31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 24: “X” The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963)

This movie is worth it for the opening credits alone, all spirals and floating eyeballs. The movie is uphill from there, too, as Corman shows he has a real knack for visual storytelling. Yes, unironically this movie is a real visual treat, and rife with all the little things that make movies of this time impeccably charming. 

Basically, The Man with X-Ray Eyes is like a long episode of the Twilight Zone. The editing is really tight, a small brass section punctuates the tense scenes, and the protagonist gets more than they bargained for. Dr. James Xavier, played by Ray Milland, speaks in long, descriptive sentences, and makes an incredible breakthrough with his X-Ray eyedrops. Like any good physician, he tests the experimental treatment on himself. After a quick fly through shot in which we travel through the back of Xavier’s head and out through his eyeball, the treatment is a success but Xavier is a failure; a man nobody will believe and a doctor facing malpractice suits as a result of his wacky but accurate diagnoses. So again, he does what any good (failed) physician does…he runs away and joins a traveling carnival sideshow.

I don’t want to spoil all the quaint peculiarities of this film, because it really is worth seeing. It affords lots of opportunity for small rewards. That said, I myself enjoyed the vintage and nearly retro-futuristic technology and set design. The faculty lounge at the laboratory features a metal, faux wood grain coffee machine, the likes of which I have only seen once before about two decades ago, in an outdated funeral home. Just beautiful nostalgia. All the scientists smoke in the lab, and every shot of the world through Xavier’s eyes looks like a tripped-out instagram filter. Not sold? Have a look at the man himself, in his damaged condition. 

One last thing, the ending of this movie makes me kiss my pinched fingers and blow into the air like a fat, cartoon Italian. It’s suddenly and impressively in the vein of great southern literature, and feels like a Flannery O’Connor short story, just for a moment.

Challenge Fulfilled: Directed by Roger Corman

31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 23: Castle Freak (1995)

Has anything good ever come from inheriting a castle? Horror movies have taught me that coming into a labyrinth made domicile is essentially a death sentence, and this one is no exception. Stuart Gordon’s Castle Freak is based loosely…VERY LOOSELY…on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Outsider. True to Gordon nature, what we get is a totally strange story with tidy practical effects, and oodles and gobs of Jeffrey Coombs. So what I’m saying is that it’s pretty decent. Especially for a Full Moon production backed by Charles Band.

The story follows John Reilly (Coombs), and dude who’s just trying to get his life back together after a car accident that resulted in the death of his son, and the blinding of his daughter. The castle poses a possible improvement in his life, but not for long as his disabled daughter soon becomes the object of affection of the titular freak; a gooey sort of homunculous thing that has been chained up in the depths of the castle for untold years for unknown reasons.of course nobody believes the girl, or John, when they say something supernatural is happening (cue Vincent Price’s raised eyebrow). And that poor girl. It’s too bad she is so consistently ignored. The being of the castle, who turns out to be related to the family, may be innocent deep down; but, it’s beneath many layers of animal killing and prostitute abusing. You heard me…

Castle Freak is obviosuly not without its problems. The movie looks decent and is sufficiently gross, but in order to buy the story at all the audience has to swallow some pretty big pills. None of the characters are very reasonable at all, which means you might find yourself yelling at the TV as they make one senseless decision after another. As far as plot goes, this is also one of Gordon’s weaker titles. It is certainly no From Beyond. 

When something dumb happens in this movie, you kind of have to remind yourself that you’re watching something called Castle Freak. Expectations shouldn’t be too high. 

Challenge Fulfilled: a Full Moon production 

31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 22: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Having little interest in clown horror, I have never felt the need to see this movie. But, having recently been motivated to give this cult classic a chance, I made room for it in this month’s lineup. Mostly, I found that the me of many years ago was right about Killer Klowns from Outer Space, but not for the reasons I expected. 

If you know me, you might know how much I don’t like puppets. It’s less about being afraid of them, and more about finding them offensive on the eyes. The stiff way that they move, and their exhaggerated features just have a way of making me mentally spew. And the clowns…uhhh, klowns…in this flick are basically big puppets. I realize they’re men in suits, and I also acknowledge that their faces have a surprising range of movement and expression; but, I cannot look at their big ugly heads without seeing a weird, wrinkly, puppet face. I don’t like it. And unfortunately that kinda killed the movie for me. I can’t decide which clown is the ugliest.

