Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The new Halloween movie – is it any good?

Review by Steve D. Stones

Is the new Halloween movie as good as the 1978 original? Will it become a great classic in time as the original? Perhaps only time can answer these questions. I feel that the new Halloween is not as good as its original, but it has plenty of knuckle-biting sequences to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat, particularly the last twenty minutes of the film. As I watched the film, I enjoyed picking out references from the first film and finding similarities in how scenes are shown.

References to the first two films can be found throughout this film. A mother carving a ham is hammered in the head by killer Michael Meyers as she is watching something on TV in the kitchen, in a scene very similar to one shown in the second film. A babysitter is also murdered and draped with a white ghost sheet – which gives reference to Meyers draping a ghost sheet over himself when he confronts actress P.J. Soles in an upstairs bedroom in the first film.

When Lori Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is thrown through an upstairs window by Meyers, her body is no longer laying on the ground when the camera cuts away from Meyers standing above her, which is similar to the first film when Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) is looking out the upstairs window of the Meyers home after Meyers falls to the ground from multiple gunshots at the end.

The director is careful not to reveal the face of Meyers when he is questioned by an interviewer in an opening sequence. He is chained to a block, standing inside a painted square in the yard of a mental institution. Here we see a much older, graying Meyers, but his height and size still make him very imposing.

In the first film, the viewer is not shown how Meyers obtains his iconic mask. Sheriff Brackett simply tells his daughter at the scene of a hardware store burglary that someone stole some Halloween masks and tools from the store, so the viewer assumes that Meyers took the mask from the hardware store. In this new film, the viewer gets to see where Meyers obtains the iconic mask by taking it from the trunk of a car of two reporters who attempt to interview him at the mental institution.

What makes the first film so effective to me is that the violence is much more subtle, and often only implied. This new film uses techniques more appealing to the millennial generation by showing extreme, graphic violence in which the violence is drawn out for a much longer period of time in the scene, such as a gas station bathroom killing sequence near the beginning of the film.

The opening credits also show a similar type face design to the credits shown in the first film, which is a nice touch to the opening of the film. Instead of the camera slowly zooming in on a lit pumpkin as we see in the first Halloween, here we see the pumpkin slowly reshaping itself from being squished.

The new Halloween movie is well worth the price of admission, but only time will tell if it becomes the great classic of the original 1978 film. Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Bela Lugosi and the East Side Kids; the films

Reviews by Steve D.Stones

Spooks Run Wild and Ghosts On The Loose are two Monogram/Banner Pictures that Hungarian actor Bela “Dracula” Lugosi starred in with the East Side Kids/early Bowery Boys. Of the two films, I have a special preference for Spooks Run Wild, directed by Phil Rosen. Both films make for a fun double feature. Lugosi fans won't want to miss this double feature.

Spooks Run Wild:

A bus transporting the East Side Kids to a summer camp for the needy arrives in a small town known as Hillside. A radio announcer heard on the bus radio warns of a killer monster on the loose in the town. The bus driver stops to check the tires of the bus. A local magician named Nardo, played by Bela Lugosi, is seen in the Hillside cemetery with his midget side kick, played by Angelo Rossitto. Rossitto also played Lugosi's assistant in The Corpse Vanishes (1942), also a Monogram release.

The East Side Kids find their way to the Hillside cemetery. A local grave digger warns them to leave, shooting Peewee, played by David Gorcey, in the back. The group leaves the cemetery to look for medical aide for Peewee. They soon come across the Billings House, a rundown mansion thought to be haunted, according to Hillside locals.

Nardo The Magician greets the East Side Kids at the entrance of the house and allows them to stay the night, but mentions that the house has no telephone to contact a doctor for Peewee. Scruno, played by Sammy Morrison, and Peewee are assigned to a room together. Peewee awakes in a sleep walker state after sleeping for hours, and roams the halls of the Billings House. Scruno is trapped in the room, but is later rescued by the rest of the group as he refers to Peewee as a Zombie.

It's interesting to note that Lugosi dresses in a cape and wears a suit in this film similar to his 1931 Dracula character. This gives the film great appeal to me. Lugosi's appearance greatly adds to this film, but he does not take himself nearly as seriously in this role as he does playing the evil Nazi henchman in the follow up film of Ghosts On The Loose. Lugosi and Rossitto make for a great pairing, as they did in The Corpse Vanishes (1942).

Ghosts On The Loose:

Directed by William “one shot” Beaudine, the title of this film is a bit misleading because there are no ghosts in the entire film. The title is likely an attempt to connect Spooks Run Wild to this film.

