So begins my quest to watch a horror movie every day during the month of October. I am utterly serious about it this year, and do not intend to miss one day. In fact, my goal is to have watched more than 31 films by Halloween night. Impossible? Perhaps. An enormous waste of time? Most definitely.
One thing that has happened the last two years I’ve tried this crazy undertaking is that sometime around the 14th or so I’ve found myself faced with a film-watching dilemma and have had no guidelines to help me through it. More than once someone has asked me, “Will this count?” forcing me to admit that I have no real rules and to feel a fraud. No so this year!
The Ground Rules
1. I must watch one film every day. A day without a horror film will effectively end the experiment.
2. The film must be well within the “horror” genre – no mystery, no suspense, no chicks in prison. “Thrillers” are marginally acceptable, but must have a body count of at least two.
3. Mystery Science Theater 3000 films are acceptable, but again, the film must fall within the horror genre. Just having Mike/Joel and the Bots along does not automatically qualify a film. The same goes for other hosted shows, like Svengoolie and Commander USA.
4. I must write a capsule review for each film and post it here. I will even use a silly rating system. Not only does the audience at home get to play along, but the reviews fill up the journal I have to keep for my Art class and I get to prove to myself that I can write better than Richard Roeper. Of course, who can’t?
5. A film started before midnight but ending after the calendar has turned to the next day counts for the day on which the film started. That’s fair, isn’t it?
6. Watching a film PornStyle™ – that is to say fast forwarding through the slow stuff to get to the good bits – is acceptable IF I have seen the film before in its entirety, at regular speed. However, this can only be used three times during the month.
7. No repeating a film during the month unless I absolutely have to.
With that, let’s get to the first three days of Madness!
September 30, 2005: House of Wax (1953)
A class act. Vincent Price is perfectly suited to his role as an unsettlingly devoted wax sculptor whose creations “live.” The supporting players are right on target – Little House on the Prairie fans will undoubtedly recognize a very young Dabs Greer as a hardboiled detective, deep-voiced Phyllis Kirk is a sympathetic heroine, and a very blonde Carolyn Jones is amusing as a doomed gold-digger.
But back to Vincent Price. He is a master of whatever material is handed to him, from Poe to Burton to schlock, and here he strikes nary a wrong note. He brings such gravity and a true to sense of tragedy to a character that could have easily been a caricature when played by a lesser artist. He makes you root for Professor Jarrod, even as you fear him. The tension in the film is real, even if the scares are a little dated. A surprising three screams.
October 1, 2005: The Possession of Nurse Sherri (1978) and The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
Nurse Sherri is a film I first saw on Commander USA’s Groovie Movies around 1987, although it was titled “Beyond The Living” for that broadcast for reasons I don’t understand. Interestingly, when I looked it up on the IMDb, I found it was a whopping ten titles! I guess that means a lot of distributors over the years. How ten different marketing execs could watch this film and think there was money to be made in it is a notion beyond the living, indeed. It’s quite a piece of…cinema. I would categorize this as a 70s exploitation/blacksplotation/soft-core/Exorcist-wanna-be, with all that implies. I knew from memories of the Commander USA version I’d seen that it was no masterpiece, but the level of crappiness was actually sort of shocking to me. Certainly more shocking than the scares which center around a lame crazy-religious-guy-dies-and-possesses-a-hot-young-woman plot. I give it a single scream for the excellent wallpaper in Nurse Sherri’s apartment.
Little Shop of Horrors, on the other hand, is a treat. The plot is first rate: bumbling young flower shop assistant breeds a murderous, man-eating plant, all while pining for the love of sweet Audrey. I first saw this Corman gem when I was ten or so, and the off-kilter scares that got me then still get me. It was this film that hooked me on the world of B-movies, and the admirable work ethic of producer/director Roger Corman. Little Shop is a perfect example of his left-of-center take on the normal Hollywood formula. This version was colorized, but even that didn’t detract from the good time. Three and 1/2 screams.
October 2, 2005: The Manster (1962)
Wow. A perennial Month of Madness favorite in my house, this film has earned a place close to my heart because of it is so earnest in its suckitude. It is so bad, yet everyone involved seems very committed to making the best film they can, and you have to admire that. The production values are surprisingly good, and the performances are quite decent. Peter Dyneley’s tortured journalist working in Japan and caught in a descending madness chews the scenery with a stunning, forceful mediocrity. The scares in this one come way before the actual Manster shows up, and at least one is somewhat ghastly. The Manster himself? Well… He’s what you’d expect from a film with Japanese scientists named “Robert” and “Tara” who don’t seem to speak Japanese. A scream and a half.
October 3, 2005: Friday the 13th – Part III (1982)
The Videohound gives this sequel to the 1980 original a WOOF! (the lowest of the low) and there’s not much more I can add to that. Bad, bad, bad. Fans of the series will note that Jason dons his trademark hockey mask for the first time in this one, but does anyone really care? This film also features 3-D action, which is always fun to watch without the 3-D process. Though from the range of objects being thrust at the camera – hay bales, popcorn, juggled apples – seeing it in the theater was probably not much of an improvement (“Oh my GOD he’s juggling APPLES right at us!”). So why chose this crapfest for my Madness roster? Well, I own a copy, so it’s cheap and easy. Also, my copy is a recording from a Commander USA episode circa 1986. The host segments are worth the price of admission.