Sunday, October 07, 2007

Cinematic Trick or Treat- Part 2.

Five more films for October. Continued from Part 1.

6. Suspiria- (1977. dir. Dario Argento) There is just no one in the world that can make a bloody and violent murder into a piece of fine art like Argento. This entire film exudes high style. Enjoy the breath-taking sets, the mad colors of the décor, the architecture and the collection of fascinatingly quirky actresses. Don’t pay too much attention to the plot, but rather let the extraordinarily eerie atmosphere wash over you. The creativity exhibited in some of the death sequences approaches Rube Goldberg-like magic. And the electronic score by Goblin is simply the most effective soundtrack ever paired with horror imagery. Only by watching Suspiria can you possibly understand why Argento is internationally known as a master of the genre.

7. Terror Train- (1980. dir. Roger Spottiswood) I had to include this obscure little nasty. This is the one that gave me nightmares for years during my youth. A college fraternity decides to rent a train for an unusual Halloween costume party. But karma is riding along with them, and they face payback for a maliciously cruel hazing incident in the past. The enjoyment comes with trying to guess the identity of the killer, because this train’s not making any stops along the way. What could have been an incredibly cheesy movie is elevated by the professional cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson, and David Copperfield (?!). Test your detective skills and try to solve this one… or just go along for an atmospheric ride.

8. The Shining- (1980. dir. Stanley Kubrick) I’m not a fan of Stephen King, but Kubrick’s take on this tale is sublime. There is no comparable examination of one man’s fictional descent into madness to rival The Shining. This was surely the role Jack Nicholson was born to play, and Shelley Duvall’s odd appearance fits perfectly as his significant other. But as in Session 9, the main star here is the building itself- in this case a sprawling resort hotel. In any other location, the events wouldn’t be nearly as scary. Kubrick also make excellent use of flashbacks and visions, especially as witnessed by a frenetic Duvall. Glimpses of blood-dripping fangs, creepy twin girls, and a cascade of blood accentuate the gloom.

9. Race with the Devil- (1975. Jack Starrett) Can the horror genre be scary and fun? I offer this entry for your edification. It’s got everything- incredible death-defying car chases, human sacrifice, motocross bikes, black magick rituals, dog mutilation, and a 70’s style R.V. with all the “modern “ trimmings. And its director went on to make several Dukes of Hazzard episodes. The cast includes Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit (M.A.S.H.), and Lara Parker (Dark Shadows) and a host of memorably menacing southerners. So what qualifies this as a true horror movie? Imagine getting lost on the way to your vacation only to discover that everyone along the way seems out to get you. Now add snakes.

10. Black Christmas- (1974. dir. Bob Clark) Soon enough the season will turn once again. The snow will fall, and people will dig in for the hibernation of winter. Perhaps you won’t be mollified by the idea of sitting through Scrooge or Rudolph specials this year. Get a head start on the holidays by watching Black Christmas. This gem preceded the slasher glories that would mark the 70’s as a particularly bloody time at the theater. The members of a college sorority are preparing to head home for Xmas vacation, but some of the girls are turning up dead or simply disappearing. Tension and paranoia increase as the leftovers await their appointment with the mystery killer. Performances by Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea and John Saxon make this one not to miss.

I actually had some difficulty narrowing my list down to a mere ten selections. There are many horror films I’ve found worthwhile. If you are looking for more mellow fare, try finding some of the many fine movies made by Hammer Films Studio in England. Or maybe you’d prefer the twisted psychological stuff? In that vein, pretty much anything by David Cronenberg will fit the bill (my favorites are Videodrome (1983), The Brood (1979), Dead Ringers (1988) and Naked Lunch (1991)).

If you’ve seen many of the ones I’ve listed, and want some additional suggestions, try the following… Burnt Offerings (1976), Wendigo (2001), Blair Witch Project (1999), Cube (1997), May (2002), The Descent (2005), Dog Soldiers (2002), Wait Until Dark (1967), Mothman Prophecies (2002), In the Mouth of Madness (1995), When a Stranger Calls (1989), When a Stranger Calls Back (1993), The Vanishing (1988), Carnival of Souls (1962), The Others (2001)...

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