Cinema, Month of Madness

Meg's Month of Madness : Grand Finale

I left you hanging with only one day remaining in this grand, inconvenient, crazy little project. Did I make it? Of course.

How many films did I watch on this, my last day? Not enough.

I wanted Halloween to be the biggest movie blow out. I wanted to watch films from the time I woke until the stroke of midnight. After all, this is the one day when channels like AMC and Turner Classic Movies make it so easy for me by showing nothing but horror films all day and night. But, somewhat more pressing matters got in the way…little things like working and school and attending to the three trick-or-treaters that came by. So, I had to settle for squeezing in three films between the hours of 4pm and midnight. Not bad, but next year…oh, next year.

What did I watch? Why, I thought you’d never ask.

First up was Gallery of Horrors (1966), presented on a Svengoolie Halloween special I’d taped over the weekend. Gallery is a series of vignettes, hosted by John Carradine. Each little story was capped by a not-so-surprising twist (he’s really a GHOST!), and filled with super-mod hairstyles, cardboard stiff acting, craptacular production values. And I really liked that about this movie. A couple of screams for the always-earnest Carradine and Lon Chaney Jr. who tries really hard.

Next was the main event, Poltergeist (1982). This is one scary, well-made film. I think I find it so enjoyable because it is of an era of film before CGI took over. The terrifying effects here are of substantial stuff: real wind and real steaks and real ecoplasm-goo. I really, really miss those days. The performances are top-notch as well, without a sour note in the ensemble. The late Heather O’Rourke is especially good. I was just a little older than her when this film came out, and I distinctly remember being terrified by her supernatural abduction. Twenty odd years later, it still frightens me to the core. The story – well, there are holes and silly inconsistencies, but the real fear and tension are strong enough to overcome the small issues (why does Craig T. Nelson suddenly become a midget-hating prick?) and I truly can’t recommend this film more strongly. Four screams of “you only moved the headstones!”

The last feature of my Halloween night, and indeed, my entire Month of Madness, was The Uninvited (1944). This film is purported to be an inspiration for Poltergeist, and is seen briefly in an early bedroom scene. A fitting follow-up then, but an accidental one. We were actually considering going to bed and ending my gallant experiment on the high of Poltergeist; however, the temptations of Turner Classic Movies channel’s Halloween Marathon were to great to resist. I flipped over to channel 16 and we were shocked to see that, of all things, Poltergeist was just ending and that this mid-40s classic was up next. We decided to stay put and broke out just a little more candy. The plot follows a brother and sister who move into an abandoned seaside manor and soon learn that there is something very unusual happening in their new home. It’s a very Forties film with high melodrama and barely disguised rascism and a treacly romance between a virginal young thing and the older, worldy man who knows best. But, I like a good ghost story, so we persisted to the weird ending, high on sugar and mesmerized by the soft orange glow of our jack’o’lantern. A scream for the scary laughing woman.

And then, that was it. It was near midnight, and time to pack it in. I threw away the candy wrappers, blew out the candle in the pumpkin and said goodbye to my experiment. Another October was over.


And now, to sum up…

  • Though I missed a film on the 22nd, I did succeed in watching a total of thirty-six movies in thirty-two days.
  • However, this is a really tough thing to do while also working on a degree without a) falling behind in schoolwork or b) beginning to resent films of any kind. Really tough.
  • What would help would be improved planning of what films to see and how to acquire them. That way I could guarantee access to films that I really want to see (like Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow from 1958 which I could not get my hands on) and to prevent desperation choices like Ice Cream Man and Dracula A.D. 1972.
  • It’s also important to consider that while watching multiple versions of the same film is a fun idea, doing so can lead to some serious film-fatigue. After the Barrymore and March versions of Jekyll and Hyde, I couldn’t bring myself to watch more than twenty minutes of the Spencer Tracy version, which I hear is incredible.
  • I regret not soliciting more folks for film suggestions. I think that getting outside of my own preferences a little more often would have added more dynamism to the experiment. And maybe theme weeks (like all 40s or all Tobe Hooper) would bring more of a sense of variety and order to the month.
  • Finally, I’ve learned that Megan can watch too many horror films in one space of time, which I might not have believed before this.

    But was it fun? You’d better believe it.