2018: An Update

*crickets*

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 First things first, Happy New Year y’all! I hope that all you readers are relishing the chance of a fresh start and have lots of exciting plans for 2018.

Sooo…I kind of disappeared off the face of the earth, huh? Right in the middle of ‘31 days of Spoop’ too! What in tarnation happened there?

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 Here’s the low-down: I may have mentioned once or twice on this blog that I suffer from Generalized Anxiety (a disorder which I learned in May is exacerbated by/stems from my Asperger’s Syndrome). It’s something to be maintained rather than cured, and with the right medication and therapy, my daily struggles have happily been much easier to handle of late. However, the thing about Anxiety is that it’s an evolving, shifting, sneaky little fucker of an illness. It’s like there’s an unseen governing body with offices hidden somewhere in my grey matter that is constantly trying to find new ways to instill paranoia, stress, insecurity and unhealthy patterns in my behaviour without me noticing. That, and a lack of serotonin, of course. The latest in their series of dastardly plans has been to cause what I call ‘Anxiety cycles’. These can be around important everyday tasks, but more often they occur with activities I enjoy too. The obvious example being this blog. The internal pressure I put on myself scares me out of it, and the guilt of not writing anything makes the sense of obligation even stronger, which in turn makes the idea of blogging stressful, and so on.

I am really sorry. But we mustn’t let these feelings get into the hands of the G.A.D. spies!

 These Anxiety cycles in my life are something I am currently working through, and I hope that you guys who get a kick out of reading my reviews can continue being patient with me while I get back on this particular pony. If you are looking for some reading material in the meantime, you can fill my film-y absence with the excellent makeup and beauty reviews of RoRoKoala! She’s well good!

So let’s use this New Year’s spirit as an opportunity to start afresh, and forget about me leaving you lot hanging with the Halloween series. Okay? … I take your silence as a thumbs up? Then we’re agreed. (Although I will say that if you’re looking for a Horror double-bill I can recommend from October, ‘An American Werewolf in London‘ (1981) followed by ‘The Fly‘ (1986) would be a perfect combo for some of the era’s best, horrifying practical effects! Oh, and don’t watch ‘Pet Semetary‘ (1989) unless you want to get real frustrated with characters you couldn’t give a shit about. In the immortal words of Trixie Mattel: “If I had a son called Gage I’d hit him with a truck too”).

What will I write next? We’ll figure it out. See you soon!

Review: Paddington 2, 10/11/17

The gift that keeps on giving in a post-Brexit world…

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*Sniff* I’m not crying! You’re crying!

I made it to a cinema! Finally, another new release on this weak-ass blog! Hooray!

With our fireworks fizzled out and the souls of the dead returning to their resting place for another year, a change descends upon us. No longer do we gleefully dance in long shadows. As the sun sits low behind bare trees we huddle in from the cold and dark around something warm and bright. In other words, move over monsters! These films are for families!

(Note: Oh no, I’m not done with ’31 Days of Spoop’ just yet, and we will continue the series as pacey as possible. The cinemas are banishing banshees, but all we ghouls know that ghost stories gather steam on November nights. More episodes to come! In the mean time…)

At this point I think it’s impossible to find anything quite as wholesome as Paddington Bear; fans of our furry friend (and his sorely missed creator Michael Bond) know that Paddington Brown as the epitome of good manners, kindness and seeing the best in everyone. Yes, we were nervous about his feature-length debut, but it turned out better than we could’ve hoped for. Younger viewers and new-comers in 2015 learnt too how blessed they were to meet him. Truly a gift for all ages. But with the world as bleak as it is, we need more little cubs in duffel-coats than ever. And definitely more marmalade.

With that said, I was skeptical about his second movie. Maybe the one we already had was actually too good? Had it all been too pure, too funny, too emosh? Could the immigration allegory have been so deftly handled that any follow-up would dampen that triumph of compassion? WHAT IF IT WAS DOOMED FROM THE START? Even without the exposure of  Harvey Weinstein‘s behavior for them to contend with behind the scenes, I was concerned the success of the children’s story would result in a revisit that was lukewarm, coasting on guaranteed profit. I’d seen it before. I was afraid I was going to see it again.

…Surprise, I was wrong. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy to be proved a pessimistic old sodd in my life. ‘Paddington 2‘ doesn’t just reach the bar Heyday Films had set two years ago. It truly trumps it! Sure, it’s more of a caper this time around, but Paul King and Simon Farnaby have hit their stride and produced something truly irresistible.

Paddington (Ben Whishaw) has settled into a happy life with the Brown family (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, etc.). His neighbors have all been friendly and welcoming (well, except for that grumpy Mr Curry (Peter Capaldi)), and he’s even getting a job! You see, Paddington is eager to try and save up enough money to buy his Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) a very special book for her birthday! But when that book is stolen by a struggling thespian (Hugh Grant), our poor pal from Peru is framed for robbery! Can his family prove Paddington’s innocence? Will they stop the real thief’s dastardly plan before it’s too late? And can Paddington stay on the right side of burly prison cook, Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson)?

