A run through of my Halloween-related pop culture intake from the past four days: Nightmare
(1964, Francis) [aborted viewing]
The kick-off to the horror festivities was an icy psychological thriller from the Hammer
vaults. It's impeccably photographed (in HammerScope no less) and, alas, unbelievably slow. The gathered crowd was demanding gore and Nightmare
was not delivering. So we moved onto... Satanis
(1970, Laurent) [aborted viewing]
It's supposedly a documentary about Anton LeVay and the day-to-day in the Church of Satan. All I know is after ten minutes of patient viewing there was not a single virgin sacrifice, goat killing or appearance from the Dark Lord. Satanis
got the boot. The Driller Killer
Well, it delivered the gore. Unfortunately, it's still an Abel Ferrara film--and his first at that. Do people actually enjoy his films? I've only seen a few, but all of them seem so ugly and full of self-pity/hatred. I mean, hey, go ahead and hate yourself, but could you make it, oh, I dunno, cinematic
? Maybe include a hint of an aesthetic?
For those unawares, Mr. Ferrara wrote, directed and starred in this zero-budget exploitation "classic." He intended to cash in and make a gore soaked genre picture, but the project morphed into (an uninteresting and hella dull) document of New York's art/rock scene circa 1978. Ferrara plays a whiny painter who can't deal with his petulant girlfriend(s), asshole agent, The Roosters (the new wave band that's forever playing the "Peter Gunn Theme" in the apartment below), and the skyrocketing phone bill. So he takes out angst by killing homeless men with a power drill.
It's as charmless as it sounds. I Drink Your Blood
Wherein dirty, Satan-worshipping hippies piss off the local town folk and get their comeuppance. (A little boy injects blood from a dog that died of rabies into meat pies. He then sells the meat pies to the famished hippies. After eating said meat pies, the hippies trip balls, start foaming at the mouth, and zombiesque shit ensues.) The end. Not nearly as entertaining as it might sound. Nightbreed
From the imagination of Clive Barker comes a reimagined version of Cats
. At least that's what it felt like. The hugely negative: Craig Sheffer is the protagonist. The hugely positive: David Cronenberg plays Sheffer's psychotic psychologist. "Batdance"
(1989, Magnoli, music video by Prince)
Back in the day, MTV used to play this video on Halloween and I loved it. I loved it so much that when Prince released The Hits/The B-Sides
, I was furious that he'd left "Batdance"--a number one hit!--off the package. Time has shown me the errors of my ways and I now see the shrewd legacy-minded editing skillz of the Purple One. The song--a medley of three songs from the Batman
soundtrack and a shload of dialogue samples from the movie--is pretty damn embarrassing. And the video... It makes me long for the halcyon days of Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" video. That said, propers are deserved for slipping the Dark Knight Returns
ref into the video. (See the "Vicki Vale" photo above.) Brides of Dracula
Hammer Films, round two. Unfortunately, the day's festivities caught up with me and I slept through much of it. I was awake in the middle-section of the movie for, oh, five minutes and I can say that Peter Cushing was an inspired choice for Dr. Van Helsing. Batman Returns
I'm not sure if this counts as a Halloween movie, but it has people in costumes and loads of grotesquery, so I'm allowing its inclusion. First: the film's problems. As much as I love Christopher Walken in the film, the Max Shreck role feels like it was written solely to propel the flimsy subplot about a power-station that sucks energy from Gotham City. Or something. Hell, you can feel the the script's machinery grinding to a halt and then lurching forward throughout most of it. Plus, the action sequences are largely rote and lack any sense of urgency.
Amazingly, in spite of all of that, I really enjoyed the film. Once I came to peace with how creaky the whole venture was going to be, I lapped up the production design, the semi-frequent moments where Daniel Waters's dialogue comes to life with hilarious bits of verbal interplay and innuendo, and uniformly great performances, especially from Michelle Pfeiffer. What happened to MP? She's so outrageously good here--funny/sad/sexy--that it made me realize how much I've missed her. (Can we add her absence to the list of grievances against David E. Kelley?)
It's also a relief to know that I'm not alone in my regard for the film. Anne freakin' Rice really
loved it, and you know
what an imprimatur that is. Here's a sample of the review (as found on Amazon.com
): "A mesmerizing and haunting achievement; a mixture of bold cinematic techniques that reminded me of certain scenes from The Scarlet Empress
, or the silent opening of David Lean's Oliver Twist
... A shining, brilliant and beautiful film. Gripping, entertaining, worth study. I loved it." See that? She dropped a Lean and
a Von Sternberg bomb! How ya like that?
I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Anne is an Amazon.com reviewing maniac. She only tackles the products she truly loves and, believe you me, when she loves something, she loves
it. A sample:
- Alan Parker's film version of Evita: "A work of genius on every level!"
- The Passion of the Christ: "Gibson created something of enduring magnificence."
- Tolstoy's Anna Karenina "One of the greatest novels of all time. Once you read it straight through and experience its immensity and depth, you can keep it around and dip into it when you need to be reminded that a work of art -- novel, play, film, what have you -- can give you not only continued enjoyment but profound truths."
- Dr. Andrew L. Stoll's The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Anti-depression Diet and Brain Program: "This is a book that can be life changing... We live in a wilderness of self help and health care books that can confuse us and numb us with their contradictory claims. But be assured this book is a thorough and brilliant record of the results of actual medical research."
- Joel Schumacher's adaptation of Lord Lloyd Weber's The Phantom of the Opera: "The film is positively magical -- excessive, obsessive, unapologetic in its pure gothic romanticism, and gorgeous to watch, with sublime music. It will be immortal -- along with The Red Shoes, and Tales of Hoffman [sic]... A real demonstration of what might happen when brilliant talent pays no attention to cynicism or pseudo-sophistication."
I'm willing to ignore the praise for Evita
, but I will not
tolerate Ms. Rice comparing Joel Fucking Schumacher and his Duran Duran video on 'ludes move-musical to Powell & Pressburger's transcendence. Nuh uh, sorry, Anne, not on my watch.