Category Archives: 31 Days Of Horror
I delight in the various short-lived but regular film-viewing arrangements I’ve had in my life. Whether with a partner, a colleague, a group of friends, or family, I have stumbled into brief periods of time when film watching is a regular, dependable, often weekly occurrence. With one such group, the activity was a Sunday film rental. After weeks of dramas and comedies, I was finally outnumbered on the popular, but terrifying The Ring. Although I had managed to avoid it during its theatrical run, I had heard how it made people jump and scream and the anticipation during the trip home from the video store was very nearly worse than the actual viewing. The trailer of the film that replayed in my head did nothing to quell my concerns. We can all picture the girl peeking out accusingly from behind her long black scraggly hair with the mere mention of the title.
Biff Bam Pop’s 31 Days of Horror continues to stalk its prey (that’s you, gentle victims readers) from the shadows of the interwebs! Today, I’m going to take a look at a truly classic horror film from the early days of the art form itself: Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920).
The end of the First World War saw an explosion of artistic innovation in Germany. Harrowed by the war and defeat, artists began to revolt against not only the traditional strictures of German society, but against representational traditions as well. Expressionism was a movement and a style designed to oppose Impressionism’s ideal of portraying things as they appear to the eye with revelations of inner realities. Not things as they seem then, but things as they are (or at least as the artist views them). It was a perfect form for challenging the rigid traditions of German culture, and of criticizing the governments of both the Kaiser and the nascent Weimar Republic. There was something of shock art about Expressionism, showing people the world in an unaccustomed and often uncomfortable manner.
Back in the 1980’s, Stephen King famously said that he had seen the new face of horror and that it belonged to Clvie Barker. Now, while I know I’m not anywhere the Master’s league, whenever I think about the work of Jen and Sylvia Soska, I feel as though they’re the new “new” face of horror. If that’s the case, the genre is in good hands.
Like many, I first discovered the Soska Sisters with their groundbreaking, body modification horror film, American Mary. A low budget movie that doesn’t look it, American Mary features a stellar performance by the luminous Katharine Isabelle as a med student who enters the lucrative world of body modification surgery. The film is often gruesome, but it doesn’t rely on the gore; this is a character driven horror flick at its finest (it’s on Netflix and TMN in Canada and is absolutely worth your time; even my mom thought it was “interesting”, which, believe me, is high praise).
This week, the Soska Sisters return with their latest directorial effort, See No Evil 2, a sequel to a film I never saw in the first place. The original stars WWE superstar Glenn “Kane” Jacobs as serial killer Jacob Goodnight, who was apparently killed at the end of the first film, but you know how these things go. Instead, Goodnight returns to terrorize a bunch of students at a morgue where birthday girl Amy (Danielle Harris) has to work late.
Oh Phantasm, Don Coscarelli’s cult classic masterpiece. What is it about this movie and this franchise? Why can’t I quit you?
These are not good movies. Come on, you know it too. Phantasm makes no sense, the plot strays, no loose ends are tied, the dialogue, special effects, and sound effects are way out of the normal acceptable cheese range. But it works. I think that’s what it is, the magic of Phantasm. It doesn’t need you to understand. It doesn’t care if you get it or not. The first instalment is 88 minutes of unapologetic spooky, sexy entertainment and that’s that. Phantasm keeps it simple while still managing to be anything but ordinary. It lets you simply sit back, turn your brain off, and immerse yourself in the nightmare of the Tall Man, killer dwarves from another dimension, and as the main character learns is the scariest thing of all: fear itself.
In March of 1990, I had just recently turned 13 years old. I was on a family trip to Houston to visit some friends of my father, but for me, the most important thing to accomplish this trip, aside from studying for my imminent Bar Mitzvah, was finding a movie theatre that was showing Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. The film had been rated R in Canada, which meant nobody under 18 was allowed to see it (screw you, Big Brother!). On one of our final nights, Dad (ill at the time), his friend and me schlepped to some out of the way movie theatre, where the film was still playing. Walt, my Dad’s friend, hates horror movies, so he opted to see Look Who’s Talking, while we went and sat through Clive’s monster movie equivalent of Star Wars. Having read both the original novel, Cabal, and the Epic Comics adaptation, I was psyched to see the creatures of Midian come to life. And when they did, I thoroughly enjoyed. Admittedly, I was also thrilled to be seeing a film some watchdogs seemed to think I wasn’t ready for (up yours, Big Brother!). However, my enjoyment was slightly curtailed as the film’s conclusion, when I asked Dad if he liked it.
“No,” he scoffed. “It wasn’t even scary.”
Not scary! Not scary! What do you mean, not scary. It was…it was….
Look, Dad had a point, ok. Even if I loved it.
When I sat down to watch Neil Jordan’s masterful 2012 vampire film, Byzantium, I was filled with more than a little apprehension. I gave up on the “beautiful” vampire some time in the late 1990s when Lestat, protagonist of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, was busy entertaining self-indulgent and mediocre conversations with God and the Devil in Memnoch the Devil (a largely forgettable novel). “That’s it!” I thought, and throwing the book to the ground, I vowed to never again indulge in the onanistic drivel of most teen goths. Don’t even get me started on the Twilight franchise. More on Byzantium after the jump.
Some horror doesn’t need to be gory. It doesn’t need to be violent, nor does it have to be supernatural.
Sometimes the biggest scares of all are the ones that come from real life.
Such was the case with the Zodiac killer, who terrorized the Bay Area back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, never to be captured.
The story of the Zodiac became an American legend, and in 2007, it also became one of director David Fincher’s greatest films.