First of all, the clowning is exceptional and comes thick and fast. Scenes of Charlie Chaplin-inspired slapstick are sandwiched between lots of silly dialogue and visual gags that left young and old alike in stitches. Second, the cinematography and art design are simply delightful. There’s a tear-jerking moment of magical realism inside a Micheal Bond-style pop-up book, the city of London is a Guardian-reader’s chocolate box, and Paddington’s influence behind bars transforms prison into one of Wes Anderson’s pastel fantasies! Over all the attention to detail, from the cuddly CGI to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes, is outstanding.

There is not one weak link within the cast, with everyone nailing the tone and delivery of classic children’s book characters. Heightened without being over-wraught, they comfortably exist within a child’s understanding of the world. Only Hugh Grant gets at all hammy, but for very good reason: his turn as luvvie actor Phoenix Buchanan is a tour-de-force, and he’s clearly relishing every second. Bravo! I also advise you stay of the look out for other scene stealers, with Johanna Lumley, Richard Ayoade and Jessica Hynes to name a few.

I dare you not to be entertained, for here age and company are irrelevant. Whether you’re after comedy, excitement or comfort this chilly November, Paddington Brown has got you covered. And by covered I mean in a soft duvet, hot chocolate in hand and marmaladen with sandwiches. *Sigh* ‘Paddington 2’ has made my top 10 of 2017 without a doubt. And you know what? I might just have to see it again before the year is out…

4.5/5 stars

Director – Paul King

Genre – Family Adventure, Comedy, Animation/Live-action.

Certificate – PG

Running time – 103 minutes

 

31 Days of Spoop: 10 – 12

Would you rather be buried alive, walk the earth as a zombie, or do a bunch of murders in your sleep?

Tap, Tap, Creeeeeaaakkkkk…

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Meanwhile elsewhere, our life-less bodies are splayed out in the dim room we found that revealing tape. Only the flickering television lights up our vacant eyes. The room is thick with static and silence.

Tap. Creak. Tap. Creak.

Someone’s coming up the stairs.

Tap. Tap. … Creeeak.

They’re opening the door.

“Noooormaaaan…” Madeline emerges. She leans seductively against the frame, her long hair draped over her shoulders like silk, inky black and gleaming under the cold glare of the screen. Her breasts shimmer, exposed by the plunging neckline of her mint-green nightgown . Her dark eyes are wild with excitement, or perhaps anxiety. As kooky and demented as the family are, the twisting labyrinth below their home seems an usual place for hanky-panky, even for them.

“Norman? Norrrmaaaa- Oh for Hell’s sake! How in Lucifer’s name did you two get down here? *Sigh* Ah well. At least it’s them and not- but how…?” She flicks on a light switch (unseen by us) and examines our bodies, taken with child-like curiosity. Your eyes catch her attention. “Hmmm, not as dead as you look, eh? Soul-less? Or sleeping? Huh. Midnight movie theatre? Tut tut. Maybe if I rewind this tape I can see what kind of trance they’re in. Let’s seeeeee, where’s that remooooote? Here we go, what have we got he- NOPE. NO NO NO. OFF!” Madeline breaths a short, sharp gasp of relief. She didn’t see whatever she was afraid of. Our captor runs over to the extension cable and violently rips out the plug. If we weren’t so far from our bodies, we would’ve never seen such a look of fear. Especially from such an evil lady. “That wretched girl. I’d kill her grandmother again were she not already dead. Hypnosis. More like hypNOsis? Eh? Get it?” She kicks my limp arm. “Get it, you gormless girl?! Ha ha ha, oh nevermind. My wit is wasted on these zombies. And I was so looking forward to house guests. I wonder…..if Princess Pin-head got them into this state, surely she could get them out again? They’re no use to anyone like this. No fun at all!” Madeline gave the room one last glance before heading back into her maze of shadows.

“We’re coming for you, Pippa.”

Click. Lights off.

 

– DAY TEN: ‘THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM’ (1961) –

Certificate – 12

Running time – 85 minutes

Themes – Edgar Allen Poe, Spooky Castle, Spanish Inquisition, Torture Chamber, Crypt, Brother and Sister, Husband and Wife, Mystery, Death, Ghost, Madness, Adultery, Trauma, Buried Alive, History Repeating Itself.

Fear Factor – 2/5

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It started innocently enough: handcuffs, latex, a little candle wax…next thing you know he’s got out the pendulum.

 The fact that ‘The Pit and the Pendulum‘ shares a lot of similarities with ‘The Fall of the House of Usher‘ (1960) shouldn’t be held against it. Edgar Allen Poe’s fascination with themes like premature burial are no secret, and director Roger Corman was tasked with releasing Poe’s stories, among other films, in very quick succession and in this case was shot in as little as fifteen days (just look at how small that time-gap is between those two!) On the same set. With the same props. And Vincent Price of course taking top billing, as he would continue to do for these adaptations.  Yet as strong as this film-maker’s vision was, here there is a marked improvement on his execution of the material. He was still developing his style at this point, and wouldn’t feel content with his depiction of the horrors of premature burial until his third attempt in 1962 of the same name.

