24 September 2011

September 24th

Frankenstein (1931) directed by James Whale
We made it through 49 minutes before having to stop.  I thought the 80-year-old Frankenstein might be a tame enough movie to watch with my nearly 4-year-old daughter, but it was just too scary.  She was fine with the brains in the jars and the doctor's experiment, but as soon as Fritz started teasing the monster with the torch, she was done.  I got her to watch a bit more, but every appearance of the monster was scarier than the last.  Wisely, I stopped it right before the monster decides to throw Maria in the lake, leaving it with "see, she's teaching Frankenstein how to be nice and sharing her flowers."  Ah well.  I'm just happy she watched a slow, black & white movie and her only complaint was the scariness.

Seeing my daughter react to Frankenstein got me thinking about the movie in a way I really haven't before.  What is scary in it?  As an adult in the era of Saw 3D, it's difficult to see the film as anything other than quaint.  However, if you've never, ever seen a horror movie before... the monster is something special.  Jack Pierce's makeup is really good, as is Karloff's performance.  There's a reason this particular take on Frankenstein has endured.  If you're unused to seeing such things, I can understand the monster being frightening: a big, lumbering, disfigured guy who seems to only groan or strangle.  But, it's hard to get into that mindset as an adult

Hmm... maybe we'll try to watch Bride of Frankenstein next year.  (7/10)

Tales from the Darkside: "Inside the Closet" (1984) directed by Tom Savini
Finally, an episode that really is from the "darkside."  And, Tom Savini's first directing gig at that.  A college girl rents a room in a professor's house and begins hearing weird noises from a locked closet.  Turns out -- and too bad for her -- it's a hungry little imp-thing in there.  This is a mostly decent episode with a pretty good build of tension.  Unfortunately, the imp-thing just doesn't look good.  In fact, it looks pretty much like a toothy, naked Furby.  The bad puppet pretty much ruins the episode.  I think the problem was that the director was also the head of the SFX department responsible for building the thing.  Instead of cloaking the puppet in shadows to both mask its flaws and make it scarier, he wanted to show it off.  Didn't work out so well...

We All Fall Down (2005)
The Gibbering Horror of Howard Ghormley (2005)
Means to an End (2005)
Mainstream (2005)
Disposer (2005)
The Journal of Edmond Deyers (2005)
Sawbones (2005)
Working Stiff (2005)

Dark House (2009) directed by Darin Scott
The first Fangoria Frightfest movie of the season and -- surprise, surprise -- the first crappy movie of the season.  Horror has a serious technology problem.  Cellphones, for example, are a huge thorn in horror's side.  It takes much more effort to isolate your characters when you've got to deal with everyone carrying a pocket communicator.  Computers, also, are trouble.  They seem to temp horror screenwriters into ridiculous plot ideas.  In this movie, a haunted house attraction creator somehow has the equivalent of holodeck technology.  Instead of, I don't know, making trillions of dollars licensing this tech to everyone on the planet, he decides to install it in a Victorian house so he can scare people.  Like every holodeck story, the holograms go nuts and start killing people (actually, a ghost haunts the computer and infects it like a computer virus(!). We know this because we're shown a computer screen running the Matrix screensaver with the words "Virus Detected" superimposed on it along with an angry ghost video.  Yeah, really).

There's an attempt at the end of the movie to explain the killings in more natural ways -- the protagonist went nuts and did it herself -- but it doesn't remotely stand up to scrutiny (holograms or no, the other people in the house are going to notice her killing people).  Regardless, I couldn't get past the stupidity of the technology in the movie to enjoy it.  Call it the Exorcist II problem.  (4/10)

Fragile (2005) directed by Jaume Balagueró
I think the vengeful ghost story is my least favorite horror subgenre.  Someone gets wronged and killed, they haunt a place and hurt people, the protagonist takes ninety minutes or so to figure things out, the end: it's the same story over and over.  This one finds Calista Flockhart on the Isle of Wight, taking the night shift as a nurse at a children's hospital.  A nurse who died 50 years ago doesn't want the place shut down, so she starts breaking the legs of the kids and shoving people out of windows.  I'm not sure how this makes much sense, but maybe ghosts don't operate using people logic.

I'll admit the movie is well written and shot and paced.  Flockhart is excellent as Amy, the nurse who figures things out. But, I just didn't care for the story. (6/10)



  1. Interest post. I've been waiting for the right time to introduce my four year old cousin to the Universal Monsters and Godzilla. But my main concern isn't that he'll be scarred, but that those films will be too slow for a kid raised on "Transformers" cartoons.

    Back when I still worked in a video store (May it rest in peace), I used to see the Fangoria Horrorfest trailers as part of our trailer loop. Most of them looked pretty awful. Lots of fake looking creatures awkwardly jumping out of things at people. "Pig Hunt" and "Grim Love" are okay though.

    As a horror screenwriter myself, I've found an easy way to get around the cell phone problem: Set the story in the past.

  2. Heh, that's exactly why Ti West set House of the Devil in the past, too. Still, eventually you've got to tell a tale set in the now. Sigh -- I hate that the "search the library for a musty book" montage has been replaced by the "google it" montage.