Sunday, October 31, 2010

My List of 13 Favorite Horror Films at Sinescope

My friend Derek Hill recently asked me to submit a list of 13 of my favorite horror films over at the awesome Sinescope to go along with this years Halloween celebrations and it is now posted for those interested. This is kind of a companion piece to my list that I submitted to Rupert Pupkin Speaks earlier this week, with just a few overlaps. Always hoping to suggest perhaps a new title to someone, I tried not to include any of the big ones that I love (and I know everyone else does) like Rosemary's Baby, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead. I also kept it pretty centered on the seventies and eighties and a definite European vibe prevailed, although there are some exceptions. Anyway, hopefully the list is enjoyable and I appreciated being asked to submit one.

Operation Screenshot (Films of the Fifties): Terence Fisher's Horror of Dracula (1958)


















Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lisa Blount: 07/01/1957-10/27/2010



Lisa Blount at the dawn of her career in the late seventies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Ten Favorite Underrated Shockers at Rupert Pupkin Speaks

Last week I was asked to submit a list of my ten favorite underrated horror films over at the always fascinating Rupert Pupkin Speaks and I was more than happy to contribute. My choices, which include several films I have celebrated here before, are now posted over at Pupkin's place now for those interested. Of course, a list like this would vary week to week but I am happy with the films I have selected, which run the gamut from Italian Shockers, to Art-House Horrors, to even a mainstream American film from the nineties. I hope my choices and reasons proves interesting and both Rupert and I would appreciate any comments you'd like to throw our way over there. Thanks to him for asking me to participate, as past contributors have included everyone from blogging buddies like Peter Peel to one of my favorite filmmakers Joe Dante. I am in very good company and I am honored.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Art of the Movie Poster: Halloween III: Season of the Witch


John Carpenter's Halloween: It's a Kentucky Thing

***This was originally published at my main blog, Moon in the Gutter, in October of '08.***



While it may be set in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois (not to mention actually shot in California), John Carpenter's Halloween is to a lot of fans very much a Kentucky film.

I was only five years old when Halloween first hit theaters in October of 1978, so I was too young to see the film in its first run. I ended up seeing it for the first time around the age of ten courtesy of a TV broadcast and it had a huge impact on me. Never before had I felt so much glorious terror and it made horror my favorite genre, a fact that continues to this day. I have watched Halloween at least once every year since, making it one of the films I have seen the most, and those initial viewings still haunt my dreams and memories like no other.

Carpenter's Halloween

It wasn't just the thrills the film supplied that had such a huge impact on me but it was the regional references that struck an emotional chord. Locations mentioned like Smiths Grove, Hardin County and Russellville were instantly recognizable to me, as they are to any native Kentuckian, and I was thrilled to find out that my Mom had actually attended school (they had one college class together) with John Carpenter in the late sixties. Halloween became not only one of my favorite films just before my teenage years, but also my favorite Kentucky film...and Carpenter became the living embodiment of someone who had got out but hadn't forgotten his roots.



The Kentucky references are scattered all over Carpenter films, especially The Fog, and they appear numerous times in the Carpenter scripted Halloween II. In fact there are two particular moments in the first Halloween sequel that really hit me location wise as one names an area I lived at as a child, and another pinpoints the street and corner where I live at now. The obvious impact the state had on Carpenter (something he made clear last year when I saw him in person) is extremely resonate and quite haunting for someone like myself who knows this area so well and loves these films so much.

Carpenter's Halloween 2

As a child and now I often daydream at school about Carpenter's film and the characters who occupied it, especially Laurie Strode. I would often wish to step back into the past and run into the very people who inspired these iconic characters, who know doubt Carpenter knew back in his days as a young man walking down the streets I walk down now everyday.

For those interested in some of the Kentucky locations mentioned in several of John Carpenter's films, please visit this Bowling Green, Kentucky site that offers up a 'driving' tour you can take.

