Horror Films A to Z ~ Errementari

Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil

Year: 2017
Runtime: 1h 38m
Director: Paul Urkijo Alijo
Writer: Paul Urkijo Alijo, Asier Guerricaechebarría
Stars: Kandido Uranga, Uma Bracaglia, Eneko Sagardoy

A quiet village is thrown into turmoil upon disturbing a reclusive and feared blacksmith rumored to be in league with the devil.

Initial: I didn’t know much about this movie, yada, yada… I bookmarked it on Netflix when it came out because it had a particular look. Runner up: Eyes Without a Face (1960), but Kanopy didn’t have it anymore.

Production Notes: Based on Basque folklore. I watched it in Basque language/English subtitles because the dubs were even more distracting than the “one inch tall barrier.”

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) This is an early favorite for me from this project. It’s a story of love, Hell, and, uh, bureaucracy. Because what good movie with the Devil (or at least a demon) doesn’t involve a good contract? I really dug the cinematography and effects. Saturated colors. Heightened, stylized iconography. It’s a fairy tale with some fairy tale logic and fairy tale horror. We’re talking Grimm’s here, not Disney. Errementari reminds me of some of Guillermo del Toro’s work, but isn’t in any way as detailed or poignant. It’s weird to say (and not a knock), but I would have really enjoyed this movie as a kid.

Horror Films A to Z ~ Djinn

Djinn

Year: 2013
Runtime: 1h 22m
Director: Tobe Hooper
Writer: David Tully
Stars: Razane Jammal, Khalid Laith, Aiysha Hart

An Emirati couple return home from a trip and discover that their new apartment has been built on a site that is home to some malevolent beings.

Initial: I’ve had this movie in my hoopla queue for a while, mostly because things like djinn don’t get enough treatment in Western fiction. Otherwise, I know nothing about this film, hadn’t even seen the trailer.

Production Notes: Tobe Hopper’s last film. Was an United Arab Emirates production, filmed in Dubai.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) Dang it, I really wanted this to be a good film. It isn’t. The writing is stilted; the storytelling is clunky and unfocused. It was mostly jump scares. The “creepy” effect wasn’t. Man, there’s so much potential here that I went from disappointed to annoyed over the course of this film.

There is a very underrated part of the movie Devil’s Advocate (1997) in which Charlize Theron’s Floridian Mary Ann Lomax has a very hard time coping with being the wife of an upscale New York attorney. Her identity is chipped away by neighbors and her husband’s coworkers over the course of weeks. That would have been a great starting point for this movie. The posh Dubai apartment building that the couple move into would have been a great subversion of a haunted house, especially if both Khalid and Salama bring their own secrets with them. Salama is dealing with the death of their child and has been taken back to Dubai at her husband and family’s insistence after developing a successful career in the US. Alienation and traditional expectations, layered on the supernatural, that could have been really good. Even the end, when sinners are punished, could have worked if the plot had been more cohesive.

Horror Films A to Z ~ Cam

Cam

Year: 2018
Runtime: 1h 34m
Director: Daniel Goldhaber
Writer: Isa Mazzei
Stars: Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters

Alice, an ambitious camgirl, wakes up one day to discover she’s been replaced on her show with an exact replica of herself.

Initial: I believe Cam was recently mentioned on Evolution of Horror podcast’s “Best Streaming Right Now to Watch While You’ve Been Asked to Keep Your Germs to Yourself” episode. (That’s not the title of the episode, I’m fairly sure, but you get my meaning.) I hadn’t even watched a trailer for this movie before I watched it, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t. Runner up was Color Out of Space (2019), but I decided I didn’t want to burn a hoopla credit this early in the month.

Production Notes: Writer Isa Mazzei is a former cam girl. She decided a horror movie was better for explaining the industry than a documentary. (via Wikipedia)

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) I feel like movies focused on social media are doomed to be quickly out of date. This one is probably no different, but for the moment, it does pretty well. The set up is long and maybe a little gratuitous. (Btw, this is a very sex-positive movie. It’s not explicit, but it’s about an area of sex work. If you have a problem with that, skip this.) The twist was unexpected, but it felt quickly intuited rather than investigated. I feel like Alice/Lola would have had some cross platform connections that might have given more clues/help. I rather appreciated that all the men in this movie are idiots and it’s pretty much left entirely up to Alice to  save herself. Granted, this movie, like Mandy Lane, involves a women putting herself in a dangerous situation, but it does a very good job of conveying the continual low-level paranoia that goes along with being female in a world of potentially predatory men. I did not understand the very end of the movie—Alice goes back to being a cam girl. I wasn’t sure whether there is some real reason for this or not. Still, this was a decent below-the-radar horror flick.