But is all this familiarity distracting? Sure, if you’ve seen one before the other, but it makes for a good eye-spy in my Party Poe Drinking Game (here we go again)…

  • Drink every time you think you recognize a prop from ‘The House of Usher’.
  •  Drink every time you think you recognize the set from ‘The House of Usher’.
  • Drink every time you start wondering if you are actually watching a scene from ‘The House of Usher’.
  • Drink every time the historical accuracy is terrible. Like, they aren’t even gonna try.
  • Drink every time there is a shot of the ocean and/or the castle.
  • Drink every time Vincent Price, Nicholas, has a monologue.
  • Drink every time Nicholas looses his God-damn mind.
  • Drink every time Nicholas swoons.
  • Drink every time Francis questions the story he’s being told.
  • Drink every time there is a twist or another layer to a story.
  • Take a shot every time someone says ‘Nicholas’.
  • Take a shot every time someone says ‘Elizabeth’ or ‘my sister’.
  • Take a shot every time someone says ‘Adulterer/Adulteress’.
  • Take a shot every time there is a flashback or dream sequence (NOTE: add this rule to every one of Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe movies).
  • Down your drink when Barbara Steele appears as Elizabeth in the present time-line, alive or dead (because yaasss, mama, get it!).
  • Down your drink when they reveal the pendulum.

All jokes aside, ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ is the better ‘buried alive’ movie, aesthetically, technically and in it’s atmosphere. Bravo, Roger!

 

– DAY ELEVEN: ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ (1920) –

Certificate – U

Running time – 67 minutes

Themes – German Expressionism, Classic Horror, Hypnosis, Somnambulist, Mad Doctor, Murder, Mystery, Kidnap, Fun Fair, Love Triangle, Asylum.

Fear Factor – 1/5

*SPOILERS*

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Question: If a woman isn’t carried off in a white dress by a tall, dark man, was it really Gothic?

I had been heavily affected by ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari‘ long before the night I finally got round to watching it. You may remember from past blog posts that during my teenage years I was obsessed with the work of Tim Burton (pre-2010), to the point of owning an extensive collection of books detailing his process that included, one of my prized possessions, his biography (‘Burton on Burton‘, by Burton, Tim, ed. Salisbury, Mark [1995]). It was from my reading material that I learnt about how the German Expressionist movement influenced his artistic vision, specifically Robert Wiene’s now famous contribution. For years I had poured over photography from the film, but never got my hands on a copy…until this month of Spoop.

So did it live up to my youthful expectations? Well if anything, it exceeded them. But I wonder whether I would have appreciated it more or less had I seen it as a teenager? Would my superficial admiration for the stylization evolve or get in the way of the full complexity of the film?

‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ was innovative and way ahead of it’s time, especially when it comes to narrative. Yeah the visuals are astounding, obviously, but I’m pretty sure this may have been the first ever framing set-up, plot twist ending and unreliable narrator. Surprise! It was ‘Shutter Island‘ (2010) all along! Obviously the ‘he was actually mad’ reveal is over-done now, but witnessing it’s birth is a beautiful thing.

We are so lucky to have this cinematic treasure restored to it’s former glory. This dream-like world of angular contortions and shards of light and shadow is a haunting one that will swirl about in my mind for a while. I imagine the most my shallow teen angst could’ve drawn from it would’ve probably been “Gosh how I am misunderstood”. But this story laments and dreads what did and could become of man’s soul in the hands of tyrannical authority. Even today it’s subversive qualities continue to resonate. Although that’s more of a comment on society than the movie, let’s be honest.

Also it was made two years before and still manages to shit all over ‘Nosferatu‘ (1922) by comparison.

– DAY TWELVE: ‘The Night of the Living Dead’ (1968) –

Certificate – 15

Running time – 96 minutes

Themes – Zombies, Gore, Abandoned House, Cemetery, Survival, Madness, Military, Conflict, Race.

Fear Factor –  3/5

*MINOR SPOILERS*

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Friends and family better be ready for me quoting this movie constantly.

This is a bloody great film. And despite there being a lot I could unpack, I would rather not spoil it for anyone. If you haven’t already, WATCH THIS MOVIE. It’s perfect for Halloween!

I remember back in University I auditioned for a part in a stage-version of ‘The Night of the Living Dead’, and at the time I wasn’t quite sure whether it was a joke. Now I’ve seen the movie I totally get it. Besides being in the public domain and fucking awesome, the claustrophobic panic and power games inside the abandoned house where strangers thrown together against a sea of incomprehensible death and destruction is ripe for the theatre. Pair that with the insane introduction, the talking heads of the media, the conclusion’s relevance to the modern #blacklivesmatter movement and the general populace’s enthusiasm for zombies not rotted quite yet, and most of the work is already done! We just need to tinker about with the practicalities of different locations and the boarding, unboarding and reboarding up of the house.

Who wants to do a play? I want to do a play!

