Halloween Day and the 2013 Awards Ceremony

Halloween Haunted House

Another Halloween has passed us and another horror movie marathon down. Keeping up with the posts has been tough this year while I’ve been caring for my newborn son, who occasionally becomes an infant demon that desires to destroy us by keeping us awake into the dark, horrid hours of the night and dreadful morning. It’s surprising I got as many movies in as I did, though many of them were chopped into bloody, thirty minute segments I surreptitiously devoured from my phone while lying in bed lest I wake the little bundle of terror. Let’s get this over with before Mephistopheles awakens once more. Here are the films I watched over the past couple of weeks, including two on Halloween day!

Grace

Grace (2009) Written and Directed by Paul Solet. Starring Jordan Ladd, Samantha Ferris, Gabrielle Rose, Malcolm Stewart, Stephen Park, Serge Houde.

Expectant mother Madeline (Jordan Ladd) is in a car accident that takes the lives of her husband and her unborn child. She decides to see the pregnancy through to term anyway and gives birth to a stillborn fetus in the clinic of a midwife, Patricia (Samantha Ferris), who is a doctor of “holistic obstetrics”, which sounds completely ridiculous. And she’s Madeline’s former lover, of course. Madeline wills the stillborn to life and begins caring for it at home but the baby is not interested in mother’s milk, as you can probably infer by poster.

I expected a killer baby movie but instead Grace attempts to be more of an exploration of motherhood. Fair enough but I’d rather see such an exploration come from… oh, I dunno, a mother… I’m not even sure the director has any children of his own. Frustratingly, each female character is written to be more screwed up than the next and I started to wonder about the director’s view of women. It’s not all bad, I suppose. It’s shot well enough and the performances are decent. It’s unfortunate that the director’s attitude strikes me as “women be crazy for babies!”

Oh, and apparently vegans like to watch footage of animal slaughter in the kitchen while preparing meals. Surprise!

The Unborn (2009)

The Unborn (2009) — Written and Directed by David S. Goyer. Starring Odette Yustman, Meagan Good, Cam Gigandet, Gary Oldman, Jane Alexander, Idris Elba, James Remar, Carla Gugino.

The worst movie of 2013’s marathon, by far. Odette Yustman keeps running into a creepy ghost boy. She persuades Gary Oldman to perform an exorcism on her; he apparently has nothing better to do than translate books stolen from the library and arrange exorcisms for strangers. There are a few creepy images but they are not enough to suffer through the dull, plodding story. Not even a late appearance by the great Idris Elba can save it. Waste of time. So far I’m zero for two on horror flicks featuring dybbuks.

'Unborn' creepy mom monster

Now you’ve seen the best shot in the movie.

Carrie (2013)

Carrie (2013) – Directed by Kimberly Peirce. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Ansel Elgort, Judy Greer, Alex Russell, Portia Doubleday.

Is this movie necessary? Not really, but it has its moments if you don’t go in expecting too much. It’s strange how the shower scene, which comes later in this version than in Brian De Palma’s 1976 masterpiece, feels like it comes too soon. The performances from the two leads are fine but Moore’s turn as Margaret isn’t nearly as powerful as Piper Laurie’s. She was scary while Julianne Moore is just crazy. Though the final third is entertaining it lacks the originality and visceral shock of the original.

This new version of Carrie is supposed to be truer to Stephen King’s novel but I haven’t read the book in years so I couldn’t say. But after a quick refresher of De Palma’s 1976 version on Netflix it’s obvious they were remaking the far superior original film. Why do they gotta lie?

But the worst thing about the Carrie remake is that it’s the only horror movie in the theaters on Halloween. What the hell???

Madhouse

Madhouse (1974) – Directed by Jim Clark. Starring Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Peter Cushing, Adrienne Corri, Natasha Pyne, Linda Hayden, Barry Dennen, Michael Parkinson.

Film number one on my Halloween day film viewing. I didn’t want to go another marathon without watching a Vincent Price movie and this was one of two that I could find streaming on Netflix, the other being House on Haunted Hill. In Madhouse Price plays Paul Toombes, an actor famous for his Dr. Death character in a series of horror films. He goes mad after he finds his fiancee beheaded during a New Year’s Eve party in Hollywood. Several years later a recovering Toombes arrives in London to begin work on a new television series reprising his role as Dr. Death. But more murders take place, each one copying a killing in a different Dr. Death film. Is Toombes carrying out the murders during black outs in which his personality splits into Dr. Death or is someone framing him? It doesn’t take a genius to see past the red herring to who the real killer is.

Madhouse isn’t given much credit but I had a good time with it. The showdown with the real killer is deliciously, laughably bizarre and campy. This was Price’s last movie with AIP. Supposedly for Price completists only, but I dug it.

Vincent Price goes mad

How can you not enjoy a film with Vincent Price doing this?