Horror Films A to Z ~ Bride of Re-Animator

Welcome to my unofficial April A-to-Z. I’m not participating in the actual event, but feel free to check that out. I decided I’d chose 26 horror films, one title for each letter of the alphabet, all new to me, and mostly available through the various streaming sources that I have access to.

Bride of Re-Animator

Year: 1990
Runtime: 1h 36m
Director: Brian Yuzna
Writer: Rick Fry ,Woody Keith, H.P. Lovecraft, Brian Yuzna
Stars: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Claude Earl Jones

Doctors Herbert West and Dan Cain discover the secret to creating human life and proceed to create a perfect woman from dead tissue.

Initial: I watched Re-Animator (1985) quite a while back. It’s one of those gonzo, horror-comedy splatter-fests from the 80s that is kinda corny, campy, and cartoonish. I enjoy this sort of horror.

Production Notes: The original was directed by Stuart Gordan, who recently passed away. Gordon and director of Bride Brian Yuza co-wrote, with Ed Naha, the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids franchise.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) Of course, this movie isn’t as good as the original, but it’s still kind of fun. It could try to make statements about medicine vs. science vs. religion, but thankfully, it does not. I’m continually amused by the escalating ridiculousness of situations. For example, there is a scene in which Herbert West is showing Dan Cain his current “morbid doodle,” an almost cute thing made of four fingers and an eyeball. In this moment, Dr. Dan tells Herbert that he’s moving out (they’re roommates, of course). Incensed, Herbert takes his attention away from the finger critter, which animates and wanders off. In the meantime, the police show up, but where’s the finger critter? Hijinx ensue.

Funnily enough, of the three horror movies I’ve watched for this project thus far (I’m one ahead), this one is maybe the least uncomfortable in how is treats women. Dr. Dan is a bit pervy about his female patients, but when it comes to the Bride it’s her heart, literally the heart of his one true love, that is the important thing to Dan. It’s almost sweet.

Horror Films A to Z – All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Welcome to my unofficial April A-to-Z. I’m not participating in the actual event, but feel free to check that out. I decided I’d chose 26 horror films, one title for each letter of the alphabet, all new to me, and mostly available through the various streaming sources that I have access to.

 

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Year: 2006
Runtime: 1h 30m
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Jacob Forman
Stars: Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Whitney Able

A group of high-schoolers invite Mandy Lane, an innocent, desirable girl, to a weekend party on a secluded ranch. While the festivities rage on, the number of revelers begins to drop mysteriously.

Initial: I’d heard a bit about this movie from podcasts, but I don’t remember why exactly. Jonathan Levine has directed other things I want to watch but haven’t (Long Shot (2019), 50/50 (2011)). The runner-up for A was Annabelle (2016), but I decided I like slasher films better than haunted dolls films.

Production Notes: I kept thinking that this film wasn’t *that* old, and I was partially correct. It was shown at a few festivals in 2006-07, but then fell into a distribution hole in the US until 2013.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) The reason I had heard about All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is due to its subversion of the Final Girl trope.  The implied plot is that either a jealous admirer or an over-protective psycho is going to bump off the repugnant boys who continually make lewd passes at good, pure Mandy Lane until things go way too far and Mandy has to defend herself from him. But this is a film made in the 2000s, so obviously there has to be a twist. I spent much of the film looking for that twist and was mostly correct when it finally was revealed. There is kind of an additional Columbine-flavored twist at the end that really didn’t make much sense to me.