Betty, played by Ava Gardner, is marrying Jack Gibson, played by Rick Vallin. Gibson is purchasing a house on 322 Elm Street next to a haunted house as a honeymoon gift to Betty. Emil, played by Bela Lugosi, gets one of his spy henchmen named Tony to approach Gibson and convince him to sell the house. Tony offers Gibson a larger purchase price to discourage him from moving into the home. Gibson takes a small down payment and decides to take his bride on a honeymoon trip instead.

After providing choir services during the Gibson wedding, the East Side Kids break into Gibson's new home to clean and tidy up the home as a surprise to the newly married couple. They notice the home is in need of furniture, so they go to the haunted house next door and remove all the furniture to place it in Gibson's house.

Emil arrives at the house with Tony and his other henchmen. The group attempts to scare the East Side Kids out of the home. Emil and others in his group appear inside portrait paintings hanging on the walls of the home. As Scruno, an East Side Kid, is dusting a picture frame on the wall with Emil standing inside the frame, Emil sneezes, which frightens Scruno. Fans of this film have debated for years as to whether or not Lugosi says the S-word as he sneezes in this scene. It certainly sounds as if he does. I contend that he does say the S-word.

The East Side Kids later find a printing press in the basement of the house and pamphlets entitled “What The New Order Means To You.” Emil and his gang are discovered to be Nazi spies who moonlight in the basement printing Nazi propaganda literature. It turns out that Gibson has actually purchased the haunted house used as a hideout for the Nazi sympathizers, and not the house that the East Side Kids had cleaned.

Ghosts On The Loose appears to have many comical gags, perhaps even more than Spooks Run Wild, but this does not necessarily make it a better film. The cemetery sequences and the interior shots of the haunted house in Spooks Run Wild make for a much more creepy and atmospheric film, mixing both comedy and great atmosphere. As mentioned above, Lugosi's appearance in a cape and suit similar to his Dracula character also adds greatly to the atmosphere of Spooks Run Wild. Enjoy these two features as part of your Halloween entertainment this Halloween. Happy viewing.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The scariest scenes in horror films -- take 2

Editor's note: This month, in honor of Halloween, Plan9Crunch bloggers Steve D. Stones and Doug Gibson will share what they both see as the five scariest minutes in film. First was Doug's five creepy moments, and here are Steve's.
1). Night of The Living Dead (1968) – After witnessing her brother being attacked by a zombie in a Pennsylvania graveyard, Barbara (Judith O’Dea) runs to a nearby farmhouse to hide. She walks up stairs with a horrified look on her face and a kitchen knife in hand. The shadows of the banister cast across her face as the camera quickly zooms in closely to reveal a rotting corpse lying on the floor at the top of the stairs.

2). Poltergeist (1982). – A paranormal researcher investigating reports of ghosts in the suburban home of a young family goes to the kitchen to find something to eat.  He places a raw piece of meat from the refrigerator on the kitchen counter while eating a chicken leg. The meat suddenly starts to crawl slowly across the counter and the piece of chicken in his mouth spits out maggots. He runs to the bathroom to look at himself in the mirror. While looking in the mirror, he starts to pull the flesh off his face as chunks fall into the sink and blood drips everywhere.

3). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – After being terrorized by an inbred family of cannibals, including Leatherface – a chainsaw carrying psycho wearing a human skin mask, Sally (Marilyn Burns) is gagged and bound to a chair made of human arms. The grandpa of the family drinks Sally’s blood and attempts to knock her out with a hammer, but is too weak. This scene is so grueling that the sweat pouring from the faces of the actors involved heightens the uncomfortable, uneasy feeling the viewer experiences while the scene unfolds.  Sally eventually gets free and jumps out the window as Leatherface chases her once again down with a chainsaw – the most famous scene of the film.

4). Nosferatu (1922) – In this German Expressionist masterpiece of the silent era, Hutter – a real estate agent, is trapped inside the castle of Count Orlock. Hutter discovers the crypt where Orlock sleeps at night. Peeking through the crack of a stone coffin lid, Hutter can see the count lying in the coffin. He quickly pushes the stone lid off the coffin as the count stares directly at the camera in a frozen glance. This scene will chill your blood.

5). Jaws (1975) – Police chief Brody (Roy Scheider), a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and Captain Quint (Robert Shaw) are onboard a boat called the Orca to hunt down a giant shark terrorizing the sunbathers and swimmers of the ocean town of Amity. Brody leans over the boat to throw a “chum line” of fish guts into the water to attract the shark.  A giant shark raises its head from the water as Brody throws the line into the water. He immediately stands upright and walks backward with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth and quietly says the most famous line in the film to Captain Quint – “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!”

Happy Halloween!