Tourist Trap

Tourst Trap (1979) – Written and Directed by David Schmoeller. Starring Jocelyn Jones, Chuck Connors, Jon Van Ness, Robin Sherwood, Tanya Roberts, Dawn Jeffory-Nelson, Keith McDermott.

Second and last film on Halloween. Tourist Trap uses the traditional “urbanoia” premise of a group of teens meeting their horrible fates after getting stranded in some backwoods location. This time they run into Chuck Connors and his abandoned wax/mannequin museum. I’ll avoid describing much more of the premise because knowing too much of what’s going on could ruin the strange, eerie opening sequence. The rest of movie has some great, creepy moments involving mannequins and actors made up to look like mannequins but none of it is as fantastic as the opener. Still a fun, worthwhile kind-of-a-slasher flick. I might have enjoyed it even more had I not been drifting off somewhere near the middle. Don’t blame the film, blame that evil baby I now live with.

And so 2013’s Halloween Horror Movie Marathon comes to a close. I listen for the demons, devils, and creatures that typically attend the awards ceremony and they are silent, cowing before the growls and cries of the newborn terror. He has taken control of the proceedings and selected the films He finds worthy.

Here is the final count of horror films linked to their trailers on YouTube:

It’s taken just over two months to get through this parade of ghosts, demons, madmen, evil scientists, hoodlums, and telekinetics. The awards ceremony was carried out in near silence for fear of waking the sleeping beast. I performed a Black Mass to summon the sons of Belial who etched the results on the walls with the charred bones of the sacrifice.

Best Movie: There weren’t any films that grabbed me by the lapels and shook me around with pure horror entertainment power. No TrollhunterREC, or Absentia this year. Ugetsu is a beautiful film but feels like the wrong choice. For a Lovecraft fan such as myself Out of Mind is certainly in the running. But the movie that elicited the strongest reaction from me was Eden Lake. I didn’t expect such a brutally effective kick in the gut. Well done.

Worst Movie: Ridiculous and dull, The Unborn has almost no redeeming qualities. How do these movies get made?

Best Performance: Chuck Connors’s nutty performance is entertaining in Tourist Trap but Vincent Price edges him out by a mile in Madhouse. Laurence R. Harvey is chillingly disturbed in Human Centipede 2. But Sharni Vinson wins for her kick ass performance in You’re Next.

Most Annoying Performance: Leila Bennett as Xavier’s maid in Doctor X. How kooky!

Filmmaker That Most Hates His Audience: Tom Six, writer, director and producer of Human Centipede 2.

Most Blatant Grab for Cash: The Carrie remake.

Scariest Movie: None of these movies provided any great deal of scares. Paranormal Activity 4 mostly kept me anxious for what might occur but the eerie opening sequence in Tourist Trap wins this round.

Most Awkward Dubbing: Lindsay Seim having to mouth Lin Shaye’s dialogue for no explicable reason in the opening of Insidious: Chapter 2.

Most Creative Death: The blender kill in You’re Next.

Best Verbal Showdown: Peter Cushing and George Pastell in The Mummy. Here’s a portion of it:

Death Where I Wish I Knew Who the Actor Was When It Happened: Ti West, director of the horrible, awful, reprehensible House of the Devil getting a crossbow bolt to the forehead in You’re Next

Coldest Mud Bath: Kharis rising from the swamp in The Mummy.

Creepiest Moment in an Otherwise Awful Movie: Carla Gugino briefly turning into a weird mouth monster in The Unborn.

Best Homage to The Shining: No, not the rambling pack of buffoons in Room 237 but the boy riding a big wheel through his home in Paranormal Activity 4.

Most Deaths: A high school gym full of students in the Carrie remake. You thought your prom sucked…

Movie That Was Underrated But Still Not Very Good: Paranormal Activity 4.

Number of Movies That Brought Me Closer to Completing the 333 Films to Scare You to Death List: 3

Some Memorable Moments:

  • Christopher Heyerdahl as H. P. Lovecraft practicing his pronunciation of “Cthulhu” in Out of Mind.
  • The mad scientist in Doctor X smothering his head in the goop that becomes his monstrous disguise.
  • Vincent Price going mad when he discovers his fiancee’s body in Madhouse.
  • Chris’s face smashing, in slow motion, through the windshield of her boyfriend’s car in Carrie.
  • Miaygi telling her husband Genjuro “I am always with you” in Ugetsu.
  • Lady Wasaka’s deceased father singing with her as she celebrates her marriage in Ugetsu.
  • Jenny realizing where she’s ended up in the last minutes of Eden Lake.

There you have it. The Fourth Annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon comes to an end and I sadly wave goodbye to Halloween. 2014 will be my fifth year of this madness! I’ve already got some ideas as far as what to screen. We’ll see how they pan out… or if my ferocious new housemate will even allow the marathon to take place. I may have to persuade him with raw flesh and Halloween candy.

Happy Halloween!

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