And it’s a shame really. This horror comedy had a lot going for it. The movie was pretty stylized and I did like the general aesthetic of it outside of the villains themselves. The circus tent, glowing in the middle of the woods, was a nice touch. The elder cop Mooney, played by the prolific John Vernon, was amusing in that pompous minor antagonist kinda way. There was carniverous popcorn running amok, as well. I could have watched a whole movie about that popcorn. There were also several clown related gags that I liked, like some pie throwing scenes, a man-eating shadow puppet, trampolines waiting below windows, citizens trapped in balloons, and streamers that appear upon attack on the house of Debbie (the film’s damsel in distress). Of course, you also kind of have to love the cotton candy cocoons that encase the victims of these interplanetary bozos. 

And geez, this dude took his role super seriously, and that was pretty funny. I don’t think he realized what movie he was in. 

I guess all told, I’m just not silly enough for this movie. I can see why other people might enjoy it. If you want to get a taste of the movie without committing to the full feature, I recommend this scene with a biker gang. It’s pretty stupid. 


Challenge Fulfilled: Rated PG-13

31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 21: Nekromantik (1987)

This is one of those movies I’m pretty sure you aren’t supposed to admit you watched. At least not publically. But you know what, I admit it. What’s more, I’ve been meaning to see this movie for years now, because it was one of the few films from this list that I had not seen yet. I can’t tell you why I would go out looking to watch something just because I heard a lot of rumors about how offensive it is. I’m just human, alright? And when you started watching horror movies in toddlerhood, it takes a lot to effect you. This movie has been pointed out to me by so many of my gross friends, i literally HAD to know what the big deal was. With that self defense out of the way, this is indeed the most blatantly offensive film I’ve ever seen. 

This 1987 German horror film aims explicitly to shock. And it will do just that if you can bring yourself to take it in. It’s basically a series of over the top mutilation scenes, sort of strung together to form a loose narrative which follows Rob; a German youth who lives in a utilitarian style apartment with his surprisingly accepting girlfriend, Betty. The two of them engage in a number of  acts that range from “just quirky” to highly morally reprehensible. The coup de grace being the films trademark threesome with a corpse. Don’t worry, they replaced the phallus with a sawed off hunk of metal rebar, gloved of course. Seriously though, nothing is left to the imagination. When Betty leaves with their “friend” in tow, Rob shows his despair by watching horror films, bathing in entrails (no animals really harmed), and committing a graveyard murder/rape. You know, normal break up stuff. 

Now, I think…I THINK…somewhere in this film is a message about how unaffected the modern generation is. In an early scene, we see Rob watching a television program in which a psychologist talks about curing phobias, with success except in the case of people who have been completed morally desensitized. All this while Rob reclines on a bed decorated with bones, and Betty bathes in a tub of bloody water. It’s laid on pretty thick there. Shortly after, we lapse into one of Ron’s memories…or maybe a daydream…in which a rabbit is skinned and dressed. (Again, no animals were harmed. The rabbit scene was apparently pre-existing b roll footage, merely co-opted by the filmmakers). At any rate, it is made obvious that Rob is not ordinary, and therefore not curable. Except those weird scenes when he is happily frolicking through a field and playing with caterpillars. 

Now the ending of this movie is just..well it’s certainly something I’ve never seen before. And that’s a tall order. Suffice it to say Rob ultimately does not cope well with his misfortunes, which allows Buttgeiert one last chance to make jaws drop. I can’t even begin to justify what he’s created. A lot of people call this movie art, but I don’t think it is. It’s shock value through and through. Of course, Crispin Glover would say this film is successful, because it makes us ask questions. So, I guess there’s that. I don’t really believe in something being too shocking for film, but I totally believe that not everyone aught to be watching it. Plenty of less disgusting films can make us ask questions. I don’t recommend this film to anyone but those few of us who just can’t help ourselves and have to see it all. 

Challenge Fulfilled: German Horror

31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 20: Creepypasta Shorts 

I admit, creepypasta stories are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. So many of them are poorly written rehashes of Scary Stories to tell in the Dark, but every now and them you encounter a real gem.

Tonight I decided to watch a few short films that have been adapted from creepypastas. Some of these films are of course more homemade than others, but a cheap medium actually suits these tales well, as they are often told as if they are true stories. I also took this experience a step further and watched all of the film using my snazzy new Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Google cardboard, which I got for free from some website. 