R.I.P George Romero. Unless you wanna rise from your grave, that’d be chill.

As for you, my decayed denizens of death, stay tuned for the next episode of 31 Days of Spoop!

31 Days of Spoop: 6 – 9

Witches, goblins, men playing God…could this episode be any more blasphemous?

RUMBLE! CRASH!

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Towering before us was Madeline, our cruel host. Only now she was 1,000 feet tall and had a face like waffle-iron run-off.

“Time to tuck in! As promised!”

A flash of lightning. The roll of thunder. Maniacal laughter. With that flourish we are thrown into the back of her dark, wet mouth. Teeth the size of double-decker buses slowly crashing down on top of us…but not for long. Soon we were falling back into the light, down and down, covered in saliva and deafened by screams of “Dogs droppings! Eeeugh! Disgusting!”

You manage to turn your head as we tumble to the ground to see where we would land.

“Waaaaterrrrr!!!”

*SPLASH*

We are submerged in fresh water, thrashing towards the surface as quickly as possible. Soon we are gasping for breath, clinging unto enormous, floating daisies as we are thrashed about in a lightning storm.

“Okay Albatross, this is getting- glug-splutter– ridiculous! What the bloody hell is going on now!”

“If I’m not mistaken, we are trapped in some kind of dream world of wonderland proportions. Something to do with the tape we saw.”

“Are you telling me we’re in a little girl’s nightmare?”

“Maybe, or perhaps…”

“What! Perhaps what!”

“This is our nightmare! And our nightmares are real!”

“OH MY GOOOOODDDDDD!”

 

– DAY SIX: ‘The Witches’ (1990) –

Certificate – PG

Running Time – 91 minutes

Themes – Witchcraft, Children, Grandmother, Parents, Child Murder, Magic, Mice, Rats, Potions, Transformations, Stranger Danger, Hotel/Convention, Ruse, Norway, England, Witch-Hunting, Haunted Paintings, Food.

Fear Factor – 2/5

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YAAASSSSSSSSS! WEEERRRRKKKKK!

Fair Warning: This film is absolute nightmare-fuel. Although seeing as it’s based on a Roald Dahl novel, that shouldn’t be much of a shocker…

The Witches‘ ticks a lot of the boxes for a campy Halloween night; the Jim Henson Company dish out some of their best make-up and puppetry. These are truly terrible transformations, from children being turned into mice in a cloud of green smoke, to hags peeling off their human skin to reveal the horror of what they are beneath. That, the imagery and use of perspective make all this a rather frightening thing to behold, even as an adult! The unflinchingly unsentimental, dark fantasy of Dahl’s children’s fiction is brought to life by long-time collaborators Allan Scott and Nicolas Roeg, screenwriter and director respectively, whose twisted, impressionistic works include ‘Don’t Look Now‘ (1973) and ‘The Man who fell to Earth‘ (1976). The two of them execute Dahl’s dry humor and love of nonsense magnificently, with the absurdity of British behavior being the butt of most of the jokes. That and Bruno. Bruno is all of us. (I obviously do not own this copyrighted footage, etc.).

However, there is something else to mention, something very important. Vital, even. Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch. Just when I thought she couldn’t be any more fabulous, our beloved Morticia turns it out and gives me life, henny. What a woman.

It goes without saying that this was a wicked watch. Yet I admit that I am grateful I didn’t see it when I did fall into this movie’s supposed demographic. The underlying sweetness of childhood in this story is coated under a thick layer of 70% cocoa. Jesus.

 

– DAY SEVEN: ‘Frankenstein’ (1931) –

Certificate – PG

Running time – 67 minutes

Themes – Classic Cinema/Horror, Gothic Horror, Science Fiction, Mad Scientist, Man-Made Monster, Corpses, Body Parts, Laboratory, Science vs God, Electricity, Love, Marriage, Fire, Graveyards, Windmills, Murder.

Fear Factor – 1/5

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All he needed was a little understanding and a pocket full of posies.

I think I came in with my expectations too high on this one. With such a legacy left behind, I thought that it had to be a masterpiece. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things about it to celebrate: Boris Karloff’s physical, imposing yet soulful performance, the iconic use of prosthetic make-up design, THAT scene at the lake (chills, man) and Frederick Kerr’s massively under-rated performance as the Baron. If there’s one thing modern cinema could do with more of, it’s fuddy-duddy old men who don’t take anyone’s shit.

But here’s the thing. For all James Whale did achieve with this movie and everything that came after as a result, it’s not actually very well made. The monster’s make-up aside, much of it comes across as quite amateur for it’s time. You can see glimpses of what they were trying to do, maybe it was down to budget constraints or the technology just not being ready for their ideas yet, but the snatches of visual poetry that are there are scattered amongst a lot of bland choices and mildly distracting mistakes.