Vintage rankfort Postcards: Southern Presbyterian Church, 1915

Vintage Frankfort Postcards: Liberty Hall

Vintage Frankfort Postcard: Quality Inn in the Early Eighties


Vintage Frankfort Postcard: View From Daniel Boone's Monument

Passion Flower Hotel: Japanese Mini Poster and Lobby Cards







Monday, October 25, 2010

In Name Only: Dario Argento's Giallo


After spending the last year or so dreading it, I finally got a chance last night to sit down and watch Dario Argento’s tampered-with and much-maligned Giallo. I must admit it felt very strange to not go into an Argento film with some level of major excitement but Giallo’s troubled history, coupled with the fact that Argento didn't have final-cut, helped me go into the film with my lowest expectations ever for a work credited to one of my favorite directors. I must say though that, while this is clearly among Argento’s weakest films, I didn’t think Giallo was a total disaster and I found it better than the three films that I think represent Argento’s career nadir: The Phantom of the Opera, Do You Like Hitchcock and The Mother of Tears.

Argento’s newest starts out well enough, with an opening fifteen minutes or so that are marked by fluid camera work, nice pacing and several touches that are clearly 'Argentoesque'. The film starts to stumble though as soon as Adrien Brody’s character is introduced and it never recovers. Choppy, confused and, by the closing credits, an Argento film in name only, Giallo has inspired moments that are scattered throughout but it never catches fire or ever even comes close to really even sparking. Giallo’s biggest problem is its blandness. This just isn’t that exciting of a film and it’s really hard to ever truly engage with it.

A bad script (dealing here with a misogynistic serial killer who is kidnapping, mutilating and killing beautiful young women around Rome) isn’t the kiss of death for an Argento film, due to his audacious visual style, but here he doesn’t make up for the lethargic and lazy writing from American screenwriters Jim Agnew and Sean Keller. I saw someone else mention that Giallo feels like a work written by a pair that might have an idea of what a 'Giallo' is but they have no understanding of it. That’s pretty dead-on as far as a major issue behind the troubled Giallo goes, as it only occasionally approaches the classic Italian Genre that Argento is one of the unquestionable masters of. Could the film have been a success had Argento been allowed to make the movie he wanted to make? Probably, but with rumored interference from day one we will probably never know as a true director’s cut might be impossible at this point.

On top of a piss-poor script, Giallo also lacks some of the more necessary elements that typically grace an Argento picture, such as a memorable score and stylized look. The score, from Spanish born Marco Werba, is the dullest to ever grace an Argento film and it never elevates the material in the way a Morricone or Goblin soundtrack would have. Cinematographer Frederic Fasano, whose photography was one of the only saving graces for Mother of Tears, also delivers disappointing work as the look of Giallo is never that interesting. Outside of a few directorial flourishes there just isn’t much stylistically that Giallo has going for it and this, coupled with the poor scripting, makes it a long 90 minutes to get through.



Perhaps the most surprising thing about the film is the failure of what looked to be expert casting. Moon in the Gutter favorite Emmanuelle Seigner attempts valiantly to deliver a heartfelt performance as a woman obsessed with finding her kidnapped sister but the script doesn’t give her anything to work with, and her performance flounders because of this. Even worse is a stiff Adrien Brody who delivers a bizarre and lifeless performance (or performances, but I won’t go into that here) as Inspector Enzo Avolfi. Brody can be incredibly dynamic and exciting to watch (I have championed him here before) but he delivers a real self-sabotaging performance for Argento in Giallo. Compare Brody’s work here to Stefania Rocco’s bravura performance in Argento’s The Card Player a few years back for an example of how a great actor in a similar role can elevate extremely flawed material.

Giallo is a regrettable work from Dario Argento but, unlike Mother of Tears, it isn’t necessarily one to get angry about. This is absolutely a case where the blame for most of the problems on the screen rests at the foot of a group of producers who were looking to capitalize on Argento’s name, while not allowing him to make his own film. Perhaps instead of looking at Giallo as a complete failure we should celebrate the moments (particularly the opening sections of the film) where Argento’s genius shines through…they are admittedly few and far between but they make the film good for at least one viewing for devotees.

My Favorite Closing Shots: The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and The Stendhal Syndrome