Week two of Morb's trawl through the dark waters of horror, fishing for the undiscovered mutant Moby Dick of terror amongst the minnows. Was the voyage a success? Well, while last week had a few winners, this week was admired rather than loved. There were certainly moments in some of the films that caused a shiver and while there are no overwhelming recommendations, there's still a few definitely worth a look.
OCTOBER 8TH - SECONDS (1966)
Like an above average episode of the Twilight Zone padded out to feature length, Seconds is tale of an over the hill, depressed, bank manager who is given a second chance at life and youth by a mysterious corporation. The film should take off when the change occurs but instead it slouches into a drawn out second half, ironically getting worse when Rock Hudson makes his appearance. It's elevated at the beginning by some insanely impressive camerawork but the initial pleasing air of mystery fades once the in and outs of how the corporation go about changing the customers lives are revealed. 'Sure I could do that meself and save the money', I said to no one.
OCTOBER 9TH - RAZORBACK (1984)
There's a charming trait in horror - to create a monster, just take an animal and make it bigger. Try monkeys, sharks, rabbits, frogs, spiders, spiders, SPIDERS! This is about a big pig. An American reporter braves the Australian outback to expose rampant animal cruelty but is first terrorized by the locals and then eaten by one of the things she intended to save. Awkward. Her husband turns up next and has a good snoop. I saw this when I was young but forgot so much of it that it was like a first viewing. It holds up relatively well, there's some fine pantomime villain Ozzies and it moves at a fair clip but not being a fan of vegetarian dishes in general, I would have preferred a lot more pig.
OCTOBER 10TH - THE BATTERY (2012)
This less than zero budget zombie movie stands as a testament to the determination of its writer/director/producer/lead actor Jeremy Gardner to just go out and get it done. The film tracks two men who have been lumped together by circumstance rather than choice in the dying days of a zombie apocalypse. While we get very little hot zombie action, we still get some interesting twists on human nature, co-dependence and loneliness. There are a couple of good ideas if no chills and a ten minute long take that is to be admired rather than enjoyed. The downside to the movie is the massive case of hero worship the creator seems to have for himself. There's not an obstacle he can't overcome or a moment he can't dominate, with a nicotine cliche for cool clamped to his lips. Look at the poster - you're not James Dean in GIANT, Jeremy. Now, to sit back and dig into these sour grapes.
OCTOBER 11TH - THE BORDERLANDS (2013)
Yet another found footage horror about a reportedly haunted British church and the Vatican investigators called in to check it out. At this point I'm more likely to deliberately avoid the ff gimmick rather than hunt it out, it's hard to get stuck in when every so often the thought 'Ah now, they wouldn't keep filming that, they'd leg it', pops up. I know it can be used as an excuse for having a no-budget rather than a low budget and sometimes it admittedly makes the horror more immediate, but it's becoming as tiresome as 3D (which doesn't really work enough to justify the extra ticket money, IMHO [Sidebar and double bracket, I can never see 'imho' without saying 'Imhotep' in my head in a really slow, deep voice] ) Rant aside, the acting is strong, the characters are annoying yet convincing as actual people. The build may be slow and full of false starts but offers some good jump scares. And then there's the ending.... Now. The ending I loved. I re-watched it three times. Have I ever seen that in a horror film? No. And I happily predict you haven't either.
OCTOBER 12TH - THE MEDUSA TOUCH (1978)
Richard Burton can influence the world with his mind, I tell you, his very mind! Or so he tries to convince his psychiatrist, the lovely Lee Remick. A nicely seventies, made for TV vibe permeates the whole thing as Burton's Welsh baritone serenades us with talks of dead parents, dying astronauts and burning schools like an ultra niche relaxation CD. While it's not a slam dunk and a trifle overlong, it casts a strangely warm spell. Who knew the threat of doom could be so comforting when delivered by pros like these.
OCTOBER 13TH - ANNABELLE (2014)
Film studios make me angry. The Conjuring was huge, in fact it became one of the most financially successful horror films of the last twenty years and garnered a ton of good will along the way. A spin off released near Halloween, based on the history of the haunted doll that played such a part in the original's success, is practically guaranteed a huge audience. So why oh why show so little respect for those loyal supporters by crapping out this watery shite? Bastards!
It's built on a piss poor screenplay written by the guy with BLOOD MONKEY on his resume and handed to the director of MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION. And it's not very good?! What. A. Shock. Why wasn't it offered to an Oscar nominated screenwriter and a heavyweight director? Reward the audience that propelled the original to those heights with the quality product they deserve. Anyway, as it stands, it's a Rosemary's Baby rip off with one or two good builds but no real scares. It does have one moment at the climax so startling that if it had ended right then I would have been seriously impressed with its bravery. But it chickens out. What a shock.
OCTOBER 14TH - THESE ARE THE DAMNED (1963)
You see that creepy white eyed child hunched behind her doll in the poster above? The one described as a 'lurking unseen evil'? Well she really is unseen, cos she's not in this. You can't blame the publicity department for trying though because this film falls so weirdly between two stools it's hard to know how to sell it. The sister of a gang-leader sails off with a guy on a boat and comes across an island populated by a mysterious group of children and the scientists studying them. Oliver Reed plays the teddy boy brother in hot pursuit, chasing his sibling from a swinging sixties styled youth rebellion movie all the way to a bleak, clinical, science fiction curiosity. While the change of tone jars and not enough time is spent on the actual story, it has some striking ideas and a surprisingly hopeless ending that stays with you.
For Week Two, I'd recommend The Borderlands as the most likely to cause a shiver or two and The Medusa Touch for good old fashioned Sunday afternoon viewing.