Obviously this isn’t a loyal adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel. And I can understand why, what with Hollywood and censors at that time pushing the conventional black and white, good vs evil narrative. But some of it is just silly. For instance, Henry Frankenstein? Really? Are you really so afraid of having a flawed protagonist that you change the scientist’s name and make main character Victor some rando buddy acting as a moral ‘hero’? He doesn’t even do anything! Even with the changes, the story is never about him, so why bother?

Truth be told, I’m not cross. ‘Indifferent amusement’ would be a more apt way of describing my feelings. What did astonish me, despite myself, was how they credited the woman behind the famous tale they based their movie on. ‘Mrs Percy B Shelley’. Fucking hell. #JusticeforMary

 

– DAY EIGHT: ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935) –

Certificate – PG

Running time – 75 minutes

Themes – Classic Cinema/Horror, Gothic Horror, Science Fiction, Mad Scientist, Man-Made Monster, Corpses, Body Parts, Laboratory, Science vs God, Electricity, Love, Marriage, Murder, Kidnap, Loneliness, Friendship, Graveyards/Crypts, Grave robbers, Queer Subtext.

Fear Factor – 1/5

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It bears repeating: YAAASSSS QWEEEEEN, YAAAASSSSSSS!

Well, damn! ‘Bride of Frankenstein‘ is one of those rare cases of a sequel far surpassing the first film. James Whale’s expands upon the canvas of the original, developing what worked and injecting a much needed dose of Camp; Whale had the money and creative freedom to pile on the homosexual subtext and make the Gothic theatrical in it’s heightened state of emotion.

In other words, this movie is tons more fun. We got a more explicitly misunderstood monster, OTT dramatic monologues, dark implications, comic relief, alcohol and cigars (goooooood), sentiment, tragedy, German Expressionist influences, fantastic set-pieces, beautiful backdrops and a villain who isn’t so much coded gay as, well, I think Bart puts it best. (I OWN NOTHING, I TELL YOU!) Not to mention Whale having a platform to give Mary Shelley at least a modicum of respect this time around.

But who am I kidding, I’m mostly here for the Bride. Who is EVERYTHING. The mannerisms, the hair, the make-up, lighting, costume, music…she’s fabulous! In fact, my main qualm with the movie (besides the missing baron and those weird, tiny jar people) is false advertising. The Bride doesn’t come to life and make her show-stopping appearance until the climax, which is frankly bullshit. I paid for the female alternative, dammit! What a rip-off!  …Okay, there was no payment involved, but STILL. MORE BRIDE! MORE BRIDE! MORE BRI-

 

–  DAY NINE: ‘Troll 2’ (1990) –

Certificate – 15

Running time – 95 minutes

Themes – Goblins, Ghosts, Scary Rednecks, Witch/Priestess, Stonehenge, Vegetarian, Vegetables, Transformation, Being Eaten, Family, Teens, Child, Grandfather, Fairy Tales, Strange Rural Town, Seduction, Poisoned Food/Drink.

Fear Factor – 2/5 *By which I mean it give kids nightmares, but it’s mostly frighteningly bad.

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Speaks for itself, honestly.

Yes, it’s as awful as you’ve heard.

No, none of the crew spoke English, except one person from wardrobe. They were Italian, hence the terrible script, but refused to have a single word changed.

No, none of the cast were actors, just random townsfolk of Morgan, Utah hoping to be extras. And in one case, I swear to God, they cast an actual mental patient on a day out.

No, there are no Trolls in the film. Only Goblins.

No, the Director did genuinely think they were making a horror masterpiece.

Yes, you have to watch it.

 And until next time on 31 Days of Spoop, pleasant nightmares! MWAHAHAHAHA!

31 Days of Spoop: 4 – 5

What’s that coming over the hill? It’s a big-ass monster…

ROOAARRRR!!!

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TTSSSGIUY;@GGB+BBHB- AAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Suddenly we go from tucking into a talking turkey to being carried thousands of feet into the air! On a fork! Oh good God, we’re someone, someTHING’s, dinner! We look up, and up, and up. And then we see it.

It’s enormous.

It’s terrible.

It looks hungry…

–  DAY FOUR: ‘King Kong’ (1933)  –

Certificate – PG

Running time – 104 minutes

Themes – Classic Horror/Cinema, Giant Ape, Damsel in Distress, Film, Voyages of Discovery, The Great Depression, New York, Lost Worlds, Jungles, Tribes, Rituals, Dinosaurs, Man vs Nature, Hubris, Beauty and the Beast.

Fear Factor – 1/5

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“Whatever happened to Fay Wray? That delicate, satin-draped fraaaaame?”

Trust and believe, that list of themes up there could’ve been a lot longer if I’d opened it up more to critical readings. This is, after all, one of the most significant, influential pictures in film history and popular culture. ‘King Kong’ was a towering brute beyond the silver screen, breaking all previous box office records, saving a swooning RKO pictures from bankruptcy and creating a whole new sub-genre of science-fiction in his wake. Not to mention the ground-breaking special effects provided by Willis H. O’Brein. This was the guy whose work on Kong and ‘The Lost World‘ (1925) really raised the bar on what could be achieved on film when dealing in man’s wildest imaginings. Watching the whole remastered cut nearly 85 years on, I was surprised by how much the trick photography still holds up! How did they do that? Anyway, the point is, I could root through a whole bunch of academia and get my kicks rambling on about each theory’s reading of the text and other cool little details, but I’ll spare you that. I am a merciful god. And after all, this series is about guiding you through the spoops and scares this Halloween, helping my goblins at home choose the perfect movie for a nail-biting night in.

