Friday, October 23, 2015

13 for Halloween 2015

Insert usual blurb about celebrating Halloween in your own style rather than bending over for the empire and doing it the American way. That aside, one thing I like about Halloween as a contemporary folk feast night is its association with the horror genre. Here are some suggestions for a film night on October the 31st. This year I've gone for energy. That doesn't always just equate to action but can mean the sprightliness of the ideas. Oh and running times on the shorter side.

Derivative but uses what it likes about the legacy rather than just copies. Disregard shallow criticism that the real revival here is the 80s teen horror sex=death. It's far more about wisdom=responsibility. But even more, it's about good fun with good scares and music that gets away with being retro.

Set almost entirely on a single computer screen, this messenger revenge tale transcends its occasional cheesiness by its deep comprehension of what compels the characters to stay glued to their screens. Clever, but not so clever that it isn't rivetting.

Big, brash, beatiful and baroque, Dario Argento's masterpiece eschews complex plotting for a viscerally true evocation of a nightmare state. The only time it sags is when it gets characters to explain the events but even then it's not for long. And that music!

Still one of the scariest, best edited and least bloody of all the slashers, John Carpenter's classic still grips and torments. Carpenter's own score was heavily influenced by Argento's use of Goblin and Friedkin's use of Tubular Bells in The Exorcist but this is something he really made his own.

RINGU (1997)
Try to forget about the big bloated U.S. remake which added a needless hour to the story. Hideo Nakata's original remains the superior piece. The pacing is more astute and the climactic moment far more terrifying for being less bombastic than the cover version. Also with a good hands-off music score.

Based closely on the Shirley Jackson source novel, Robert Wise's film version keeps the atmosphere forward and remembers that the real chills come from the central tragedy unfolding around the character of Eleanor. Vintage special effects still effective. Compare that with the gormless 1999 version which doesn't get the difference between shock and suspense.

REC (2007)
Infection-zombie piece lifts from normality into a fever pitch and an ending you will not expect. Lean pov filmmaking reminds us how this approach can be used to enhance shifts in pace and, in the right hands, can prove a powerful creator of suspense, using what the audience/characters can and cannot see. Remade as Quarrantine but see the original: if it's in English you're watching the wrong version.

The time travel paradox examined to an unnerving degree in this ingenious take on circuit breaking. See it before the unecessary remake.

A very dark fable about the horrors of intimacy unfolds as young newlyweds pile into a country cabin for a few weeks of private ecstasy and communion with nature. That kind of happens but not how either is expecting. Some very tough scenes but worth it for the overall purpose which is serious (nice for a change) and steady.

ALIEN (1980)
Set a few tonal standards by making the fantastical setting workaday before the horror explodes. High action and white knuckle suspense make this a perennial winner. I still prefer this to the action movie sequel and any of the others after that. It's scarier if you never see the whole creature. And don't waste you time with Prometheus; it's steeped in a creepy religious agenda that only leads to clunkiness. The first one is the real deal.

The beauty of this one is that it mixes real eerieness so easily in with its nostalgia and keeps the pace high. One of the highly imaginative Don Coscarelli's most complete. "Boy!"

A hidden broadcast is making people grow new organs and is changing their brain chemistry. "What we see on television emerges as raw experience." A wow idea every few minutes with Cronenberg's early unnerving visual style and James Woods' magnetic central performance. Still weird, still wonderful.

One of all time favourite genre game changers. Blending the high-school social order, emo-anti-cool, and real wit, Ginger's plummet into the life of the beast is as funny as it is scary and, in the end, genuinely tragic. If you liked the recent series Orphan Black, know that this is from the same writer/director team of Karen Walton and John Fawcett.

So, there it is, enjoy your Halloween in your own way, avoiding, if you can, locally-meaningless rituals and any movies directed by James Wan. Boo!

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