By: Reaper Rick
Greetings one and all, and welcome to issue number *50* of The World of Myth Magazine, not to mention this month’s Movie Reviews with Reaper Rick. Coincidentally, this is also our Halloween issue, so I thought we might spend some time with a few flicks which have a spooky, horror or Halloween-type theme. So sit back, relax, cook up some popcorn and read on…
First off, we need to take a short trip in the ‘Way Back’ machine (and I promise it will be the only time during this review) to 1963 and look at one of the best horror movies ever made. I am speaking of “The Haunting,” developed from the novel by Shirley Jackson. This film starred Julie Harris, Clair Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tamblyn. All right, so many of you may have never heard of any of these actors, but that is no reason to miss this classic horror tale of the original ‘Hill House.’
Johnson is a doctor who studies the supernatural and has invited several people he has never met to spend a weekend at Hill House so he might observe how they react to the house. All of these guests have some physic talent, even if they are unaware of it or, in at least one case, tend to suppress this ability. You may have figured out by now that Hill House is very haunted, but even the doctor cannot anticipate what transpires during this weekend of terror, because it turns out the house is also very much alive, and it wants to keep one of the guests.
But, seriously (you might ask), what kind of scary movie can we expect from a 1963 flick shot in black and white? Granted, this movie has almost no special effects, and only a small trace of actual blood is presented; even so, this is an amazing psychological and visual thriller, and the horror sneaks up on you when you least expect it. To increase your discomfort, at times the tilted and skewed photographic angles present a subtle disorientation which adds to the entire atmosphere of unease and fear in the viewer. Watch this movie in a darkened room with a close friend or loved one for the best effect.
For a great story, superb acting, and terrifying results, I give “The Haunting” Four Big Howls of Pleasure . Happy Halloween with this one!
Next up we have a movie which is tailor made for Halloween—“Season of the Witch” from earlier this year. It stars Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, and Claire Fox, with a cameo by the great Christopher Lee. Cage and Perlman are 14th Century Crusaders who, after several years of killing thousands of people, decide that attempting to eradicate an entire race of people—warriors and civilians alike—simply because they are not Christian may not be the right thing to do. So they leave the Crusade and head home.
Once back in Europe, they discover a land ravished by Plague, and are then arrested for being deserters from the Holy War. It turns out, however, that in the small town in which they are arrested (and sentenced to death, by the way) a priest also has in custody a young witch who needs to be transported to a religious center for trial and execution. This priest offers to stay their own death sentence if Cage and Perlman help transport the witch. Seems a fair enough exchange so they agree and, together with the priest and several others, they start on their journey with the witch locked in a large, barred wagon.
As the journey progresses, Cage begins to feel that the girl has been abused by the priest and is most likely innocent of the witchcraft charges. I, too, initially assumed this story was going to be a typical ‘witch-hunter’ type of tale, but then some rather odd things began to occur and I started to wonder just where this movie was going. Without giving much more of the plot away, this turned out Not to be a typical witch movie at all, for which I was greatly relieved. There are unusual twists and unexpected turns throughout, with a really nice shocker surprise at the end which makes this movie worth a rental at the very least.
You can’t go wrong with a Cage and Perlman combo, and this is a good Halloween movie. It may not be especially frightening, but it does have its moments, so overall I give “Season of the Witch” Three Howls of Pleasure . It makes a good weekend rental and is a fun popcorn flick.
Now I must do something I rarely do to a current movie—give a pan. “Red Riding Hood” was boring, dull, and poorly written, and to judge by the box office receipts, a lot of people agree with me. This dog starred Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Julie Christie and Michael Hogan (who also starred in “Battlestar Gallactica” and played the same sort of ignorant loud-mouth in both productions).
This Fairy-Tale was updated somewhat by making the girl about twenty years old and the wolf in question a killer werewolf, but neither of these changes helped the plot. The acting was wooden, for the most part, and even veteran actors Gary Oldman and Julie Christie gave poor performances. I was completely disappointed in this flick and give “Red Riding Hood” One Hangman’s Noose for wasting the public’s time and money on such a poor effort.
And now, on to something completely different. I heard a lot of spooky things about this next movie, but actually knew very few details and so didn’t see it until recently. “Insidious” is from 2010 and starred Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, and Barbara Hershey. I was somewhat disappointed at the beginning of the film, as it started off rather slowly. Right away you realize that ‘something’ is going on when a family moves into a new house. Things are found knocked off of shelves or in different places, and the young boy tells his mother he doesn’t like his room—but we don’t know why. Eventually the wife is sure the house is haunted and insists they move, after just moving in. The husband finally gives in and they move to another house.
Time tends to drag on for a bit, until one morning the young boy is found unconscious in his bed. Doctors discover he is in a coma, but is otherwise perfectly healthy. The boy is brought home and cared for by a nurse, but he remains in a coma for months. Pretty dull, so far, but finally things begin to look up. The boy’s grandmother (Barbara Hershey) convinces her daughter to have someone come in and investigate her son’s condition. And this is where I felt the movie reminded me of “Poltergeist” from 1983. A female clairvoyant comes in with two paranormal investigators to look over the house and the boy, and what they find finally makes the movie worth watching.