As a teen slasher film, it was…okay. I didn’t think the twist was all that great and I found some of the editing/aesthetic choices to be distracting. The film does do something interesting, though. First, it makes the audience complicit in ogling Mandy Lane. I think most people agree that, on a physical level, Amber Heard is fairly attractive, but really she’s not significantly better looking than her co-stars. But she’s not shot that way. We’re continually given close-ups of her face and body and shown the males around her watching her as well. Then, when Mandy agrees to go to the pool party and later to the ranch, the audience is led to wonder why she’s doing these things. The male characters have made comments to her and behind her back about their intentions—to be the first to have sex with her. She’s not asking for this attention, really. It makes her uncomfortable, but she doesn’t strongly rebuff it either. As a female viewer, I really started to judge Mandy in much the same way the other characters in the movie do. And that’s the uncomfortable thing about this movie.

{Movies} Shirley Jackson, Hail, Caesar! & Dead Don’t Die

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2018)

In the realm of Shirley Jackson adaptations Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House television series and Stacie Passon’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle are on opposite ends of the fidelity spectrum. The Haunting of Hill House is sort of Jackson-flavored. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, but I feel bad for TV watchers who may have picked up the book after watching the Netflix series expecting to find the modern-day Crains.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, on the other hand, suffers somewhat by being faithful to the source material. The novel is very much from Merricat’s point of view and she’s an unreliable narrator. That’s hard to pull off in film. As viewers, we don’t quite feel Merricat’s dread and distrust of the world; the plot ends up feeling a little flat. That’s unfortunate because everything else about this movie is more than I could want in an adaptation of one of my favorite books. The world is lush and dreamy. Taissa Farmiga is a perfect Merricat, and I’ve missed Crispin Glover’s off-kilterness.

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

A friend I play ultimate frisbee with has been on me to watch the Coen Brother’s Hail, Caesar! since, well, 2016. At league finals this Saturday, I can report that I’ve finally seen it. Alas, I don’t think I like it as much as he does. There are parts that I definitely found enjoyable. George Clooney should do more comedies and we should bring back musicals with dancing male leads just for Channing Tatum. Josh Brolin is an actor I enjoy in nearly every role aside from the ones that involve an overage of CGI. I almost can’t believe that he’s the same actor who played Llewelyn Moss in No Country for Old Men (2006) or that the Coen Brothers are the same directors behind both of those movies. I get that Hail, Caesar! is a love letter to 50s Hollywood, but the pretty set pieces get in the way of the plot. The trailer above makes it seem much more put together than it is.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

The 30 Day Horror Movie Challenge proved me a liar. I don’t hate zombie movies. But for me to really like a zombie movie, it has to have something a little special about it. Jim Jarmusch puts a surprising number of horror and B-movie nods into The Dead Don’t Die. He does seem to care about the genre and playing with the genre tropes. In the spirit of George Romero’s zombie fare, the movie tries really hard to be socially conscious. It has an out-standing cast. But if it’s a horror comedy (and maybe it isn’t), it sort of forgets, aside from a few moments, to be horrific or comedic.

📽 30-Day Horror Movie Challenge, Days 29 & 30 🎃

What’s this all about? See the first post.

This has been a lot fun and I’m a little sad to see it come to an end. I intend to blog more about movies in the future because they really are a form of storytelling that I enjoy.

Day 29 – Your least favorite horror film of all time

I suppose there are horror movies out there that I quit part-way through that might qualify as less favored, but as a movie I watched entirely, I have only ambivalence for Friday the 13th (1980). Maybe it’s the setting (I never went to camp), maybe it’s that it compares poorly in concept and production (imo) to the movies that came before and after it. I probably didn’t watch it until 20 years after its release; by that time, everything about Friday the 13th had become a horror movie cliche. Still, that could be said for Halloween (1978) or Romero’s zombie movies, but I like those well enough. This probably bears some investigation on my part…

Day 30 – Your favorite horror film of all time

I didn’t start really watching horror movies until the 2000s when the internet allowed easier access to them. But even so, I was a late-comer to Candyman (1992). I had chalked it up as another slasher flick. I was surprised at how much story there is and how meta it is. All movie monsters seem to have some sort of mythology surrounding them, but Candyman might be the only one reliant on the mythology being known. I like that concept. And again, this movie has such a strong setting. Give me a fly over shot of Chicago set to Philip Glass’s music box music and I’m hooked. (Pun wasn’t intended…)