Sunday, October 28, 2007

I smell smoke

Halloween is quickly approaching. No dressing up this year as I just cannot think of anything that would go right with my wheels. Originally, I figured that I would go as a pirate as I could paint a peg leg onto my cast. The problem would be the rest of the ensemble. I am stuck wearing sweat pants, because the couple of times I did get jeans over my cast, they got stuck. So I figure I should stick to athletic wear this winter instead of a more piratey ensemble.

Speaking of that, I'm pissed. This is my favorite time of year. The weather is nice and cool meaning that it is time to put away the capris and shorts and dust off the boots, jeans, and sweaters. And it is jacket weather. I love jackets. Riding the bus with so many students every day, there is a constant parade of young women wearing good boots and nice jackets. And then there is me, in my cut off pants and sweatshirt. I am so jealous. I'd shrug it off and say I'll get around to that once my cast is off, but that won't be until spring. I'm gonna miss jacket and boot season!

So this year to celebrate the season, all I have is movies and skulls. I went shopping for markers and paint and spent some of last weekend painting some $0.99 plastic skulls. I also plan to decorate my cast, but I'm nervous about messing it up. I'm also going to make sugar skulls and I hope to even decorate an altar this year, complete with offerings. The projects are going slowly though because I still get tired from all activity that involves scooting about on my rollie cart or even worse, hopping.

But watching movies doesn't take too much out of me. I've seen 20 movies in 22 days for the Halloween Horror Movie Challenge now.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I am a scientist, not a philosopher! You have more chance of reanimating this scalpel than you have of mending a broken nervous system!

Medical Student: But what about your grandfather's work, sir?

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: My grandfather's work was doodoo! I am not interested in death! The only thing that concerns me is the preservation of life!

Great movie. Excellent entertainment while painting skulls, or really anytime.

The Corpse Bride (2005) This was on and I was still painting skulls and figured it would be entertaining. It must not have been, because I kept forgetting to pay attention missing large portions of the movie. I'm not sure I can actually count this one, because I watched so little of it. Painting veves onto colorful skulls was just more fun apparently.

Carnival of Souls (1962)

I really connected with the main character, Mary (Candace Hilligoss). At the beginning of the movie, Mary emerges from a terrible car accident, where she is the only survivor. She finds herself drawn to an old, abandoned carnival and she often sees a strange man that seems to be following her.

Mary seemed like a kindred spirit. She stated a couple of times, "I don't belong in the world. Something separates me from other people." This is an outlook that I share, although in Mary's case, it probably says more about what changes are happening in her after the accident. I wouldn't describe Carnival of Souls as a particularly scary horror film, but instead thought provoking. Interesting movie.

Spider Baby or, the Maddest Story Every Told (1968)

I caught a big fat bug right in my spider web and now the spider gets to give the bug a big sting. Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting!

Spider Baby is about a family of freaks. Actually, if we can trust Bruno (Lon Chaney), the family suffers from a rare malady that causes them to regress to a very basic state, like infancy, as they age. The family is cared for by their driver, Bruno, who keeps the kids in line as the rest of the family stay, unseen, in the basement. The children, Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn), Virginia (Jill Banner), and Ralph (Sid Haig) own this movie. Virginia is always loudly proclaiming how much she hates, Ralph creeps about, and Elizabeth is always looking to catch a bug in her web. Spider Baby is a comic horror movie, but one that takes the horror a bit more seriously than other films of this genre. Elizabeth, Virginia and Ralph made this movie a blast to watch.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ride the Snake

I went back to work this week. Though with how much I've had to do, I wonder why I bothered. Just ordering and making sure things are in place so that I might be able to do some science in the near future. I'm planning to try to do actual experiments next week and hope for the best. Maybe eventually, I'll even get a lab aide to help me. This would be great even once I have two working legs because it would allow me to focus on experiments if I don't have to worry about the dishes, tips and reagents. I should know something soon as to whether I can afford a helper. Plus, it would be nice not to be in this basement lab totally alone everyday too, but that argument for a coworker has failed thus far, so I'm trying the gimp routine now. :)

On Wednesday, I saw my doctor and got to see pictures of the hardware in my ankle. Its pretty cool to see a big metal plate and a handful of screws in an x-ray of my leg. Hopefully, my doctor will send me a picture so I can show it off. While there, I learned that it is healing nicely. the stitches were taken out and I am now sporting a new, fiberglass cast for 4 weeks. I guess after 4 weeks, I get more x-rays and changed to and yet another cast for 12 weeks. Sigh. I'm never going to walk again.

But I guess that means that there is plenty of time for movies, although now that I'm working, not quite as much time as there was a week ago. So the Halloween movie challenge is rolling along and I'm still a bit behind.