So how does ‘King Kong’ rank as a contender? Well, if you’ve never sat down with it before, Halloween is as good excuse as any to get through your must-see movie list (and for a Golden Age of Hollywood themed sleepover. Just an idea). Especially if your crowd prefers festive fun over real freights. For kiddie-winks, I’d wait until they’re a little older. Not because it’s particularly scary. Nor due to the racism or sexism depicted through-out (as a matter of fact, it could prove a great opportunity for parents looking to start a conversation). But I would avoid showing ‘King Kong’ to pint-sized viewers for the distress it could cause. I’m not really talking fear, but the violence done to stop-motion dinosaurs is pretty full on. I remember how sensitive I was as a wee lass. And how much I loved dinosaurs! Seeing a stegosaurus getting shot repeatedly with the clay blood and fake screams would’ve left me very upset. I’d advise holding back this classic until they’re around 9 or 10 years of age, or when you start noticing your child opening themselves up to pushing the boundaries of censorship and their comfort zone.

The original King Kong is essential viewing, though not necessarily for October. Monstrous, but not very seasonal, you could unleash the beast anytime of year. I’d personally recommend a homo-sapien-centric double bill with ‘Plant of the Apes‘ (1968)! I wouldn’t blame you for saving yourself for something spoopier.

 

– DAY FIVE: ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ (2002) –

Certificate – PG

Running time – 161 minutes

Themes – Witchcraft, Magic, Spells, Potions, School, Castle, Children, Coming of Age, Friendship, Basilisk, Snakes, Spiders, Murder, Ghosts, Discrimination, Diary, Hidden Dungeon.

Fear Factor – 2/5

* SPOILERS *

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“Ooh! Look what you made me do! Look what you made me do! Look what you just made me do- look what you just made me- OOOH!”

What? You didn’t think I wasn’t going to follow up last year’s excursion to Hogwarts, did you?

 A Harry Potter Marathon isn’t a bad shout if you’ve got the weekend before Halloween free. You could even reserve the evening of the 31st for a double-bill of Chris Columbus’ time at the helm of the wizarding world! However I’m not sure ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ does well as a stand-alone choice.

Don’t misunderstand, this movie still gets to me. The theme for Fawkes the Phoenix always makes me well up, I am forever obsessed with the perfect casting of Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockheart, and I will never not be freaked out by the ‘Follow the Spiders’ scene. One whole extra fear point for Gryffindor. (Seriously though, why couldn’t it be follow the butterflies?)

This film is also by far the most quotable in the franchise. Every single person who entered the room was able to deliver at least one line spot-on and on cue. I, of course, was giving my own rendition of the movie through-out. Hmm, maybe I should consider a one-woman show…?

Ahem! As I was saying: What makes it a strange thing to view by itself is how much Columbus relies on the previous film for context. Besides the copy-paste narrative structure, it feels as if he watched the entire of Philosopher’s Stone back, wrote down all it’s most memorable bits and did everything he could to replicate them within the new story. I think I’ve figured out why they brought in someone else to direct no.3. (Next Year’s Harry Potter moment is gonna be sweeeeeeeeet!)

And on that note, I leave you with a thought: Isn’t it peculiar that Dumbledore hadn’t already solved the mystery of the chamber decades ago? Think about it. He was teaching transfiguration at the time of Myrtle’s death. Sure, his strong inkling that Riddle couldn’t be trusted doesn’t exactly fly as evidence, but I find it hard to believe that wise, kind old Albus didn’t think to comfort the ghost of the dead girl and ask her how it happened. For one thing, he would’ve absolutely known about her existence. Even if he doesn’t use the ladies bathroom. It’s been readily established that Dumbledore is aware of pretty much everything that goes on inside the castle and with his many students. It’s one of the reasons why parents trust their kids under his watch! He has eyes everywhere, nothing gets past him. So he would’ve known that Myrtle’s spirit was still haunting the school, and he didn’t stop to have a chat? Tell her how sorry he was? Brew some translucent tea and let her cry it out? And as for unlocking the hidden passage, I would be very surprised if no one had ever written up a translator’s guide to parseltongue. A rare gift or no, you could collaborate with someone writing a book and share the skill with others. Hagrid might’ve been spared expulsion. The basalisk could’ve been killed, ensuring the safety of the students permanently. But I’m meant to believe the headmaster sat in his office sucking on a sherbet lemon instead? Madness, J.K. Madness. …Also, how do house-elves do laundry?

These are questions that will go unanswered next time on…31 Days of Spoop!

31 Days of Spoop: 1 – 3

They did the monster mash. It was a load of trash! So mind your head…and burn the camp to ash!