Steve D. Stones

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The scariest scenes in horror films, take one

By Doug Gibson

The late-great Alfred Hitchcock was fond of saying, “People pay money to be scared.” In honor of this Halloween season I offer my take on the five scariest scenes in film history. If you want more commentary on scary movies scenes, read my blog colleague Steve D. Stones, art professor at Weber State University, offer his five most chilling scenes here.

Without procrastination, let’s get to scariest movie scene 1: It’s the final 10 minutes of “Suspiria,” a 1977 Italian horror flick directed by Dario Argento. It stars Jessica Harper as a U.S. dance student who discovers her European dance academy is run by a coven of witches. The final ultimate scary scene involves a possessed colleague of young Ms Harper who goes on the attack at the film’s climax. Argento’s skills have deteriorated in recent decades but “Suspiria” remains a contender for the scariest film ever made.

To read the rest of this "scariest movie scenes column, go to the Standard-Examiner newspaper site, where I also published this. You can keep on reading here.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The old Dark House, a creepy, witty Halloween offering

By Doug Gibson

The Old Dark House,” James Whale’s 1932 take on what happens when travelers stop at a dreary, tomb-like mansion, with creepy occupants, on a dark and rainy night, is not as well-known as Whale’s other Universal offerings, such as “Frankenstein,” “The Invisible Man,” or “Bride of Frankenstein.” That’s probably because it was considered lost for about 30 years. We’re lucky it’s a found film, because it’s a crackling good, creepy horror/comedy.

The plot: Squabbling husband and wife Philip and Margaret Waverton (Raymond Massey and Gloria Stuart) are driving through the Welsh mountains, thoroughly lost late at night during a brutal rainstorm. In their back seat is their relaxed, witty friend, Roger Penderel, (brilliantly played by Melvyn Douglas). In a superb special-effects scene, the Waverton car barely escapes a massive mudslide. They spot a mansion and stop, requesting shelter for the night. The door is answered by a brutish, very fearsome looking mute servant, Morgan, played by Boris Karloff. Later we learn that Morgan has a drinking problem. Eventually, the trio is greeted by an odd brother and sister pair, Horace Femm, (Ernest Thesiger), and his dourly religious sister, Rebecca, played by Eva Moore. The Femms inform the guests that they have a 102-year-old father, Sir Roderick Femm, bedridden upstairs, Interestingly, a woman, Elspeth Dudgeon, plays Sir. Roderick, although the actress’ sex was kept from audiences in 1932.

Early on there is a very creepy, pre-code scene where Margaret Waverton, very scantily clad in her underwear, is intruded upon by the religious fanatic, Rebecca Femm. While lambasting Margaret for her immorality, Moore’s Rebecca forces her hand on Margaret’s exposed upper chest, just above the breasts. It discombobulates Margaret, who is now very wary of the house. She has good reason; later a drunken Morgan attacks her on the stairs.

Later a couple more travelers seek refuge in the mansion. They are the garrolous, obese, somewhat crude, but wealthy Sir William Porterhouse, played well by Charles Laughton, along with an unemployed chorus girl, Gladys DuCane Perkins, (Lilian Bond), who is Porterhouse’s girlfriend, although there’s no real love between them. He has money, and she has a pleasing body. In one scene, Laughton effectively conveys the inner sadness and tragedy of Porterhouse, a man whose wife is died, feels empty and is no longer attractive enough to obtain love. Eventually, Penderel (remember him) and Bond form an attachment and fall in love, without too much consternation from Porterhouse.

As the weather stays dangerous outside, events inside the old, dark house get more perilous. I don’t want to give away the plot except to mention that we get a chance to see the very feminine-looking 102-year-old Sir Roderick Femm, who informs the guests that there is a third younger Femm, named Saul, who is by far the most dangerous inhabitant of the house. This all leads to a pretty thrilling, and witty at times, conclusion.

“The Old Dark House” is great gothic comedy/horror. It’s based on a long-ago bestselling novel, called “Benighted,” by J.B. Priestley. Whales stuck pretty faithfully to the plot, but omitted a lot of philosophic sophistry from the novel and focused on the action. The director looked for droll, humorous lines in the midst of chaos or fear. Thesiger’s Horace Femm has the best lines, such as “We make our own electric light here, and we are not very good at it. Pray, don’t be alarmed if they go out altogether,” and, when picking up some flowers, says, “my sister was on the point of arranging these flowers,” and then tossing them into the fireplace.”

The film is about 71 minutes long. It pops up on Turner Classic Movies but can be seen at YouTube above. A Blu-Ray version has recently been released. It's a worthy, out-of-the-box choice for a Halloween film selection.