So, I am sort of playing catchup here. For one thing I had change from the corny "Shocktober" moniker, because I just realized I had stolen that from another blogger. So, I went with the even cornier "October Spooktacular". SPOOOOOKY! Anyhow, I kicked off this October Spooktacular (yeah, it works) this weekend with a few classics and one non-classic that is just out-and-out insane. More on that later. So October is like the Spooky Holiday Time where often people like to revisit old scary favorites, especially because they are often on television right now. You know, like people normally do. This Saturday ended up being somewhat of a lazy Saturday, and to an extent I blame the movies that happened to be on. And my own sloth, of course. But they were doozies! To whit:
The Descent (2005)
I can't believe SyFy was showing this movie at 11 AM on a Saturday. Good for me, bad for any kids that happen to come across it. Seriously this isn't just a great horror movie, but a great movie in general. I think it is destined to become a modern horror classic. First off, it features a bunch of tough-as-nails ladies going spelunking, and they aren't just cutsie airheads either, they know whats up and what the risks are. But, of course, they get trapped in the cave...and something ELSE is down there with them. It sounds so trite I know, but even before the "creatures" show up, it plays into our most primal fears: of the dark, and, to an extent the fear of being lost, and the fear of being stuck in a small place. Ugh. It also has what I consider to be one of the scariest jump scares that I have seen in 10 years. The first time I watched it with Tina we both screamed and grabbed one another. Thankfully, we were at home at the time.
The Shining (1980)
An actual bonafide classic. Everytime I watch it too, I find something else about it I like. I mean at first it was the big sort of scary stuff that stayed with me: the elevator full of blood, the twin girls in the hallway, the lady in the bathtub, the guy in the dog suit. And they stay with you for good reason, don't get me wrong. But there is all sorts of things to admire. I can see what some people find Jack Nicholson to be a distraction, I mean he acts much too overly "crazy". Check out when he is talking to Lloyd the bartender, he's all smacking lips and exaggerated mannerisms. But the atmosphere is so oppressive, that, to me, he really isn't much of a distraction. But Shelley Duvall, as his wife Wendy, is really good, having to shoulder the responsibilities as everything starts to unravel in that place. Even before that the weight of dealing with her husband and the mysterious powers of her son were clearly weighing on her: check it out in the very beginning when Danny has an "episode" and she is talking to the doctor, the ash on her cigarette growing longer as she tries to come up with a way to explain to the doctor what happened with Danny and her husband before they moved. Also, it being Stanley Kubrick and all, it looks amazing. Check out just how these shots are framed:
The Exorcist (1973)
I've never understood when I meet people who tell me this movie is too slow for me. I really like that it is such a slow burn. The horror of something like what happens to Regan sort of slowly insinuating itself into someone's normal life is a terrifying proposition on its own. If it had happened all of a sudden, and Regan jumped out of a closet in full makeup, it just would not have worked as well. It's smart: it askes big questions about man's place in the universe and about religion. And it is scary: for it to be able to have not only shocks, but to be able to sustain a mood of visceral, nervewracking horror for two hours is just an amazing feat. True confession: It's still one of the few movies I'd rather not watch by myself with the lights off. It still gets under my skin. Hence, why I watched it at 10 AM on a holiday Monday morning.
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
So, I figured, I had never seen it, and it is also available right there on my Roku. It's only one of the more reviled and ridiculed movies ever. Why not give it a shot? All I can say is: wow. Yeah, its really not good, but it also not good in a spectacularly crazy fashion. It's so weird, Warner Brothers obviously wanted to recreate the "magic" so to speak of the original Exorcist so they threw a bunch of money at the sequel. And, for whatever reason, decided John Boorman was the man for the job to bring dignity and restraint to the production, just like he did with his previous offering, Zardoz. Seriously, Mr. Boorman spent a good portion of the seventies in a very odd place, and it shows in his movies. So, like his previous movie, dignity and restraint went out the window via the ejector seat. Boorman and the Warner execs must have been sharing....something. From the outcome its pretty clear what that was:
But, hey, it was the seventies. Boy, was it.
Honestly, I don't know where to start with this thing, there's so much nuts and wrong with it. Boorman had lofty goals to examine the nature of good and evil and the duality within mankind. Instead it had a frothing performance by Richard Burton as Father Lamont, at his most Shatner-like. It had James Earl Jones dressed up in a bee costume. It, seriously, had a tap dance interlude by Linda Blair. It had a new age machine called The Synchronizer where the users could synch up there thoughts. Pazuzu, the name of the demon apparently that originally possessed Regan, flying as a swarm locusts. Really. I will say though, I do find Louise Fletcher quite fetching. Its all really a mess, but if you have the chance and the inclination to watch it, you should check out just because it is so nuts.
One other thing about it. I seem to be making a habit of mentioning the music last, but the score is done by none other than Ennio Morricone, probably most famous for doing the music for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. His score, particularly the main title, just like the movie itself, is also weird and kind of crazy. It's like he decided to meld disco and...tribal music, maybe. Here I have to say that its the type of looney that it sort of does a 180 back to being amazing. Here's a taste along with a few scenes for you:
This movie has it's ardent defenders too. I was surprised that none other than Pauline Kael and Martin Scorcese loved it and thought it was better than the original. Both of them are wrong.