09 October 2011

October 9th

The Munsters: "Herman's Happy Valley" (1965) directed by Ezra Stone
More "The Monsters" with the elder daughter.  Herman buys 10 acres of what appears to be a ghost town set from a Western TV show.  It's supposed to be a scam but, of course, the Munsters love the place.  I love the image of Herman with toy six-shooters on his hips and a tiny cowboy hat atop his flat head.

The Munsters: "Hot Rod Herman" (1965) directed by Norman Abbott
Ah, finally, the famous Drag-u-la makes its appearance.  After Herman loses the Munster Coach in a drag race, Grandpa constructs a real drag racer out of a coffin and Herman kicks ass with it.  C'mon... it's a Frankenstein driving a race car made out of a coffin built by a Dracula... pure Halloween gold.  I also love that Rob Zombie managed to create a radio hit with an ode to this machine 33 years later.

The Munsters: "Herman's Raise" (1965) directed by Ezra Stone
The good: John Carradine as Herman's boss at the funeral parlor.  The bad: white guy doing a bad Asian stereotype as Herman's boss at the Chinese laundry.  The weird: a 7-foot-tall, green monster can get a new job every morning for a week.  The 1960s were strange.

The Munsters: "Yes, Galen, There Is a Herman" (1965) directed by Norman Abbott
I remember watching this one when I was a kid.  Herman finds a boy with his head trapped in a wrought iron fence. He frees him and tells the boy to call him "Uncle Herman."  Later, they hold hands as they walk to the Munster Mansion, where Herman takes the boy into the basement dungeon to watch Munster home movies.  Ah, the irony-free era.  Except for the racist shit (see above), it might be nice to live in such a time where snark and double entendre weren't at the forefront of everyone's thoughts.  Though, I can say that one of the benefits of becoming a parent is being able to appreciate these types of things through their innocent eyes.

Fertile Ground (2011) directed by Adam Gierasch
From the director of Horrorfest 2009's mediocre Autopsy, Gierasch's followup shows some improvement. Mainly, he's learned restraint.  There are no organs hanging from tubes in this film or mad scientists chasing twenty-somethings through a hospital.  This is a slow-builder about a couple who move to the country after the wife's devastating miscarriage.  They find a 150-year-old skeleton buried in their yard and learn of the dark history of their home.  Soon, the wife starts seeing ghosts in the house and begins to see a pattern in the house's history of murder.

Or so she thinks.  Exactly like The Innocents, there's a question as to whether she's really seeing ghosts or if she's insane.  In fact, this situation is so similar to The Innocents -- with the ghosts that only the woman can see and the hidden secret behind their appearances she's figured out -- I've gotta think Gierasch is a fan and this is an homage.  Inevitably, though, this film is going to suffer in comparison to that excellent movie.  While Leisha Hailey does a fantastic job in the role of the wife, everything else is not quite elevated above standard horror movie ghost story fare to make it interesting.  (6/10)

Red Dragon (2002) directed by Brett Ratner
Try as I might, I couldn't not think of Manhunter as I watched this.  While Red Dragon is closer to the novel, I still prefer the earlier film to the newer.  I don't think this is solely because I'm used to Manhunter.  I think -- no, I know -- Brett Ratner is a worse director than Michael Mann and you can see this in a comparison of the two movies.  

An example that struck me tonight was the scene in which they find a note from Dolarhyde in Lecter's cell.  There's a rush to take the note to the FBI, run all kinds of forensics tests on it and then hide it back in Lecter's cell before too much time has passed and he become suspicious.  In the earlier film, there's a wonderful sense of urgency as they fly the note to the FBI and carefully examine it with the clock ticking.  Characters keep asking for how much time they have left and the scenes are shot with lots of energy.  I felt none of this tension in Red Dragon.  Here, they even fake a power outage to give themselves even more time.  Then, the note is flown to the FBI, where people causally examine it in relatively static shots and no one seems to care how much time has passed.  And, while the note is returned in time, Red Dragon makes a point to show us that Lecter knows what has happened anyway.  Why?  There's no story reason for this.  It's purely because Hopkins' Lecter is a cartoony supervillain and cannot be shown to be anything other than omniscient.  There's a similar lack of energy and worship of Lecter throughout this film. (6/10)

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