Saturday, October 25, 2014

FUNNY GAMES (AUSTRIA, 1997)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 6


Plot: A family is terrorized by two serial killers at their lakehouse. To add insult to injury, the lead killer has the nerve to make occasional comments to the audience.

Favorite part: When the killers commit their first murder, the scene with the family comes to a virtual standstill. It is most dramatically effective. I also like the contrast to the smooth classical music beginnings and the heavy metal music closing credits.

Least favorite part: When the killer reverses the film with a remote control to change an action in the film he doesn't like. Come on! That isn't fair!

Scariest part: When the golf ball drops, signifying the return of the assailants and the viewer losses all hope.

Best Screaming: The guttural groans of a grieving father.

Additional casting notes: Ulrich Muhe and Susanne Lothar add a great deal to the demanding role of the terrorized couple. Muhe was later cast in the lead role in the Oscar winning film The Lives of Others. Lothar also starred in Funny Games director Michael Haneke's later film The Piano Teacher. Muhe and Lothar were married in real life.

Friday, October 24, 2014

BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (1992)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
 DAY 5


Plot: .It's the Dracula story. You mean you don't know it?

Favorite part: I always like many of the little touches that Francis Coppola and his crew put together for his films, particularly period pieces. Just the meeting between Dracula and Mina at the Cinemateche is a nicely disconcerting scene.

Least favorite part: .I have nothing against this adaptation. I think it's a fine adaptation of the book. And I've read the book a couple of times. But I've seen so many Dracula movies now! There's the Bela Lugosi Dracula, there's two different versions of Nosferatu, there's The Horror of Dracula and there's this version by Francis Coppola. And these are all entries in at least one edition of the 1001 book! This doesn't take into account the many other versions of Dracula and it's sequels and TV versions and musical and ballet Dracula's, etc. etc...I'm just a little Draculed out.

Scariest part: The stake through the heart and decapitation of Lucy.

Best screaming: I like Renfield's (Tom Waits) screeching pleas from behind bars about wanting to serve his master. But I was always partial to Renfield.


Additional casting notes: The actor who seemed to get the most raspberries for this film was Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker. I admit, he doesn't exactly steal the movie. But I do think Winona Ryder as Mina and Anthony Hopkins as a very animated Van Helsing are fine. And I've liked Richard E. Grant (Seward) in everything I've seen him in. And, yes, Gary Oldman's Dracula seems to be imitating Lugosi in the opening scene (which I liked) but he quickly makes the character his own.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

SUSPIRIA (1977, ITALY)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 4



Plot: A young American woman named Suzy arrives at Swiss dance academy only to find evil lurking around every ballet bar.

Best screaming: The one's from the young lady during the opening scene who had just ran away from the academy only to be attacked at a friend's house. The screams from Suzy's friend Sarah when she falls on the razor wire are pretty good, too.

Scariest part: When Suzy's friend Sarah (above) gets trapped on some razor wire before she is to be killed. Of course, this may have something to do with my phobia about being trapped on razor wire.

Least favorite part: What is going on in this movie? One may rightly ask this question at about the halfway point. No worries. Suspiria supplies this information to the main character in the guise of a rather conveniently placed psychiatrist and professor, who know all about the history of the academy and tell it all to Suzy. Good to know these things, but wish they could have been conveyed to the audience in a less obvious manner.

Favorite part: When things start percolating in the academy at the end and we see all the evil come to the surface, it's a nice payoff for an at times confusing plotline. But maybe we should be confused and unsure to relate more to the heroine's plight, eh?



Additional casting notes: I had always liked Jessica Harper (above) in several films from the 70's and 80's such as Inserts, Stardust Memories, Love and DeathPennies From Heaven and My Favorite Year. I had no idea that a cult Italian horror film may be her best known role!

And in addition, it's interesting to see Joan Bennett playing a similar matronly role in this film that she played for years on my favorite cult soap opera Dark Shadows during the 60's.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CANDYMAN (1992)

12 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!
DAY 3



Plot: Graduate student explores urban legend about a lethal figure named Candyman who returns to commit mayhem whenever you say his name five times in a mirror.

Favorite part: When Helen the graduate student abruptly turns from the film's investigator to the film's accused.

Least favorite part: I wish the Candyman character enunciated a little better. Had trouble making out some of his dialogue. I'm sure it was scary though!

Scariest part: Whenever Candyman appears to commit mayhem, it's usually pretty quick and frightening.

Best Screaming: Grad student accused of murder screams that Candyman is under the bed!


Additional casting note: I always liked Candyman leading lady Virginia Madsen, most specifically as the sexy expert on all things wine in Sideways. I didn't realize that an even more noted role for her was the starring role of this horror flick. And she always looks great.