Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Total Skull - Horror Movies Watched in Oct. 2016

Starry Eyes is like a less stylish Neon Demon that substitutes aspiring actresses for aspiring models. The plot has more substance to it than Refn's film, but it still manages to be underdeveloped and underwhelming. The pull quote on the cover about how it is like Cronenberg and Lynch coming together in one film couldn't be farther from an accurate statement--where is the psychological depth, the willingness to get weird?

The conceit of Behind the Mask is that we're watching a documentary being filmed about a potential killer who wants to follow in the footsteps of Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Freddy Krueger. It's semi-comedic, and blatantly referential to all the tropes of the slasher genre. You'll see the final act's twist coming a mile away, but you could do worse than this movie.

In Let Us Prey a precinct of police officers and a number of apprehended criminals go through a rather biblical dark night of the soul. The narrative weight of themes that revolve around the nature of sin, redemption, and judgment is spoiled by a gonzo and often nonsensical plot. Does no one near the police station hear the gunshots happening within the building or notice that it is on fire? 

I've watched The Descent a bunch of times, and I never get bored with it. The claustrophobia, the brutality, the moral bleakness...this is a horror movie I unreservedly recommend. It's a modern classic of the genre. The horror of what's going on within the caves is excellent, but the horror going on between the characters is even better.

I've been obsessed with this V. C. Andrews's Gothic novel since I read it, so I figured I should give the recent Lifetime adaptation a chance. Mistakes were made. Nearly everything that makes the novel an insane psycho-sexual roller coaster is absent here. 

I love a good historical ghost story, but unfortunately The Awakening wastes a decently atmospheric build-up on a convoluted final third. I really liked that the central character was a strong, seance hoax-busting woman, and I also enjoyed the added atmosphere lent by the trauma of World War I, but ultimately the contrived ending didn't do the rest of the film justice.

Tomb of Ligeia isn't the strongest movie in the canon of Roger Corman's adaptation of Poe's stories, but let's be honest: I'll gladly watch any Corman-helmed Poe riff if it has Vincent Price in the lead. Admittedly, the film has about two climaxes too many, but this is cinematic comfort food for me.

It turns out that watching Scarlett Johansson--even if she's playing an extraterrestrial predator--pick up and dispose of a series of men is actually pretty boring. The long close-ups of her face and interminable shots of driving didn't help.

De Palma's cinematic adaptation of Stephen King's novel is less about the anxiety surrounding adolescent sexuality, and more focused on the prurient adult interest in adolescent sexuality. The opening scene, framed as a soft core porn enticement, gives way to the horror of watching. Also note the gym teacher's unhealthy obsession with her students and the ways in which Mrs. White's fixation on sin and repression function as a voyeuristic doubling.

Heavy on atmosphere, light on scares, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is an odd little meditation on what really produces spectrality, and its close relationship to spectatorship. And I do mean meditation; if you like your movies action-packed, this quiet little number is not for you. Even fans of slower, moodier pieces might need to approach this one in the right frame of mind.