There are spoilers up ahead, so if you wish to see this movie and not know what happens, do not read any further in this review. Otherwise…well, it’s up to you. Okay. So, it turns out the boy has been indulging in astral projection for many years, but thought his night-time journeys were merely dreams. Since he was untrained in the dangers of projection, he eventually wandered too far from his body and became lost in the ‘Neverwhere’ of the astral world. And now, a number of rather nasty disembodied sprits and at least one demon were attempting to gain control of his sleeping body so they might once again enter the living world.
I thought this angle was fairly interesting, since not many stories of astral projection gone wrong have surfaced over the years. H.P. Lovecraft wrote one many years ago called, “The Thing on the Doorstep,” and there have been a few others, but never one which involved a child, so this caught my attention, and finally the movie begins to show some signs of spookiness and fright. How the boy is saved is also a surprise, and the ending has an unusual kicker to it. This is not a great flick, but is a good Halloween rental and a fun popcorn movie, if you can manage to sit through the first rather slow forty minutes or so. For an interesting concept and a few frightful moments, I give “Insidious” Two and a Half Howls of Pleasure.
Now we look at a movie which is a curious mixture of surreal fantasy and psychological horror. “Sucker Punch” was written and directed by Zack Snyder, and starred Emily Browning, Scott Glenn, Carla Guqino, and Oscar Isaac. Right from the opening scene this movie has a weird flavor to it, and it isn’t until the final scene that you finally figure out what has really happened.
A young woman—Baby Doll—is sent to a mental asylum by an abusive step-father after her mother dies, and due to this abuse, her step-father wants all knowledge of his actions expunged, so he pays to have Baby Doll lobotomized. There is a plot in this movie—being sent to the asylum for a lobotomy—as well as a sub plot, as Baby Doll mentally retreats into an alternative reality as a coping strategy to deal with her trauma. But, a third plot arises within this alternative reality, as Baby Doll and several other girls plan an escape from the asylum. Yes, it is confusing, and for some time I thought I had missed a sizable portion of the movie as things began to happen rather rapidly. All I can advise the viewer is not to blink, and absolutely do not leave the room during this movie or you may be totally lost—much as Baby Doll becomes.
However, once within this alternate reality, Baby Doll meets a ‘wise man’ (Scott Glenn) who tells her that to obtain her freedom she must find certain items—a map, fire, a knife, a key, and a mystery item which only she will recognize. Oh, and she also has to fight an onslaught of maniac killers who will attempt to stop her escape. She is given a katana, a tanto knife, a whip, and a 1911 .45 caliber pistol with which to defend herself, but these weapons are only useful in the third sub-plot reality, where she must go on several quests with her co-escapees to locate the five items she needs to get them out of the asylum.
Did I mention that this movie can get a bit confusing? Even so, the pieces do begin to fall into place as Baby Doll and her cohorts fling themselves from one fantastic, dangerous, and deadly adventure to another in their search for the items needed to escape. Meanwhile, back at the asylum, Baby Doll and her friends are forced to perform sensual dances and other rituals for customers in the second alternate reality, where she keeps the items they find while questing in the third reality. All of this going on while time ticks away toward her lobotomy in the first reality. Whew!
I strongly suggest that you view this movie at least twice to appreciate the full impact, and to be sure that you don’t miss too much the first time. I personally have not seen a movie so convoluted, with so many twists and turns and surprises (one right after another) toward the end of a flick since “Shutter Island.” The special effects are amazing, and the suspense and tension build until you may wish to scream in frustration or dismay. This movie may not be for everyone, but I do recommend it for those who have a strong mental constitution, and anyone who plays video games might also enjoy it.
All in all, “Sucker Punch” is an unusual, highly visual, and very mental movie, but is well worth a rental and would no doubt be a great Halloween flick. I give it Three and a Half Howls of Pleasure.
Finally, we stray away from the world of ‘Horror’ and wander into the realm of science fiction and aliens. Well, of one alien in particular, whose name is “Paul.” I have waited anxiously for the team of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg to write another movie, and while nothing may match “Shaun of the Dead” for sick humor, “Paul” is a fun and occasionally laugh-out-loud movie. Along with Simon and Nick, “Paul” stars Seth Rogen (as the voice of Paul), Jason Bateman, and has guest roles and cameos with Jane Lynch, Jeffery Tambor, and Sigorney Weaver.
Pegg and Frost travel to the U.S. to attend a Comic-Con in (presumably) Southern California, and then they rent a large Recreational Vehicle, with plans to visit all of the famous alien hot-spots in the southwest—Area 51, Roswell, etc. One night while near Area 51 they witness an accident on a lonely highway, but when they investigate the crash site they find no one in the car. But something was in the car—a small grey alien named Paul, who convinces our two heroes to help him return home.
Paul neglects to mention that a lot of very dangerous people are looking for him since he escaped from Area 51, and the mad pursuit is only added to when they accidentally kidnap a young, one-eyed woman who happens to be a serious bible-thumper. She, too, eventually sees the light however, and all three of them race the Men in Black to get Paul home once again.
This movie has some really good moments—the camp fire scene was an especially laugh-out-loud moment—and there is even a surprise moment or two toward the end. Overall, “Paul” is well worth a weekend rental and is a nice change of pace for Halloween viewing. I give “Paul” Three and a Half Howls of Pleasure.
And that should do it for this issue. I wish everyone a Happy Halloween, and hope you get to watch some Good movies. See ya next time…