10 October 2014

October 10th

When a Stranger Calls (1979) directed by Fred Walton
"We've traced the call and it's coming from inside the house!" A classic climax to an urban legend. But, how do you make that into an entire 90 minute movie? Well, Fred Walton and company turned it into a cat and mouse chase between the insane caller and a former cop. Somehow, it works.

What elevates this film above others of the same type are the performances. Charles Durning isn't given a lot of background for his character -- he's a private detective and a former cop and that's about it -- but he infuses his character with subdued rage and a burning desire to catch the child-killing madman. The character of Tracy, who seems at first to be either incidental to the story or a likely murder victim, is given life by veteran actress Colleen Dewhurt. Tracy is hardened, but not entirely heartless, and wears a permanent look of weariness in her eyes. She's fascinating to watch. Tom Beckley, as the madman, is made to be oddly sympathetic as he aimlessly walks the streets of L.A. looking much like a kicked puppy. It's one of the most real portrayals of a psycho killer I've seen, particularly in a horror movie from this era. Director Fred Walton ties these performance together with some wonderful cinematography and expertly paced tension.

I wish I'd taken the hint from the very first clip shown in Terror in the Aisles and watched this one long ago.

The Walking Dead 4.03: "Isolation" (2013) directed by Daniel Sackheim
It's always the little, stupid things that bother me about this show. I can easily buy zombies. That's fun. I can't buy a real, medical doctor being such a dipshit, even if he is sick, that he would fail to cover his cough and spray diseased blood all over an old man's face. What the hell? My 4-year-old knows better than that. If the writers wanted to show how much Hershel was risking, surely they could've thought of something a little better?

The Walking Dead 4.04: "Indifference" (2013) directed by Tricia Brock
Yay, a road trip episode! The prison setting is so dull, it's nice to get out and see the worn world outside. No comment on the lack of abandoned cars blocking the roads, the mysteriously mowed lawns, and the dustless/spider web-less houses. A show can only do so much.

I also cannot express how little I care about Bob the alcoholic's alcoholism and the supposed drama that it creates. It's hard to think of a more cliched, "very special episode" character flaw. Let the dude drink. It's the end of the world.

Tales from the Crypt 6.05: "Revenge is the Nuts" (1994) directed by Jonas McCord
One of the lesser Tales episodes. A man running a home for the blind treats his residents cruelly and gets his just desserts. Isaac Hayes is in this one, but even he doesn't make things particularly fun outside of a lame Shaft joke.

Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game (2014) designed by Ben Cichoski & Danny Mandel
Board game night again. In addition to playing Dead of Winter again (I won!), we also tried out the new deck building game based on the Alien movies. We've already played its cousin, Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game and that one is pretty fun. In these deck building games, you start with a hand of weak cards and use their printed currencies to either buy strong cards from a shared pool or attack bad guys. As the game goes on, you'll start to get better and better hands as you buy more and more cards for you deck.

Alien turned out to be far, far harder than Marvel. We were thoroughly stomped by the bugs in the two games we played. We chose to play the scenario that mirrors the first movie, which meant recruiting Ripley, Dallas, Parker, and Lambert cards from the pool to fight the aliens and complete the three movie-related objectives. Unlike Marvel, you each play a character in Alien who has a set amount of health (I chose the synthetic). As aliens escape into the board's combat zone, they cause you to draw strike cards. Strike cards have gory artwork of various alien attacks (a tail through your middle, an acid burn, etc) and wear down on your character's health very fast. While there are ways to heal yourself (or others), those opportunities were rare. The aliens easily killed all three of us playing in both games from these attacks. 

Brutal game. We may play a variant next time that has fewer gotcha cards mixed into the bad guy deck and see how this goes.


  1. I was surprised at how early the "Call is coming from inside the house" gag happened in the movie and thus had no idea what to expect for the rest of the movie, which made it more interesting (I think the reason it took me so long to actually watch this was that I was sure I knew the ending). Of course, it's super disjointed and weird, and the middle act drags on a bit too long, but I liked it...

  2. "When a Stranger Calls" has one of the best openings of any horror movie. It's also, not coincidentally I think, the main thing everyone remembers about that movie. I know the remake from a while extended the first fifteens minute into a feature but, if the bad reviews that one got are any indication, that didn't work either. I think that was right amount of length for that sort of story and I've always admired the original film for going in a wildly different direction after that.

    I'd skip the belated sequel, "When a Strangers Calls Back," unless you really liked the Charles Durning and Carol Kane characters.