Saturday, October 25, 2003

I've been following Sean Collins' scholarly and interesting 13 Days of Halloween list of (mostly) horror films he likes, and I had once written some of my reactions in a post but decided I didn't like it, and deleted it. Having heard a couple of dissenting opinions on my decision, I have decided to have another go at it, which is now going to take longer because he's written about four more films since my original post! And please bear in mind that these are just my opinions, and I have been known to be wrong before. Anyway, here goes nothing:

First up, as sort of an honorable mention he wrote about the pre-LotR Peter Jackson film Heavenly Creatures, which I've only seen once, a couple of years ago, at the insistence of the Bacardi Show Political Correspondent, who raved about it constantly to me and eventually loaned me a VHS copy. I wish that I could say that I was as blown away by it as the BSPC, but I just had a hard time caring about the unlikeable characters we were given throughout. I did think the fantasy sequences were imaginatively staged, and it was well acted, but the lack of sympathetic characters really did it in for me.

Next, the list proper began, and it was a flick that I had left off my list, causing me no little amount of dismay when I realized that I had forgotten it. Oh- it was Hitchcock's The Birds. At the risk of refuting the statements I made in my own horror movie list a week or so ago, I will admit that if there's ever a movie that made me uneasy, it was this one. It's given me the willies since I saw it long ago as a kid- don't know what my parents were thinking letting me watch this film in my impressionable youth. Probably that I'd seen everything else, why not this too. Anyway, there are many scenes that have made an indelible mark on my memory- especially Tippi Hedren trapped in that phone booth, the bird attack in the attic which was apparently as harrowing in real life as it was onscreen, and (especially) the playground scene, which creates tension so thick you could, as they say, cut it with one of Mrs. Bates' butcher knives. A big part of the feel is, I think, the way Hitchcock directs it with cool precision and a minimum of bravura moves, but not so much that he smothers the paranoia and fear inherent in the script. This one was, as Sean T. says, personal- and it shows.

The Wicker Man was next, and it's one I read about in magazines like The Monster Times for many years before I actually got a chance to see it in some sort of uncut version. That's been over twenty years ago, I think, and perhaps I should try to view it again (with older eyes) because I really wasn't all that impressed with it. As I recall, I was a bit bored by it because it was so determinedly stolid and slow moving, and I suppose that was to create a sense of impending dread or some such but it just didn't grab me where I felt it. The ending, as I recall, livened things up a bit but Edward Woodward's character came across as such an obstinate prig for the most part that I didn't feel too sorry for him when he met his fate. Again, I'm probably being a bit unfair to this movie, and I really should try to see it once more, but I gots ta call 'em like I sees (or saws) 'em.

Number eleven on the Attentiondeficitdisorderly horror hit parade is Night of the Living Dead, the original of course, and I'm in complete agreement with Mr. Collins on this one. It's every bit as effective now as it was thirty plus years ago.

At ten is a film that I would have never thought to put on a horror film list, the Coen Brothers' Barton Fink. I dearly love the works of the Bros., but Fink is perhaps my least favorite of their oeuvre, and I wish I had a really good reason why. It's full of typically odd Coen-ish characters and dialogue, and the direction, photography, and performances are all first-rate...but it just didn't connect with me for some reason. I suppose that I just didn't really sympathise with the protagonist, or maybe the flaming finale struck me as a little too over-the-top, I don't know. This is another one I think I need to watch again, having done so only once, and lots of people with much more informed opinions than I love this film, placing me squarely in the minority, it seems. Sean makes a great case for its inclusion on his list, and highlights several things I didn't see in the same (fire) light.

Even odder, to me, is the inclusion of film #9, Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut- which I certainly regarded as a horror, but not in the same way Sean intends it. I will say that again, Sean makes a great case for this movie, but I've sat through it twice, finding it plodding and uninvolving, full of unpleasant characters doing unpleasant things to each other, and really don't want to do it again. Kubrick was a great filmmaker, no doubt about it, but even the great ones stumble occasionally, and I've always regarded this and his muddled adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining as his career worsts.

And finally, #8 today, Clive Barker's Hellraiser, a movie I remember seeing as soon as it came out because I was such a huge Barker fan (and stoked at getting the chance to see The Hellbound Heart visualized) at the time. I'm not so much of a Barker fan anymore, but this remains the best film version of any of his works, and still holds up as a truly imaginative gore/horror film. Again, Sean makes some trenchant observations.

And that's all he's got so far! I'll try to comment on the other seven, whenever he gets them posted. So far, fascinating reading.

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