Halloween Day!

Happy Halloween It’s time to watch a bunch of horror movies! You know, like a marathon? Let’s start with a couple of pretty intense entries…

GreenRoom2015

Green Room (2015) Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier. Starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Patrick Stewart, Eric Edelstein, David W. Thompson, Mark Webber.

A punk band called the Ain’t Rights is on tour through the northwest, siphoning gas on their way to gigs where each member barely makes more than six bucks. But it is hard to make it when you shun social media and only record on analog. After a show is canceled, a radio show host points the band in the direction of a remote bar that happens to be a gathering place for neo-Nazi skinheads. The Ain’t Rights perform and seem to connect with the crowd, in spite of initially pissing them off by opening with a cover of the Dead Kennedys’s classic “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”. After the show is over, Pat (Anton Yelchin) heads back to the green room to grab a forgotten phone. There he witnesses a body of a girl on the ground, the result of a fatal stabbing. A sobbing, distraught Amber (Imogen Poots) pleads with him to call the police. Then things get crazy.

I managed to miss Green Room when it came around to the theaters. It’s exactly my kind thing: a violent revenge film where the characters are trapped in a confined space with no easy way out. Glad I finally got to see it though. It’s an intense hour and a half, filled with a crushing pace that doesn’t slow down. There is no time to linger over the brutal, violent deaths, we’ve got to move on to see who manages to avoid being the next number in a high body count.

Also, it has been a while since I’ve delved into punk rock and this film made me want to listen to some more DK again. Not that I was ever a punk of any sort, real or poseur. My appreciation of it doesn’t come from any direct experience but rather to recognize the youthful anger, frustration, and rebelliousness so viscerally represented by a handful of chords and screaming.

Anyway, this movie is bloody great and if what I’ve described sounds like your kind of thing, check it out. You might even enjoy the next movie, though you might be asked to think a little bit more…

Raw movie poster

Raw (2016) Directed by Julia Ducournau. Starring Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Naït Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss.

Raw is a French coming-of-age story that will leave audiences a lot to chew on. Ha! Sorry, I just had to… Let’s try again… Julia Ducournau’s directorial debut, Raw, brings a disturbing intensity that may be hard to swallow for more squeamish viewers… oh, I did it again, didn’t I? One more time? Raw is a visual feast! Oh, I give up…

Justine (Garance Marillier) starts her first year at a veterinary college, following in the footsteps of her parents and older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), the latter of which is still attending the school. As a part of one of several hazing/initiation rituals, Justine is forced to eat a raw rabbit kidney, an act which goes against her strict vegetarian upbringing. Though revolting to her at first, this exposure to the taste of flesh awakens a dangerous hunger.

Reports that viewers of Raw at the 2016 Toronto film festival fainted from the graphic nature of the movie are a bit misleading and might lead you to envision a more exploitative film than what we get. Eli Roth wishes he could make a cannibal film like this one. It’s too bad he lacks the depth to come up with something as emotionally powerful as Ducournau’s fantastic film.

That’s not to say there aren’t graphic, squirm-inducing moments. There’s a handful of those. But the true goal isn’t for the gross out but to explore cannibalism as a metaphor for confronting the changes we go through as young adults, the dangers of repression balanced against the propensity to give in to the desires of the flesh.

The performances are great, particularly by the movie’s star, Garance Marillier, in her feature length debut. She handles Justine’s metamorphosis beautifully, starting out as a waifish, withdrawn “rookie” afraid of her burgeoning desires to a woman who must decide how to control those urges after experiencing their ruthless consequences.

What a great couple of movies! Let’s see if the quality of the next one holds up…

WeAreStillHere

We Are Still Here (2015) Written and directed by Ted Geoghegan. Starring Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenigm, Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie, Monte Markham, Susan Gibney, Michael Patrick, Kelsea Dakota, Guy Gane III.

Anne (Barbara Crampton) and Paul Sacchetti (Andrew Sensengim) have moved from the city to an isolated farm house in New England to allow themselves some space to grieve for the loss of their college aged son. But the cellar, which remains way too hot, seems to be the source of bumps and other strange noises. Anne at first suspects their son is trying to communicate with them but they soon discover something much more sinister is taking place and invite their psychic friends over to help them deal with the spiritual danger that seems to be threatening them.

I was not feeling We Are Still Here when it started. Well, to be fair, I was moved by the opening couple of scenes where the couple have first entered the house and are starting to settle into their grief. Several static shots of the home interspersed with the couple, each one alone, mourning in one way or another, gave me time to think about my own children and how I might handle them should the unthinkable occur. These are, after all, the kinds of thoughts most parents will experience when confronted with the subject matter.

After these moments passed the acting and writing grew uncomfortably stilted for me yet still not quite bad enough to venture into camp territory. I began to wonder why We Are Still Here ended up on so many Best of Horror lists in 2015. It was especially baffling considering the handful of classic genre actors featured in the the movie, among them Barbara Crampton, who featured in some of Stuart Gordon’s greatest films, multiple award winning Larry Fessenden, and longtime television actor Monte Markham. And Lisa Marie, whom I’ve only seen before in Tim Burton movies. Not to mention static shot after static shot that at first seemed necessary to establish the tone of the movie but now seemed to exist only to pad out an already brief running time.

Yet it was the bloody, violent third act that turned it around for me. Anne and Paul soon become a target for the townspeople who descend on the home at a time when the grieving couple are already in the midst of a seance gone wrong.

Director Ted Geoghegan was apparently inspired by Fulci’s House by the Cemetery, which allows me to forgive several sins. I am also considering that it could have been the slight tonal shift that threw me off from the previous couple of movies, particularly the last one which deservedly took itself pretty seriously. If I were to view it again in a different mindset, I may learn to appreciate We Are Still Here even more.

TheGorgon1964

The Gorgon (1964) Directed by Terence Fisher. Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Michael Goodliffe, Patrick Troughton, Jeremy Longhurst, Jack Watson, Joyce Hemson, Prudence Hyman.

This is pretty standard Hammer Horror fare as I’ve come to know it thus far, which means it’s fantastic. The small German town of Vandorf has seen its share of murders over the past few years, the victims of which have been turned into stone. Is Mageara, the last of the three Gorgon sisters, the cause of these deaths? Dr. Namaraoff (Peter Cushing), who seems keen to hide certain details of the murders that occur early in the film, may know more than he lets on. Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee) who is assisting Paul Heitz (Richard Pasco) with the investigation of the deaths of his father and brother, soon discovers the true nature of the curse that seems to have befallen Vandorf.

The Gorgon is directed by Terence Fisher, who helmed most of the great Hammer horror films. You can’t beat Cushing and Lee together, and then tossing Barbara Shelley in makes this the icing on the Hammer cake. Pasco is also great as the tormented Paul Heitz.

I picked up The Gorgon on blu-ray as a cheap, single disc combo with The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, the second of which I still have yet to see. The Gorgon looks wonderfully sharp and colorful; I’m pretty happy to have it in my collection.

Seems about time to wrap up the days’ movies. I have some others on the backburner I’ve watched over the past couple of weeks that I’ll follow up with later.

Hope your Halloween was a good one and you manged to stay away from the vile creatures that tend to be roaming the streets this time of year…

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