Here are some of the films I watched

2 AM: The Smiling Man

I actually read this creepypasta several years ago after my friend Rex told me about it. It’s a story that works really well because it’s so simple. It’s easy to imagine yourself in the  plausible situation of the narrator. This story basically follows a man who is walking home at 2 AM, who encounters a cartoonish fellow in a suit who begins to follow him down the sidewalk. This story has sort of a cool uncanny vibe to it. The man in the suit looks a human, but does not really behave like one as he shuffles down the sidewalk, smiling up toward the streetlamps. 

This story mostly translates well to film, although the ending was a bit flat. I do recommend viewing this one in cardboard on full screen, because it creates a bit of an immersion experience. The screen sort of appears to be curved, and you are sitting in the center of the action. 

Worth watching.

The Midnight Man Ritual

Now apparently the dudes who made this one are sort of known for making these little creepypasta movies. They have their own channel on youtube, and seem to be fairly popular. This short film felt very cheap. It’s definitely recorded on a handheld device and is more or less a found footage movie, in which someone performs a ritual to summon the titular character. The story kinda writes itself, and without surprise the midnight man does show up. For some reason, they decided to make his face look like a weird .99 ghost camera app filter. It’s silly. I guess the suspense here is alright if you like jump scare movies.

Word of warning, if you get motion sickness DO NOT watch this through Google cardboard. I about lost my dinner once the camera started getting jiggly, rolling past hard wood floors. And it came on really fast. 

Not great

Stitches

This one is pretty entertaining if you’re into the whole clown hoopla that’s been popular in recent weeks. In this story, a babysitter sees a news broadcast of an “escaped convict”, and shortly begins noticing that small things are out of place around the house. A toy is broken, the water turns on by itself. After putting the child of the house to bed, the babysitter finds herself in the bedroom of the father. As anticipated, she finds something disturbing in his room, and allows herself to get too close before she realizes her mistake. Honestly, the most unbelievable part of this short film is that the father has so many collectibles (Krueger bobble heads, a MacFarlane Edward Scissor Hands toy, a stuffed Mogwai, and so many more) that have not been destroyed or at least moved around by such a young child.

Acceptable.

There are loads of these creepypasta movies on youtube. I avoided the most popular ones: stories about slenderman or the rake, but imagine some of them are worthwhile. Feel free to suggest your favorite creepypasta stories or adaptations. I’m always looking for the good ones. For the record, the best thing about watching these movies through Google cardboard was the slight feeling that whenever I took the viewer away from my face, something might be standing there in the dark. 

Challenge fulfilled: Anthology Horror/Short Films

31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 19: Scream (1996)

Let’s get this straight…I am not going to be able to say something about this movie that hasn’t been said. We all fully understand why Craven struck gold when he gave us this staple of American horror. Having seen the movie a whole handful of times, but not all too recently, this viewing gave me the chance to grab sight some little moments I hadn’t noticed before. And, lucky for me, I was able to partake in Scream on a real sized screen, in a real quality theatre.

Let me tell you one thing, Skeet on a big screen is so much Skeetier than Skeet on a little screen. Wow wow wow. My favorite thing about this movie has to be how it epitomizes 1996, and that’s thanks in big part to the cheap Johnny Depp smolder of everyone’s favorite greaseball with a center part. Honestly, they could not have cast a more conspicuous looking boyfriend. I especially enjoyed this little moment, when boyfriend Billy stares down Sydney through the window in the police station. 

Skeet aside, theres so much here that points really hard at the decade of its creation. Like, the way everyone keeps saying “cellular”, particularly when Billy’s dad says “Everybody’s got one now. Why don’t you check the phone bill for chrissakes. Call my carrier – AirFone Comp. They’ll have records of every number dialed.”The b-roll footage of skateboarders rolling up to school in their airwalks and white socks pulled up to the knees provides just one more little glint of happiness in this film. Interest is hiding in all kinds of little details; and maybe it’s my nostalgia getting to me but it’s all incredibly, wonderfully 90’s. Rose Mcgowans shoes…I tell you what. It all works. Except when Sydney and Billy are making out to an acoustic cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. That scene is weird as hell.

I was about to start talking about the “best” scene, but how can I choose?

This…

Or this…

Or this…

Or this, naturally…

That’s it. I’m going to have to revisit the sequels. 

Challenge Fulfilled: A movie with “Scream” in the title.