Week two of Morb's scare movie countdown to Halloween. Considering the amount of howlers in last weeks batch, this field of screams was far more successful. No film was a total washout, all providing a few hackle raising moments, while some pushed beyond into actual 'good film' territory. I may seem harsher than most on my horror movies but that's merely because I love the genre so much that I want it to do well. And I'll never be angry with it. Just disappointed. Either way, as the bishop said as he kissed the cow - Each to their own.
OCTOBER 8TH - PROXY (2013)
I'm going to kill you! Oh yes. I'm going to cross the road to your house and...one second, I'll hold on to make sure there's no cars coming, look left... aaand right, yep, fine, I'm at your house! Oh, the door's locked. That won't help you! I'll force the catch with a nail file which I'll take out of my bag. Just take out this lunchbox and a few magazine as the bag's pretty full. Must clean it out sometime...but not today because there's the nail file! I'll just put all this other stuff back in, sorry, just zipping the bag up, one second. I'll scratch my nose because it's itchy. Now I'll pick the lock! You're for it now! Oh, while I was doing all that you've found time to run upstairs, imagine. Well I'll come get you! I'll lift my foot and take the first step. Mwahahahaha! Then I'll take the second step. There goes that itchy nose again, I'll give it another scratch... And this, dear reader, is what the editing in Proxy is like. The bloody thing goes on for over two hours because they edit out NOTHING! Like, there's a section watching a woman getting into her car and adjusting the seat! Terrifying! (?) Any build up of tension is, ironically, cut short due to its snail pace, with veritable chunks of zero happenings.
It's a shame though as there are some really disturbing ideas buried in there. A lonely pregnant woman is attacked on the street after a routine check up, her assailant horrifyingly focusing on her unborn child. In the aftermath, at a support group for bereaved parents, she meets a similarly traumatised woman. This friendship pulls her back into the world she'd pushed away, helping her cope. Until the day she spots her new friend in a shopping centre screaming for help to find a child who was, according to her, already dead. To tell anymore would be a sin as it's the ensuing insane twists that make the experience worthwhile. Suffice to say it would be impossible to predict how dark and weird this becomes. Over the space of two plus hours. The maddeningly padded events could have been condensed into a sick and nifty one hour twenty cracker of a film instead of a Ben Hur-ian sized bloatathon. But as it stands, watch if you have a day and patience to spare.
OCTOBER 9TH - THE SEVENTH VICTIM (1943)
As you may have seen in the trailer reel at the top of the page, a young woman is terrorized by devil worshippers. I certainly didn't while watching the film. Where was the devil?! Now they're a weird bunch alright, but the sum total of their evil is the forcing of rejected group members to kill themselves through the power of collective peer pressure, which was, I believe, the original idea for the Mean Girls sequel. During these 'high drama' moments, the victims sit there and listen to these idiots basically saying 'Kill yourself! Ah come on, please?' There's a total of two creepy moments in this almost horror free yarn about a young girl who searches for an older sister who's fallen in with that bad crowd. Hugely disappointing considering producer Val Lewton's part in Curse Of The Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie, both of which I loved in last years countdown. What? You didn't read it?! Well do it now! I command you! Ah go on, please?
OCTOBER 10TH - GOD TOLD ME TO (1976)
Out of the blue, previously normal, peaceful, NYC citizens snap, slaughtering anyone around them. Their lack of remorse is explained when, quizzed on what made them commit such horrible crimes, their uniform response is 'God told me to'. Creator Larry Cohen's habit of 'start at Crazytown and then get on a jet full of mad people and fly to Loonyopolis' is very much present and correct in this one. While events might be extreme, the reasons are so out there they're basically that dot on the horizon. It hangs together far better than most of his others, such as Q-The Winged Serpent (which I subjected myself to last year) and The Stuff and the performances are so surprisingly good it made me wonder if the mixture of Oscar winners and Hollywood royalty in the cast actually read the insane bit at the end of the script where the hero is urged to blah the villain's blah even though they're blah! Actually, I think I just rumbled how Larry sneaked it past them.