Tally: 16 horror flicks in 19 days, 12 new.

Near Dark (1987) I blame cable, but this wasn't a bad thing. I had to join lazing around watching this last weekend when he hollered at me that a cowboy vampire movie was starting. Well not exactly, but you don't see too many vampire movies set in Texas, although the setting did allow for the great visual of smoke coming off the vampires as they walk through the desert. In Near Dark a young farm hand falls for a hot babe and she bites him. He then ends up hanging with her gang of vampires learning the ropes of the bloodsucking monster lifestyle. Near Dark was highly entertaining and it was a little different then many movies of the genre. These vampires were less supernatural then the modern movie vampire. Sure, they are hard to kill due to the whole undead thing and sunlight burns them, but they don't fly, no big obnoxious fangs, no obvious super-human strength and powers. But what I most liked about this movie was how much fun they had with it. The vampires were a bit punk rock and killed with some finesse. Plus, Bill Paxton was one of the vampires. He was a little like his character in Aliens, but a vampire.

The Brood (1979) When his daughter returns home covered in bite marks and scratches, Frank begins to ask questions about the controversial methods of therapy used where his wife is institutionalized. While trying to delve into the methods, people close to the family are being attacked by creatures that appear to be mutant children. I found this to be an absolutely terrifying and absorbing movie. This seems to fall into that genre of horror that stems from a fear of parenthood, since the kids in this movie are really creepy, even the non-mutant one. But it also contains plenty of medical anomalies and much of the really scary ideas are about psychological manifestations on the body. Creepy stuff, but very much a Cronenberg film.

Lair of the White Worm (1988) I was tempted by this one while perusing the halloween section at Scarecrow because I've seen this movie at video shops forever and was always curious, but never succumbed. I knew it was going to be terrible, but how bad can a movie be if it stars Hugh Grant? I figure at least, I get to be charmed by Mr. Grant for a bit even if the movie ends up being total shite. Well, it is, but it was giggle inducing shite. I liked the recurring song about the evil worm, the snake woman/femme fatale was over the top silly, there was plenty of gratuitous nudity, and ya gotta love plots that start with a bit of back yard archeology. But sadly, while snake women are amusing, there isn't as much comedy fodder in worms as there is in zombies. Zombies are comedy gold.

Quills (2000) My personal movie collection has so many of these films that are making a statement about the importance of literature and in the case of Quills, the importance of literature on living a moral virtuous life. Or to quote Madeleine (Kate Winslet) when defending the Marquise DeSade's writing, how can one truly understand virtue without first knowing vice. Quills defends the dark, vulgar and evil by saying it is needed in order to keep us from seeking them out in real life which is a great argument for throwing oneself into a Halloween Movie Challenge.

Cabin Fever (2002) I haven't been keeping up on the new wave of horror, but I know that Eli Roth is one of the young noteworthy horror directors. I was totally sucked in to Cabin Fever and I wouldn't have watched it if I weren't trying to see 31 horror movies this month. I had the impression that Eli Roth's movies were nothing more than a gore-fest from start to finish. It was heavy on blood splatter and gore, but was also an entertaining movie about a group of college students at a cabin as a skin eating bacteria/hemorrhagic fever epidemic strikes. Eli Roth definitely has a twisted sense of humor. I'm not going to get into the specifics of all of the things that were oh so wrong about this movie, but I found myself laughing out loud at times, especially the ending. So wrong. So amused.

30 Days of Night (2007) I love Ben Foster. I've had a little Ben Foster crush ever since 6 Feet Under and I am really enjoying his movie career thus far. He was great in Hostage and really brought a creepy, homoerotic element to 6:10 to Yuma. So you knew I would be at 30 Days of Night last night. And Ben was great, but sadly, the about the only good thing about the flick.

Yep, this was horrible. It might not have been so bad if I hadn't lived in Alaska for close to a decade, but even if you can suspend disbelief about the realities of the setting, this movie is still a failure for a horror movie. It wasn't scary or even very entertaining. So I spent the movie ranting in my head over the inaccuracies over the setting.

First of all, Barrow, Alaska does indeed have at least 30 days of night, but it ain't the way it was depicted in the movie. You don't get a last sunset! No you get 6 months of mostly night where the day proceeding this "30 days of night" would have a short period of dusk where the sun doesn't even make it over the horizon. The sunset at the opening of the movie totally pissed me off. Then there is the problem of Josh Hartnett and Melissa George as the law enforcement. In Barrow, Alaska? You have to be kidding me. The locals would so laugh at a trooper that can't grow a beard and Stella in her fashionable parka. And lets not even talk about the people depicted at the locals. Where were all of the Alaska natives that make up probably 60% of the population of Barrow? Well, at least they got the name of the airport right. and let's not even get in to the realities of the weather on the darkest days in Barrow. I don't think anyone would survive more then 20 minutes outside laying in the snow under a truck in a fashionable parka, much less hours, days, how ever long she was supposed to be stuck under the truck in hiding.

