The 2nd Annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon begins!

I’m guessing that not many of you like to think about Halloween so early in the year. Well, I do. And I happened to be in a Barnes & Noble recently where one of the tables in the children’s area was piled with Halloween books for kids. Oh, you might have rolled your eyes and thought about how frustrating it is that this holiday crap is paraded before us earlier and earlier every year. But it made me happy. I smiled to myself as three words came to mind: Horror Movie Marathon. YES!

Welcome ghosts and ghouls to my Second Annual Horror Movie Marathon. Ahh, horror, that exploration of violence, fear, and death. Where the things that scare us the most are brought to life in the form of ghosts, demons, killers, and other beasts for us to vicariously defeat so that we might grow braver, all from the simple comfort of our chairs! Since we’ve boosted our Internet speed this year I hope that with the aid of Netflix and Hulu I’ll be able to pack in even more terror, blood, and violence into this fantastic event. Here’s three films to get us started!

The Call of Cthulhu

The Call of Cthulhu (2005) – Directed by Andrew Leman. Starring Matt Foyer, John Bolen, Ralph Lucas, John Klemantaski, and Chad Fifer.

Over the past year I’ve become acquainted with the works of the brilliant Howard Phillips Lovecraft. I don’t know what kind of horror fan I must have been, waiting so long before immersing myself into the stories of the master of ‘weird fiction‘. But at the encouragement of a close friend I got started and now I regret not reading him earlier. Say, during my teen years when a large portion of my literary diet was Stephen King. Ah well.

Speaking of which, you know how Stephen King’s books have a reputation for becoming terrible films? Apparently it’s not so different for H. P. Lovecraft. Filmmakers will typically try to make up for the shorter length of the stories or the lack of a love interest by adding various subplots that rarely seem to work well.

It’s for that reason alone that The Call of Cthulu  -distributed by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society and one of the most faithful Lovecraft adaptations put to film -is worth watching.  It was shot as a black and white silent film, which would have been the prevalent style of the late ’20s, the time during which the story was written.

I don’t know that I can or should describe the plot but it involves the fate of the entire world and how can you go wrong with that? I was surprised by the sets and effects. I don’t know what I expected but apparently the film’s budget wasn’t quite as modest as I thought. The cinematography is faithful to the old style, as far as I can tell. Though at times the contrived old, scratched film effect distracted me from the story; I could have done without that phony stray hair that cropped up at a couple of points.

Acting is hard for me to judge in silent films since I really haven’t seen very many of them. I suppose some of the hamminess is a part of the territory. No bother, that kind of thing begins to fade as the film goes on.

It’s not my favorite Lovecraft adaption but, of the few I’ve seen, it’s a rare good one. Overall I suspect that The Call of Cthulhu is made by and mostly intended for fans of Lovecraft. At just over 46 minutes it’s short enough to be worth your time, but I still think you should read the story first.

The BurningThe Burning (1981) — Directed by Tony Maylam. Starring Brian Backer, Leah Aryes, Brian Matthews, Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter, and Fisher Stevens.

I came across this as a suggestion for Netflix streaming from the bloodygoodhorror.com website. I can’t say that I was too impressed. I got a little excited when I saw Tom Savini in the credits but that excitement was unfounded as this ho-hum movie plodded along. I suppose if it’s important to you to see one of the earliest Miramax films, or if you’re interested in seeing the debuts of Holly Hunter, Fisher Stevens, and Jason Alexander you can check it out. Or if  you want to see Fisher Stevens’s naked butt. That would be weird, but if that’s the case, then this is your movie.

End of the "famous" raft scene

The standard slasher plot is barely worth recounting. The handyman at a summer camp is severely burned as the result of a prank conducted by young campers that goes wrong. He returns a few years later to exact his revenge, slaughtering the latest batch of kids. Stuff happens, it ends, not soon enough. I’m sorry to say that Savini’s effects are mediocre. The scene on the raft is supposed to be some kind of minor classic but I don’t get it. You see it coming a mile away and the gore is lackluster and lame.

What put me off most, though, were the scenes of violence against women. Which, I know, duh, I’m watching a slasher movie, what did I expect? I don’t know, maybe now that I’m getting older I’m becoming more sensitive to this kind of thing. To start with the victim of the first kill scene is a prostitute and there’s no reason for her to be killed except that she’s an easy target. It’s an ugly, unnecessary scene.

There are two later scenes in the camp where women are pressured to put out by the guys they’re interested in. For one I was disturbed by the demanding, aggressive demeanor of the boys in these scenes. In one of these scenes the girl goes from nearly getting raped to being led through the woods to a terrible death while the guy goes back to camp, unaware of her fate. Oh, well, if only she had given it up, eh? But in the other scene it appears the girls can’t win this game; the other girl puts out and is killed anyway, along with her boyfriend this time. It left me feeling icky in a way I can’t recall having ever felt during a horror movie before. Maybe it’s becoming more obvious to me that in many cases the women in slasher films are murdered simply because they’re women.

So, don’t bother unless that sort of thing won’t get under your skin or you’re a huge fan of the Weinstein brothers or some kind of slasher completist.

Shiver

Eskalofrío (Shiver) (2008) — Directed by Isidro Ortiz. Starring Junio Valverde, Blanca Suarez, and Mar Sodupe.

A teenage boy has a photosensitive condition that makes it dangerous for him to be in the sun. At the advice of a doctor, his mother moves with him to a remote location where there is little direct sunlight. Which makes you think ‘vampires’ or something, right? Nah, not really. Instead there’s something in the nearby woods that starts murdering the locals and Santi is getting the blame. And it doesn’t help that whatever it is seems to have a fondness for Santi.

Shiver is a Spanish film produced by Guillermo Del Toro (is there anyone else working in Spanish horror these days?) and directed by Isidro Ortiz, a director I know nothing about. The movie looks great; I loved the setting and location. The camera shows us a lush, beautiful Spanish woodland and foggy countryside. The star of the film, Junio Valverde, does a fine job as the tormented teen. Fun fact!: he was also in Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone where he played a character with the same name. There are a couple of scary scenes, particularly one where Santi pretends to sleep while the “creature” or whatever it is explores the room. But I was underwhelmed by the film’s revelation of the “creature”. The film ends with final unnecessary shot that attempts to elicit an easy scare but only manages to look silly and squander any remaining respect it might have earned.

I probably wouldn’t have picked this out if it weren’t streaming on Netflix. Or the last one, for that matter. Boy, that’s no kind of way to start this horror-fest. I hope the next batch of movies is better. Come on, Netflix; what else ya got?

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2 Responses to “The 2nd Annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon begins!”

  1. Michael K vaughan Says:

    I thought “Call was a pretty good Lovecraft movie, and I look forward to seeing The Whisperer in the Darkness that the Lovecraft Historical Society recently completed. It still does not top Reanimator though. I had been thinking about watching Shiver, but now I probably will not. I would say about 90% of netflix streaming’s horror choices are shit, but sometimes you can catch some good stuff. Very glad that the Horror Movie Marathon is up and running for the next couple months! I will try to catch as many as I can and throw my thoughts your way.

  2. […] for I Saw the Devil in spite of its violence against women, which I decried in another movie in my last post. To begin with the tone of Devil is different from The Burning. Summer camp slasher movies are […]

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