Cinema, felines, Month of Madness

Madness Marches On

MonMadAnd so, we made it to the last week. The last week of D asking me “did you watch your movie today?” as if reminding me of my vitamins; the last week of scouring Netflix, the library, and The Internet Archive for last-minute movies when my plan for the night went awry (or I just changed my mind); the last week of my super, even uber-cute Halloween blog theme; the last week of feeling utterly and delightfully self-indulgent.

Monday, October 26:  Mausoleum (1983): D was out of town, so I eschewed watching John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) which was on AMC that night.  Even after seeing it approximately 6.8 million times, I still cannot watch it alone. A classic is a classic for a reason, right? Anyway, remakes are for losers.

So, I settled instead for a bucket full of crazy from 1983, Mausoleum.  Somewhere, I have both audio and video tapes of all of the host segments from a Commander USA showing of this movie.  (Audio taping from tv, specifically Commander USA, used to be a big thing with me.  I was a lonely child.)  So, I’ve had a special place in my heart for Mausoleum for a long time, even though I couldn’t remember a thing about it, except that it inspired The Commander to make a rash of cemetery jokes, and even turn his Video Vault into a temporary morgue. But the movie was a vague memory to me.  I figured it was because I was really only into the host stuff that I just discarded what I’d seen of the movie, rendering what I could remember as a hazy mish-mash of scenes and dialogue.

But no, I learned from finally seeing the movie in its entirely again that it wasn’t just my twelve year-old attention span, it was the editing for TV that did it! Mausoleum is so full of boobs and demon-possessed sex scenes that to air it on basic cable required quite a hatchet job to the (admittedly thin) story.  It’s not like we had a lot to begin with, either.  It’s your basic early 80s Exorcist rip-off: Bobbi Bresee (owner of the much-filmed boobs) is possessed by an evil demon named Nomed, and it causes her to turn from a sweetly naive housewife to a rampaging vixen who has a lot of sex with her husband, that actor with my favorite name ever, Marjoe Gortner.

When Marjoe turns out not to be enough (no surprise there), Bobbi starts in on her gardener, the guy who delivers the landscaping supplies, and her therapist, I think (all those early 80s guys look alike to me).  Oh, and she gets more demonc and a bit more kill-ish which each guy.  It’s very gory and ripe with the stench of a Madonna/whore backlash theme (paging Susan Faludi).  But, it was good to finally see the whole thing, I guess, though it left me wondering where my Commander tapes are.

Tuesday, I watched  Horror of Spider Island (1960), the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, because that’s the only way to watch this really crappy movie.  After an uneccsarialy long audtion sequence (which gave ample screentime to a gaggle of women in huge early 1960s bras), a seedy producer and his dance troupe set off for a show in Singapore. Their plane crashes en route, and the whole kit and ka-bra-dle is stranded on a remote island – Spider Island, to be exact. The seedy guy is bitten by a comically oversized spider, and turns into a slightly uglier version of himself, basically.

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The girls (and their bras) spend most of the rest of the film looking for him, and a couple of them get killed, naturally.  And then some guys show up and (spoiler!) rescue the rest.  And that’s pretty much it.  Do not try to watch this without Mike & The Bots.

We tried something a little different on Wednesday night.  We played and finished Wii game based on the 2003 Japanese film, Ju-on: The Grudge. And despite some problems with the controls (you feel like you’re walking through mud, for one thing) we had a lot of fun.  Ju-on has this cool multiplayer mode where player two can use his or her controller to make things pop out on the screen at random times.  The game already has you searching dark and decrepit buildings (for your dog in one episode, to deliver a package in another) with only a flashlight for illumination (and your batteries are about to die), and creates a generally scary atmosphere.  So when the other player throws a cat-boy at you, it can be really effective.  It can also get really repetitive. But really, it was good fun.  And since we spent something 3-4 hours at it, it totally counts.

So it shouldn’t surprise you, then,  that we had to watch the real film on Thursday.  My library didn’t have the Japanese version in, so we settled on the American remake, The Grudge (2004).  And it was pretty darn good, far surpassing my expectations.  I’m telling you, the creepy horror noise that the ghosts make, the cat-boy, and the use of as little CG as possible in creating the very scary ghosts made for a really decent scary movie.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a modern horror film that is able to really scare you without resorting to derivative gore shocks or torture porn (or both).

Friday, I still hadn’t returned Countess Dracula (thank you Interlibrary Loan!) and on the other side of the disc was a weird little gem, The Vampire Lovers (1968).  After a visit to a local haunted house (fun, but the actors were really agressive.  SO. MUCH. SHOUTING!), we settled in bed to watch Ingrid Pitt do her stuff in this Hammer adaptation of Le Fanou’s Carmilla.

There was some excellent imagery here, some lovely atospheric set pieces, and a frightening tension toward the (typically abrupt) end of the film.  Ingrid Pitt is fun to watch as Carmilla.  She’s not a subtle actress, but she has an incredible face that can transform from one emotion to another in a moment.  The women really own this one, with adorable Pippa Steele and the terrific Madeline Smith as Carmilla’s objects of obsession, and Kate O’Mara as a stalwart governess who can be controlled by a broach.  Wait, what?  Yes, the logic is none too clear most of the time, but The Vampire Lovers delivers what Hammer does best – great costumes, solid acting, and fabulous scenery.

And then it was Saturday.   Halloween.