Cinema, Month of Madness

Days 8-14: The Scary Week

In the interest of getting caught up with my woefully tardy reviews, I’ve decided to recap Really Scary Week in digest form.

I wanted to watch films that I found truly scary this week. In some cases, they were films that I had seen before and had truly disturbed me, so I wanted to see how they would hold up. Others were new to me, but had impressive reputations. The week had the added dynamic of D being away for the better part of it, leaving me to fend for myself against any number of terrors. And tough horror chick that I am, my big secret is that I don’t like the dark so much. Especially by myself. When I can hear chainsaws in the distance.

Monday: The Blair Witch Project (1999) D & I saw this in the theater, back when it came out and we did not sleep well that night. He stayed over at my place (I had my own place back then) and we giggled and freaked out all night long. I think we eventually slept – did we? We were utterly scared, and loved every minute of it.

This viewing, well, not so much. It’s still a scary film, and though it’s been imitated to death, there really is nothing like it. But no, we weren’t a third so terrified as that first viewing. Not in a huge hurry to go camping in Maryland, though.

Two gutsy screams.

Tuesday: Carrie (1976) Somehow, I had made it to this point in my horror viewing career without ever seeing this classic of the genre. Lord in heaven, it is damn good, despite thirty year-olds cast as high schoolers and despite over-acting by almost every supporting character. Even all of the too long”comic relief” sequences between Nancy Allen and John Travolta are worth sitting through for that last twenty minutes or so. What can I say about Sissy Spacek? She is mesmerizing and almost unendurable as Carrie, but it’s Piper Laurie, as the most frightening mother God ever gave a child, who stole this show. She is brilliant. She can deliver the most innocuous line and make it a terrifying threat without raising her voice. “I knew it would be red” sends chills right down my spine.

Three point nine bloody screams.

Wednesday: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Um, I don’t think I can write about this movie because that would mean I’d have to really remember it, and just thinking about remembering it scares me. A lot.

There is nothing captured on film that looks or feels like this movie. It makes me want to hide from the stark and eerie credit sequence to the iconic, bizarre ending. The only thing that got me through watching this on my own was me repeating to myself, “that’s a guy in a mask, that’s a guy in a mask…” I even had to go find pictures of the actor, Gunnar Hansen (even his name scares me) online to convince myself that Leatherface wasn’t real. He’s not, right?

There aren’t enough screams.

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he looks friendly enough

Thursday: Tales That Witness Madness (1973) From the sublimely scary to the ridiculous. This is a film I last saw somewhere around twenty years ago, or more, on Saturday afternoon cable tv, probably Commander USA (again). I l o v e d it then, and have wanted to see it again for a long, long time. Like Vampire Circus, I took me quite some time to track down a copy. I found a former rental VHS copy and Could. Not. Wait. to pop it in.

Derek was home by Thursday night, so I sat him down, promising a fun, scary movie that we were both going to love. And then I apologized. A lot. Something I would do often through the month.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around a hospital for the insane, and a doctor who is taking a colleague on a tour through it. In the process, he introduces him to four patients, and tell their eerie stories. Which aren’t very eerie. There’s a kid and his (not-so) invisible tiger, a haunted penny farthing, a just bizarre story about a tree with breasts, and a yarn about eating mystery meat. They are all bad, with very much not special effects. What in the world scared me all those years ago? Why did I think it was good? Does anyone out there want my VHS copy of this clunker?

A half scream for a young Joan Collins and the huge bow in her hair.

Friday: The Brotherhood of Satan (1971) This is not a bad movie, but it is not a particularly good one, either. A small family of a widowed dad, his girlfriend, and his daughter (an adorably tiny Geri Reischel, “Fake Jan” from the Brady Bunch Variety Hour) are taking a road trip to Grandma’s house. Along the way, they somehow get lost (a la Manos, The Hands of Fate) and wind up in a small town, filled with unfriendly characters. Just when they decide to high-tail it out of there, the ubiquitous weirdo pops into the middle of the road, causing them to crash and lose their only way out of town. Soon, the whole family is caught up in some serious Satan-related problems.

Produced by the same guys who brought you A Boy and His Dog (1975), this film does have that fun cult-favorite feeling. But the plot is really aimless and the mood is lethargic. I found myself a little restless while watching and ending up writing an entire paper without missing much of the action. A bit of good gore, judiciously used, gave it some appeal, but overall a fairly lifeless outing.

A scream for Fake Jan.

Saturday: Attack of The Crab Monsters (1957) This film had been a favorite of Wyn’s when he was a kid, so we had to check it out. I think that, like him, I would have been fairly scared by it as a kid. The plot, such as it is, involved an expedition to a remote island that hoped to discover what had become of a group of missing researchers. Naturally, members of the party start disappearing, yet when searching for them, their voices can be heard calling for help. Turns out there are Crab! Monsters! on the island who can imitate humans. That’s a creepy idea. Add to that the fact that the island is slowly sinking into the ocean, and you have the makings for claustrophobic scariness. But no one is frightened by a movie like this as an adult. The scares are so broad and the monsters are so rubber.

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That said, it made perfect MST3K fodder. The quips and the cocktails were flowing freely Saturday night.

A half scream, soaked in gin.

Sunday: The Ring (2002) Stylistic, surprising, and genuinely frightening, The Ring was a pleasant surprise. I had planned on watching the Japanese original, Ringu, but my source let me down and I had to scramble at the last minute for a replacement. I found a copy of The Ring checked in at my local library and decided to give it a chance, despite my disdain for remakes. A certain Undead friend of mine tell me that Ringu is a good scare, too, so I just have to see it before the month is out.

You probably know the plot of The Ring – a reporter views a video tape that apparently kills the viewer seven days after seeing it, and tries to unravel its mysteries as the clock ticks down. At first it seemed predictable, but soon the plot and its twists spiraled in directions I never expected. And the imagery. Surreal, bizarre, disturbing. Very Un Chien Andalou.

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Three screams down a deep well.

And thus endeth The Week of the Really Scary. Some was, and some was not so much. The Week of Threes is next.

2 Comments

  1. Remember when Blair Witch came out and Mom and Antz just moved into their house? She was afraid of the woods!!
    Did you guys or Antz leave rock piles all over the yard???
    LOL

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