Three weeks down. October goes way too fast. For this week, along with some fresh viewings, I decided to do something a little different, I took another look at certain films I saw so long ago or at such a young age that I couldn't really remember them. I wanted to see if childhood viewing memories still held up to adult sensibilities. For instance, when I was a kid, I watched LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY every day before school. LAVERNE.. was a spin off from HAPPY DAYS (I know, I know, I'm not going to have a leg to stand on) and it always ended 5 minutes after school started. So I was late every single day. Because of, I repeat, LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY. I think it's pretty clear which cool kid ruled that school. Anyway, some time ago I was in America with some Irish friends, getting ready for a night on the town. The TV was on in the background and a voice said 'Coming next, the LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY marathon'. 'Everyone stop!', I shouted, 'We're not going anywhere. Prepare to laugh your SOCKS off!' Strenuously convincing them all to stay in, we plonked down on the hotel beds, drinks in hands. 'They are going to love me', I beamed to myself as we all settled down to suffer through an hour an a half of the most jokeless experience of my life. What in the name of good God had I found so hysterical? I remember even dragging myself from my sick bed, delerious, to catch it. Well, those tipsy friends, they did not love me. They were raging. Friday night in the USA spent watching, sigh, well, here's an episode summary of one gem - 'Shirley drives everyone crazy with her nurturing of her pet canary'. Hold on to your sides.
Enough. Back to the good stuff.
OCTOBER 15TH - THE WICKER MAN
THE WICKER MAN has two massive problems, the title and the poster. They are two of the biggest spoilers in horror history. Like, it's the ending. Edward Woodward travels to a Scottish island to investigate a missing child and is disturbed by the ancient pagan ways of the islanders. A highly effective, slow burner (ho ho), I found this massively interesting rather than disturbing. Shamefully for a horror fan, I'd only seen bits and pieces over the years but always seemed to catch the ending, so I considered myself as having seen it but just in segments. So even though the destination was foregone, the journey is kinkily scenic. Fun fact - I have a piece of the actual Wicker Man at home, not due to the fact of being a rabid fan but in fact due to an actual rabid fan dropping and breaking his much larger piece of the actual Wicker Man and giving me the bit that fell off.
OCTOBER 16TH - BEHIND THE MASK - THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON - (2006)
Coming a full 10 years after SCREAM, BEHIND THE MASK mines the same vein of self referential meta-horror to lesser effect. A camera crew interviews and documents the journey of a regular guy who hopes to become the next great slasher. It has a few neat tricks up its sleeve but the woeful acting from some of its cast, especially its leading lady, coupled with the troublesome central concept - if we see a guy put on a mask and tell us exactly what he's going to do, it's not going to be scary when he does it. The film tries to have it both ways, explaining in fine detail how and why slashers and their victims do what they do, but when certain supernatural elements intrude, it becomes clear the film makers have painted themselves into a corner.
OCTOBER 17TH - NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)
This is one I saw when I was far too young to be watching it, according to the censors anyway, I obviously thought I was mature enough! In this offering, the school weirdo throws a Halloween party in an abandoned funeral parlor. Possessions and horrible happenings ensue. There's no denying, it's 80s horror at its cheesiest - ropey acting, extremely gory special effects, silly storyline and tons of boobage. It even has two big 80's staples - a pain in the ass younger brother and, best of all, a DANCE SEQUENCE. And you know what, it's absolutely deadly. Talk about holding up. It's way sillier than I remembered, sure I probably thought it was Oscar worthy back then, but it's sheer entertainment. I think I like it even better now. And did I mention there's a dance sequence?
OCTOBER 18TH - PEEPING TOM (1960)
Another half seen movie from days of yore. A damaged young man uses his film camera as a weapon so he can record the terror on the faces of the young women he kills. How I wish he'd get a job on Keeping Up With The Kardashians. This highly controversial shocker caused such uproar on release, it practically ended the career of legendary director Michael Powell. One of the main reasons for the fuss was that the young man works part time as a pornographic photographer. There's a real sleaziness to proceedings, with an easy, off the hand (wink wink) way of treating dirty events, a mixture of smut with psychology. There are certainly disturbing elements but modern audiences should be well able to handle it. Nifty ideas and some lovely camerawork still hold up today. Finally, there's a great line delivered by a sleazy newsagent when he sells an elderly gent a book of pornographic photos and the days paper - 'Well, he won't be doing the crossword tonight.'
OCTOBER 19TH - THE SENDER (1982)
A disturbed young man admitted to a mental hospital has the power to transmit his fears to those around him, causing terrifying hallucinations. And in that description also lies the problem, he causes hallucinations. There goes any sense of danger, everything can be righted and returned to the way they were before if the kid just calms bloody down. Another kid who had no problem remaining calm was me as a child when I caught this on tv years ago. I distinctly remembered certain images and so wondered if like CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE in Week 1, I'd find something new to appreciate years later. Not really. It's far from a total loss but when it becomes more drama than horror, attention wanders to such things as 'I wonder what horrific hallucinations I'd make people have', and realising the answer was - 'Probably Will Smith's kids'.
OCTOBER 20TH - POSSESSION (1981)
Thankfully this isn't one I saw as a kid. Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani overact wildly as a whacked out married couple going through the most interminable, nightmarish break up in history. The only thing more disturbing than this pair is the monstrous tentacled creature Isabelle leaves her husband for. A genuinely disgusting, upsetting experience, this is one to be endured rather than enjoyed. I didn't enjoy it at all but certainly won't forget it in a hurry. Although I did have a little giggle over a part of the ending with the son in the bath. You'll see what I mean, if you get that far.
OCTOBER 21ST - I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943)
From the same creator as CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE, this stately spooker concerns a Canadian nurse who travels to the West Indies to tend to the seemingly catatonic wife of a plantation owner. Needless to say, things are darker than they seem. Coming across as a voodoo riff on Jane Eyre, there's a lot to admire about this beautifully shot classic. Perhaps more of a dark drama than a horror, this will inspire admiration rather than chills. It's clever and distinctive with lushly romantic visuals and has some strange views on sin and blame appropriation, definitely worth a look.
So with the end of Week 3, if you want pure horror fun check out NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, make sure it's the 1988 version though and if you want to keep your horror classic, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE is worthy of a Sunday evening in front of the fire.