As for what was good about the movie, there was one sequence that was entertaining. At one point, Mark Boone Junior takes out a bunch of vampires with a snow moving tractor and some dynamite. That was a good bit, but the rest was just dour. No joy of finesse was put into this movie and it shows.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Brand Upon the Brain! And more horror...

Brand Upon the Brain (2007) - I'm on so much crack! I'm a huge fan of horror. Guy Maddin! I love his movies and he was just in Seattle to perform Brand Upon the Brain! I'm certain I've written about Guy Maddin's films in the past, because he has been in Seattle several times for screenings and discussions of his work, especially since he spent quite a bit of time here casting, filming and scoring Brand Upon the Brain! with all local talent.

What is so unique about Guy Maddin is that he creates modern, silent expressionist horror movies. His other films have been scored and therefore have the look and feel of a 1920s era silent picture without being silent. Brand Upon the Brain! is a silent movie and his best feature thus far.

Like much of Maddin's previous work, this is totally autobiographical, or to quote Guy, "The thing is literally a true story - only much, much better." The main character is the prepubescent, Guy Maddin (Sullivan Brown). He lives in his family's lighthouse with his teenaged Sis (Maya Lawson). This lighthouse is also an orphanage, run by Guy's parents where the children are made to clean away the dirt and filth and all have mysterious scars on their heads. It is these mysterious head marks that the sibling teen detectives, Wendy and Chance Hale (Katherine E. Scharhon), arrive at the island to investigate providing Guy with the object (Wendy) of his first infatuation. The film encompasses so many diverse emotional notes, mystery, fear, curiosity, beauty, passion, and a tale that feels genuine about the psychology of childhood. While few of us have an overbearing mother who kept watch over us with the bright beam of a lighthouse watchtower or a father who was rarely seen, but whom we knew to be conducting strange scientific experiments in the basement, I think there is a certain emotional truth to the memories of childhood. This is an absolutely marvelously constructed story.

Brand Upon the Brain! is a film that must be enjoyed live. It is a total magical experience. Since it is a silent film, the film is accompanied by an orchestra, narrator, foley artists, and a castrato singer. This is amazing to watch, when you remember to peel your eyes away from the glorious imagery of the film to see the others that share the spotlight with the film. I share Guy Maddin's amazement with foley artists, the men and women who provide the sounds in movies. In Seattle, The Aono Jikken Ensemble provided foley with percussion equipment, a tub of water, crying baby dolls, cranks, bottles etc. Aono Jikken are well known for providing the sound effects and score for silent movie screenings in Seattle and I always enjoy watching them work. There is also a castrato singer that tours with the film, Dov Houle. I was unaware that castrati still existed, but they do. The difference is that Dov is a natural, or medical castrato meaning someone with a medical condition the prevented his voice from cracking at puberty. He was amazing to listen to with the unearthly quality to his voice, that is neither male or female sounding.

Guy Maddin provided the narration for the screening that I attended and was spot on perfect. I seriously cannot imagine anyone doing it better since the narration is the internal voice of Guy Maddin, the boy. But I'm betting that Crispin Hellion Glover, Laurie Anderson, Justin Bond, Udo Kier, and the many other voices lent to Guy Maddin as Brand Upon the Brain! tours are also great. But as of this moment, I seriously cannot imagine anyone, but Maddin doing it better.

I Spit on Your Grave (1978) Now I remember why I was so adamant for so many years that I don't watch horror movies. Movies like I Spit on Your GraveAKA Day of the Woman. I made a promise to myself that I would try to watch a few of the feminist revenge classics after Kill Bill and then again after The Brave One, but I forgot how hard I find these movies to watch. You see, in order for the woman's revenge to be justified, something unspeakable has to happen to warrant the comeuppance. The act of violence is often a long, brutal rape scene and these are very difficult for me to stomach. Always has been. In this film, I was very bothered by the rapes and while I was on her side for the vengeance, I didn't find myself cheering it on either. I didn't much enjoy this one, but I did appreciate it for not destroying the female lead and letting her drive into the sunset.

Cronos (1993) I always thought the The Devil's Backbone was Guillermo del Toro's feature debut. I learned that he had a previous release Cronos while browsing the Halloween movie selection put together at Scarecrow. And I'm happy to have made this discovery. Cronos is about a mysterious gold encapsulated mechanism that was invented by an alchemist that appears to have found the secret to immortality. I was so pleasantly surprised by the depth of this movie as its plot definitely follows a familiar horror movie structure in a familiar story about the pursuit of eternal life, but it also has at its heart the story of the love of a girl for her grandfather. I really liked this one. Plus it has Ron Perlman who is one of my favorite character actors.