OCTOBER 11TH - THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN (2014)
Imagine if your house was on fire with your partner in it or your mother fell down the stairs and you ran over with a camera and said 'Oh my God are you ok?!' and then wildly waved the camera over your head. It's only happened twice, right? So that's why I'm so sick of found footage at this stage - You would. Not. Still. Hold a camera! And if I was running away from a monster, I'd take off my clothes if it made me go faster! Never mind lug a camera! I say all this to hammer home that, for me, found footage flicks already have two strikes against them even before they begin. Which is why it was such a surprise when this little horror turned out to be solid as a headstone rock. A young student records the degeneration of Alzheimer's sufferer Deborah and its effect on her daughter, Sarah, as part of a thesis documentary. As days tick by it becomes clear that Deborah isn't disappearing as much as being taken over, turning her body into a host for more than a disease. All, and I mean all, of the annoying found footage tricks pop up early, threatening to derail the movie, but as time passes, events become stranger, richer, cleverer, leading to a barnstormer of a shot a the end when it hammers home just how monstrous things have become. The truly excellent performances of Jill Larson and Anne Ramsay as the exceptionally realised characters of the mother and daughter go a long way towards the films success, making up for the anodyne film crew. Dig this one up.
OCTOBER 12TH - JUG FACE (2013)
Simplicity is both the strength and downfall of this backwoods, cloistered, curiosity. An intensely private community provide very personal offerings to a water filled pit in their forest in exchange for health and good fortune. The title comes from the clay faces made by the local potter during a trance-like state which represent the person who must provide the offering. It's a strange little beast, always intriguing and well presented but no furtherexplanation for events is provided other than what is necessary to keep the plot going. While this compactness is commendable, more story on the pit itself and the origins of the tributes would have been brilliant. Odd and oddly unsatisfying but worth a gander. On a side note, there were also a few moments when I thought maybe the characters could have shirked responsibility by saying - 'that jug's supposed to look like me? No chance, your man the potter is crap'.
OCTOBER 13TH - STAGE FRIGHT (1987)
A grimy city street, a scantily clad hooker waits for a john. Out of the darkness, hands pull her into a doorway, slaughtering her mere inches away from the throng of the metropolis. Witnesses gather, bizarrely caressing her body, shocked by the violence. Suddenly her killer leaps out, clad in a gigantic owl-head costume. And then. Then. They all have a god damned dance off as a woman plays a saxophone on a rooftop while her skirt blows up! Best opening ever. Unfortunately, it transpires we're watching a rehearsal for a gritty musical. Fortunately it follows that a deranged killer gets locked in with the crew after one of the actresses goes to a mental hospital (!) for her twisted ankle and unwittingly gives him a lift back to the theatre. This is superior Italian trash, made even better by the wonky dubbing throwing up humdingers like the director saying to the producer - 'look at those actors up there, they're literally stinking'. Literally! It's surprisingly funny and gory while at the same time being totally ridiculous. Most of the actresses run around in knickers and suspenders for the whole thing. You'd think if there was a killer on the loose you'd even just button up your blouse but I suppose it gets very hot in Italy. Great craic.
OCTOBER 14TH - AT THE DEVIL'S DOOR (2014)
The Pact is one of the best horror films of the last 10 years. Hands down. There's a section towards the end where I think my brain shut down for a moment, unable to deal with the fright. Many would argue that it never kicked back in. So expectations were high for writer/director Nicholas McCarthy's next. And for the first five minutes I thought I was onto a winner. Pressured by an untrustworthy new boyfriend, a teenage girl plays a game of chance with a mysterious man in exchange for 500 dollars, unwittingly selling her soul to a demon in the doing. Right up my abandoned street. The following scene of her admiring the expensive trainers she bought in exchange for her soul, simultaneously touching and terrifying in its innocence. Then, just like that, after a promising opening, the film makes like an office Christmas night out and goes to the dogs. We flash forward to a pair of sisters with a troubled relationship, one of them moving into the house owned by the doomed teenager's parents. It's at that point the film opens its own devil's door and the bloody editor of Proxy turns up and waffles on for the rest of the party. The film goes on and and on and on, treading water as one sister after another has a run in with the demon, with continuous flash backs to the teenager. Then just as we're coming up to the last fifteen minutes, the story kicks in. I'm serious. And after all that the ending is crap anyway! It's like a filmed version of the first draft script before the writer had a revelation and said 'I should get rid of those sisters!'
But The Pact is deadly.
So for this week, watch The Pact! And after your brain kicks back in, I'd highly recommend The Taking Of Deborah Logan for your main, washed down with a fruity Italian - Stage Fright, the first five minutes of At The Devil's Door as your starter and, impossibly, a condensed version of Proxy as the dessert you send back. Seeing as life is short, avoid the rest of Devil's Door and the actual uncondensed Proxy. I'll tell you their storylines when I see you. It'll be quicker. Just stop me in the street.
I'm doing nothing else.