It's that time of year again! For all the 31 glorious nights of October Morb will watch a horror film and report back on the highs and lows. Yes, I'll descend those murky depths before you like a canary in a coalmine, saving you the discomfort, subjecting myself to the great and terrible to pick out the black diamonds in the murk. However, while I'm partial to the odd crucifixion, this won't quite be a case of martyring myself as it's something I do anyway. The only difference being when the sounds of screaming and chainsaws escape from my shuttered windows at two in the day in October, my excuses are more...believable.
Now I know we're playing catch up here as we're a little into the month already, but as Blanche from The Golden Girls says - better late than pregnant. So without further ado - Jump right in, the water's deep!
And I think I saw a fin.
OCTOBER 1ST - THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973)
There's an unholy trinity of classic horror actors - Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. For decades, the plummy toned trio were the angular, piercing faces of horror. If terror was the makings of a sandwich, Lee was the hard, crusty, possibly gone bad, bread you know you shouldn't eat, Cushing was the well churned, dependable butter that made Lee's antics more palatable, and Price, well, he was the massive slices of pure glistening ham lording it up in the middle. It's that prize pig talent Price brings to his role of a bad actor exacting revenge on the theatre critics who spurned him. Now, this is the way to kick (the head) off a month of horror movies - 1970's British horror at its best. The high camp elements of offing each critic in the manner of Shakespeare's most gruesome deaths are balanced with the fetid surroundings of London's backstreets, the noxious theatre Price finds refuge in and the disturbing crazed, homeless gang he surrounds himself with. There's game support from Diana Rigg and a bunch of critics just rotten enough for you to enjoy their demise. Definitely right up the top of this year's horror pile.
OCTOBER 2ND - THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (2014)
A well shot horror film made by a director who should have been, well, shot. The director of various episodes of Glee tries his hand at a remake of the original 1976 slasher in which a masked man terrorizes the inhabitants of a small American town. Very much in the Scream vein of meta-horror, the film acknowledges its predecessor by using it as a plot point. Taking the original true story of the 1946 Phantom Killer shootings as its base, it depicts a world where the 70's film version exists, further inspiring a fresh batch of killings. It also seems to be inspired by the tragic, true events that happened at Dawson's Creek as this plays more like a 'teen finding their voice' film than a horror. Just like a scarecrow that blew over a hedge, the director is in the wrong field, so busy trying to show off his camera skills that this comes across like a blind person's scrapbook - the pictures may be pretty but they're in all the wrong places. A misfire.
OCTOBER 3RD - MERCY (2014)
Stephen King is one of only two writers that have ever made me physically jump while reading, the other is M.R. James, so why is it that films based on his work are usually woeful? Well, I was certainly full of woe after Mercy. The film itself is full of something too. Something brown. It's based on the excellent (and scary) short story Gramma about a young boy left to care for his gravely ill grandmother, who has just enough power left for one, final, dark plan. The film tacks on multitudes of unnecessary happenings to the original story, introducing spirit wolves and undead imaginary friends all to no effect. It's so all over the shop that at one point I was genuinely convinced I'd fallen asleep and missed the explanation. Mystery unnoticed sleeps - much scarier than Mercy.
OCTOBER 4TH - BLOOD GLACIER (2013)
The Thing is one of the best horror films of the 1980's. Mr. Frosty is one of the most disappointing toys of the 1980's. If they had a child it would be Blood Glacier. Scientists in a remote research station discover organisms in thawed glacier water which upon infection mutate the host into a combination of its own species and what it last had for dinner. You can see the analogy, right? There's genuinely no better description. It has great bits but is also kinda stupid and disappointing. A better toy/80's cross over was when the Yul Brynner character in Westworld mixed with Guess Who to make The Terminator - does she wear glasses? Is she Sarah Connor?
OCTOBER 5TH - WITCHING AND BITCHING (2013)
A silver Jesus, a green soldier and a schoolboy steal a ton of cut price gold rings, high jack a taxi and get involved with a family of witches intent on bringing on an apocalypse. This Spanish comedy schlocker may have some bizarre images, such as a gigantic deformed goddess who needs to swallow and, ahem, pass red painted children in feathered headdress, or an arm reaching up from a toilet right when a person needs their privacy most, but the biggest surprise was the opening credits when over images of witches and witchcraft through the ages, Angela Merkel and Margaret Thatcher pop up. Someone's got some views. There are flashes of inspired madness but it all gets gratingly childish towards the end. Try the film version of Roald Dahl's The Witches instead, aimed at actual children but far scarier.
OCTOBER 6TH - WHITE ZOMBIE (1932)
Sometimes it can be difficult for modern audiences looking back with such jaded eyes to similarly experience the films that frightened original audiences so. Even more when you think that any little scare trick has probably been duplicated by the decades of fear-makers who have come after. For me, White Zombie falls into this category as quickly as Madge Bellamy falls under Big Bad Bela's voodoo spell. The unrequited love of an unwanted suitor turns to deadly jealousy when he strikes a deal with Lugosi to turn the object of his lusts into a zombie bride on her wedding day rather than let her love another. Dun dun dunnn. Overall it's just ok, the story isn't really up to much. There's some nice atmosphere but the Haitian setting isn't utilized enough, apart from when the actual fiance says he'd rather his almost bride be dead than be under the control of the Haitian natives (yikes). He's not as pushed when it turns out it's actually a voodoo high priest called Murder Legendre. Some people.
OCTOBER 7TH - FRANKENSTEIN'S ARMY (2013)
I know a lot of actors. You want them to do well and land a film role, any film role, it doesn't matter, the money's great! And the exposure! But I would be mortified if anyone I knew was in this. Mortified. A squad of Russian soldiers in World War 2 run afoul of the original Dr. Frankenstein's descendant making human/machine hybrids in some British warehouse attempting to stand in for an East German castle. Someone must have found an old tuppeny bit down the back of grandad's couch and used it as the whole budget for this low rent crapfest. Using the found footage angle of the cameraman searching through the estate, this basically means there isn't really a story, just a series of rooms. Accents slip so far they fall off and rubber suited modern dancers short of a few bob moonlight as monstrous human experiments in a 90 minute cringe of a film. You'd have more fun burning your hand with an iron.
So at the end of week one, I'd overwhelmingly recommend Theatre Of Blood, high camp horror at its best, and if you hate yourself and want to ruin a perfectly good evening, Frankenstein's Army is the way to go.