The Red Violin (1998) I pulled this one out on Friday and it was a little like visiting an old friend. This passionate story about the life of a violin is another film that I would have never categorized as befitting to the Halloween movie challenge, but when I began to think about how I remembered the movie, it seemed like there was some darkness to the story, so I thought I would watch it again. One might even call The Red Violin a ghost story. Anyway, I'm probably reaching here, but hell I have to reach 31 somehow.

Tally: 10 horror movies in 13 days, 7 new to me.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

October Horror Movie Challenge

As many of you already know, I'm not a fan of the horror genre. I think this is solely due to the fact that I acquired my total movie addiction in the 1990s, and except for the duration of a high school, football-playing boyfriend who drug me to every horror movie playing, I avoided them. Wouldn't you after enduring The Lawnmower Man, Sleepwalkers, and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle with someone who thought they were good?

What I hadn't really considered was that many of the themes that bring me out to the theaters are horrific. Just considering some of my favorite films that I've seen this year: Eastern Promises, The Brave One, Sunshine, Sex and Death 101, Four Minutes, The Devil Came on Horseback, Red Road, Zodiac, Perfume... I haven't seen these movies called "horror movies" but an argument could be made for most of them. These are dark movies, and while it is often a dark or edgy sexuality component that makes a movie a must see for me, the edge bleeds into other areas so considering all of this time I'm spending in my pillow nest, this seems like a perfect opportunity to take part in the Halloween Horror Movie Challenge that my good friend, takes part in each year.

From his website, "The objective: watch 31 horror movies over the 31 days of October. The catch was that 16 of those viewings had to be new."

In a normal year, there is no way I could attempt this. I take in a couple of movies in the theater a week and another 1-2 at home, but any more then this and I can't get my normal chores done and the cats like to eat the the kitchen needs to stay clean so will still feed me. Plus, I already put my life on hold for the month of SIFF every year and really, I don't like horror that much, I didn't think. Well, I'm already not getting my chores done so what the hell. I need to keep my leg elevated when home somehow, may as well watch horror movies.

As expected, I'm behind. Due to my immobility I've been limited to what is at hand, as in my own movie library and what is on cable. So don't laugh too hard over the crap I've been watching... cable is to blame! Beware the total absence of fear on FearNet!

red=new to me

Death Proof (2007) Well, its Tarantino and has chicks kicking ass. You know I totally bought this the second it was available. And I totally dig it. Zoe Bell kicks so much ass. I love her. I might watch it again soon, plus when it isn't part of Grindhouse, the strip tease is intact and it is a hot strip tease. The video release also includes a really oddly creepy, toe licking scene. Check it out.

Halloween (1978) I won't spend any time on this one. Its a classic. You've all seen it, as had I, but it was on cable and I enjoy it.

Long Distance (2005) This sucked, but started out promising. Nicole dials a wrong number and is harassed by this caller since. It appears that he is calling her from the residences of the women he is killing and is moving closer with every call. I really liked Nicole (Monica Keena) and was really into the first half of the movie despite being a predictable, horror flick. Unfortunately, the end was a major let down when it goes from a traditional genre movie to ridiculous.

Stigmata (1999) I dig religious horror. I don't think there is anything quite as creepy as Catholicism. I think it might go back to my private school baptist upbringing, but despite being an atheist, there is something deeply troubling about the world of belief. In Stigmata, Paticia Arquette violently displays all of christ's wounds. You know, the stigmata, crown of thorns, and so on. A priest (Gabriel Byrne) comes to investigate and to save her life. Interesting movie, not particularly chilling or scary, but kinda cool at times for a movie watched on cable.

Calvaire (2004) Finally, an actual horror movie from FearNet On Demand. A singer is traveling to his next performance when he breaks down deep in the woods in Belgium. This is not the place to have car trouble. He is kidnapped and prevented from leaving in a small town where the locals fuck the livestock and seem to spend much of their time looking for lost pets. Truly fucked up movie and horrifying. Apparently, hicks are scary everywhere, even in Belgium.

The Invitation (2003) I'm going to save you from this movie by giving everything away. Lance Handricksen is a writer who invites all of his friends over for a dinner party where he poisons them. But like in any good made for television movie (Lifetime maybe?), somehow all of the dead guests are alive at the end and have learned deep life lessons from the experience.

I went to scarecrow last night so I might see a decent horror flick or two during this challenge. I will not suffer another movie like Invitation! So I rented 4 titles last night that I'm 100% certain will be better than these.