 

…Hello?

white noise.gif

uf8Hnnnggg 9eew iuirgefyefegy gburyerrhf‘[[g94gun byt We begin where we left off. Or do we? The last thing we can salvage from the white noise clouding our memories is watching something on TV. Maybe we still are? No, these…things wouldn’t be sitting so close.

“Care for a scream-cheese bagel?

It appears we are sitting at a cartoon table, in cartoon chairs, opposite a cartoon vampire. He is offering us a bagel, and to his credit, it is emitting a high-pitch wail.

“Um, no thanks. Where- um, where ARE we?”

“Yes,” you chime in, “why are we here?”

“A very good question! A splendid question!”

A large toad in a very old-fashioned outfit (also looking like someone’s doodle) catches us by surprise, for though he was to our right, he could barely see over the table. Only now he was hopping up and down in excitement. “It‘s time for adventure! Travel! Scene! Out on the open road! I’ll show you the world! Ha ha!”

“Calm down, Toad!” The vampire rubs his temples in frustration. Clearly he’s been dealing with this manic amphibian for a while. “We haven’t finished our dinner yet! Why, our guests have not had one bite!”

We turn our attention to the spread. Odd. Besides everything from the teapot to the pineapple dancing about like a live sketch, the centerpiece is scratching under it’s armpit.

“I’m a turkey! Eat me!”

“But your not a turkey! Your a little boy!” Indeed, a chubby little boy in a felt costume. The vampire sighs. “What’s the difference? Boy, turkey, white meat, dark meat. It’s food! And I intend to finish it before he starts singing again. Come. Do try the wwwi neeweie8u43tiwg[[[[[[jfpoejjwf3-3ur2qhfqhhfnwqf’p]h]5p]5okl;””””’@@@@@@@@@@@@;’:{pkopjijkpjkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk

 

– DAY ONE: ‘Hotel Transylvania’ (2012) –

Certificate – PG

Running time – 91 minutes

Themes – Monster Mash, Vampires, Castle, Hotel, Father and Daughter, Coming of Age, Romance, Frankenstein, Werewolves, Mummies, Invisible Man, Angry Mobs (etc.) 

Fear Factor – 0/5

hotel t.gif
“And so Quasimodo the chef said, ‘When you bump with the hump, you land on your rump!’ And then he shook is bum. It was then that the viewer tore at their own skin. The End.”

I can’t believe I’m starting Spoop month with this. THIS. A bloody Adam Sandler movie! As his rendition of the Count would be loathed to say: Blur!

As per tradition (if you can call it that) I begin the season on the tame side of scary. You know, All Hallow’s Eve movies you can watch with your young’uns. I mean you could watch this with your children, if you’ve out-grown actively trying to nourish their developing braaaaiiins. Sony Pictures Animation presents ‘Hotel Transylvania’: a modern monster mash that only just surpasses zombie material. You can get away with plonking your kids in front of it if you REALLY need them to be quiet for an hour and a half. But I ask you this: if you wouldn’t want to watch the movie yourself, or if you got nothing of value from the viewing experience, how can you justify showing it to your own offspring?

Maybe I’m being snobby and it isn’t that bad after all. Sure, the animation and art design is hit and miss, but at least it does hit occasionally. Once or twice there’s the flicker of something inventive and exciting going on in the background. At times the landscape shots can even be considered impressive. However, my sourness comes not from a place of disdain…but disappointment. This concept had so much potential. A goofy, spooky monster mash for a whole new generation to enjoy. A Halloween film for the babes of the millennium. Wouldn’t that have been wonderful?

Instead, the creators completely miss the joke. A castle full of wacky monsters from classic horror movies isn’t funny in and of itself. The humor ought to be coming from their motive for being there in the first place: to have a relaxing holiday. A chance to be domestic and chill out. To be normal…for once. The few times I did feel a smile creep across my face it was in the small, mundane things: Tiny, whispering rat skulls being used as bingo balls by soft-spoken gremlins. The invisible man trying to play charades. Dracula’s daughter quietly seeing a sunrise for the first time. Whether it’s their everyday, or the human everyday, those are the scenes where the story is at it’s most ridiculous and heart-felt.

Unfortunately that glimmer of something better is not immortal, but short lived. I cannot tell you if the screenwriters, the director or the producers are at fault. Perhaps they’re all partly to blame. But when the gag isn’t ‘oh look, a yeti’ again, they try being…*shudders*, ZANY.  You know what I mean. I’m talking farts, cheap stereotypes, inappropriate jokes, unhealthy messages, tedious action sequences to make up for time or character growth. And it gets worse. HIP REFERENCES, YO. WE’RE DOWN WITH DA KIDS! CHECK OUT THESE SICK BEATS AND MAD SLANG, DWAG. I’m telling you, they sing in auto-tune. They dance to LMFAO’s ‘I’m Sexy And I Know It’. COUNT DRACULA RAPS! It’s horrible! Horribly…dated! And this came out five fucking years ago!

