946's The Stranger. Directed by Orson Welles (his fourth feature, following the two classics Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons), this drama (with several film noir elements) follows Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson – intriguingly, Welles originally wanted Agnes Moorehead portraying the lead as some sort of spinster lady), a sort of detective with the United Nations War Crimes Commission – or, to give his job a cooler name, he is basically a ‘Nazi Hunter’.
The penultimate movie to watch on October 31st, John Carpenter’s 1978 motion picture Halloween is the king of the slasher horror genre, fusing a villain of pure evil with suspenseful subtlety that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat. Co-written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill (who also produces), the simple yet effective story begins with a young Michael Myers murdering his sister on Halloween night, 1963, in Haddonfield, Illinois. Committed to the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, the Myers home, even fifteen years later, sits empty, dilapidated and believed by most community members to be haunted.
Missed the Bloody Cut: 2017
As you can likely imagine, I go through quite a few horror movies every October. . . and not every one I watch meets my strict criteria and earns a review. But, that is not to say that these films may not interest you, so, instead of letting them fall behind in the forest for the proverbial psychopathic serial killer, I’ve decided to start this new blog feature in which I will provide you with the good, the bad and the ugly on those horror flicks that just missed the bloody cut. 2017's A Ghost Story, written and directed by David Lowery, is arguably one of the more creative and unique iterations on a spectre in some time. A deep philosophical rumination on love, life, death, loneliness, time and ghosts, it takes the rare position of showing the ghost’s point of view. Less a typical horror story and more along the lines of a fantasy drama, the movie stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as the two leads. Kind of a spoiler, but not really, Affleck dies early on, and, instead of moving on, he feels like he has unfinished business, and returns to live a pale existence of what life once was.