So please parents, the next time you are looking for a distraction so you can do your taxes in peace, please, THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

Simpons won't somebody think of the children.gif

 

–  DAY TWO: ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad’ (1949) –

Certificate – U

Running Time – 68 minutes

Themes – Classic English and American Literature, Anthropomorphic Animals, Friendship, Crime, Prison, Mansion, Sleepy Village, School Teacher, Romance, Halloween, Ghost Stories, Headless Horseman, Jack-o-Lanterns, Spooky Forests.

Fear Factor – 1/5

The Headless Horseman.gif
Sorry, ladies. This horseman doesn’t give very good…head! LOL

This is a little treasure from the Disney Vaults, and apparently a staple of American TV in the Fall. So of course this was a must-see for 31 Days of Spoop. ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad’, as you might’ve already picked up on, is a short film in two parts. The first is a simple but good-natured retelling of ‘The Wind and the Willows’ (1908), with the focus on Toad’s escapades and follies. It’s a pretty straight-forward adaptation with a couple of minor alterations; Kenneth Grahame’s charming tale told affectionately, although it doesn’t exactly bring a whole lot to the table as far as interpretations or animation goes. This was a story Walt Disney clearly wanted to tell, who knows how it would’ve played out as a feature-length film.

On the other hand, the woodland creatures of the riverbank do well to ease it’s younger viewers into what’s going to become something a bit more intense. For the second half of this short turns to a certain Sleepy Hollow, haunted by superstition and a malicious ghost. You don’t have to be familiar with Washington Irving’s legend to know this is straight up American Gothic. I mean, it’s a pretty jolly romp to start with. Bright, cheery and very silly. Like the short story,we take our time getting to know Ichabod and the townspeople,  but all the singing, dancing and romantic entanglements, are building up to the main event: the Headless Horseman. From the moment Brom starts his ghost story at the Van Tassel’s Halloween Party, the tone shifts into something more eerie. Still camp? Absolutely. But now every small noise and long shadow is there to emphasize just how pants-wettingly frightened Ichabod is. The sound design is especially creepy, and I don’t doubt will stay with me longer than the wild chase it’s building up. ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad’ is definitely a spooky, chucklesome Halloween film for the little ones…just as long as they have a grown-up’s chest to bury their faces into…

 

–  DAY THREE: ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES (1993) –

Certificate – PG

Running time – 94 minutes

Themes – American Gothic, Haunted Mansion, Family, New Baby, Sibling Rivalry, Nanny, Black Widow, Summer Camp, Privilege, Rebellion, Thanksgiving, Romance, Marriage, Comedy, Murder, General Spoop.

Fear Factor – 1/5

addams family values.gif
Every little weirdo’s revenge fantasy…

How much do I really have to explain? Look. They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky. They’re altogether…ooky. This is the Addams Family.

Dun-dun-dun-dun. *click click*

Or should I say, the 1991 movie’s superior sequel. In the words of a good friend, “this film is better than it has any right to be!” Of course, it shares similar problems with it’s predecessor. For one thing, the main plot is somewhat loose, superficial and flaky (much like the antagonist’s relationships with men, whey-hey). However, not only is the mise-en-scene American Gothic gorgeousness and the script a laugh-a-minute riot, but Wednesday’s subplot is iconic. Were it not for the fact we’d be deprived of the rest of the clan, we’d happily spend the entity with the Addams children at that cringe-inducing summer camp.

This movie is essential viewing for everyone over the age of eight. Now go watch it. I shouldn’t need 157 words to convince you.

And that’s the end of chapter one! Until next time, do let the bed bugs bite!

Happy October! – An Update

It’s here! It’s finally here!

Why hellooooooo, boils and ghouls! Been a long time, hasn’t it? Don’t worry, I was merely keeping you in suspense for two months (and totally not having mental health or financial problems, ha ha ha).

In all seriousness, I apologize for my long absence. And I hope the return of a certain creepy tradition will make up for the lack of activity in Albatross Land. Yes, that’s right! It’s everyone’s favorite festive treat (or trick)! It’s time for….

31 Days of Spoop!

dancing skeletons spoop
Aw, yeah.

Yes, very soon you’ll be reading your first post of spoop-tacular goodness! For the uninitiated, over the course of October I will be watching 31 Horror and/or Halloween-themed movies and writing bone-rattling, rat-infested, ravenous wraiths of reviews! ….Rrrrr. These movies will be viewed in order of their potential Fear Factor rating (out of 5), starting at the more family-friendly end of the spectrum. There may not be a blog post every day, but in the event of not being able to do so I will deliver a bumper edition as catch-up (i.e. ‘Days 3-5 of 31 of Spoop’). Oh, and we mustn’t forget the terrible account of nightmarish horrors that you’ll encounter on our pumpkin-spiced journey towards unspeakable death- ahem, I mean, deeelightful fun. 

For a taste of what to expect, or to get a refresher on all this necro-nonsense, you can find the beginning of last year’s Halloween saga here. 

Good luck, my sweet little candy corns. You’re going to need it…

Boo