Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Celluloid Ramblings: Recent Boo-ings

by JB
In October, a man’s heart turns to…

Some things just go together: peanut butter & chocolate, pretzels & beer, peanut butter & beer.... What I am trying to say is that as the weather gets cooler, the days get shorter, and the trees get naked, that’s the time when scary movies seem like a natural watch. Is our love of #ScaryMovieMonth merely due to the coming of Halloween, or is it an instinctual “caveman reflex” to consider our own mortalities on the eve of another crushing winter that we just might not survive?

It could be that we simply thrill to being in some sort of “invisible competition” with others at F This Movie! to post more seven-word reviews this month than anyone else. Thanks in part to those reviews—and my desire to post more of them myself—this SMM, I have seen some outstanding horror offerings that were new to me. I recommend the following with all of my little black heart.

One Cut of the Dead
I remember the tiny controversy swirling around this one earlier in the year when Amazon Prime briefly offered up an illegal copy for streaming. What was up with that? Thankfully, Shudder now offers the legal goods and, let me tell you, this is one of this year’s MUST WATCH horror films. The plot is simple: a film crew makes a zombie movie in an abandoned warehouse and is beset by real zombies. OR ARE THEY? Seemingly a one-extended-take, shot-on-video quickie from Japan, the film proceeds to open like a puzzle box, revealing layer after layer of the mayhem inherent in its creation. The small details here are so well observed that it becomes a remake of François Truffaut’s Day For Night, only with zombies. One Cut of the Dead is so endlessly clever and has so much to say about any creative endeavor, it just knocked me on my intellectual ass. Be sure to stay through the credits to discover just how complicated the production actually was. “So… do you have any hobbies?”

Satanic Panic
Patrick got to see this earlier in the year during Cinepocalypse, and I am jealous because I would have loved to see this in a movie theater packed with horror fans. Like all the great horror comedies, Satanic Panic pulls off the neat trick of being both funny and scary at the same time. We chuckle knowingly at the self-referential comedy, but we are still worried and squeamish about what director Chelsea Stardust next has up her sleeve. This also features terrific performances by leads Hayley Griffith, Ruby Modine, and Rebecca Romijn and a very funny cameo by Jerry O’Connell (This is almost as funny as his recent viral Twitter video in which he sings along with Prince in the car to his horrified daughters’ chagrin.) The film also features both trenchant socio-economic satire and boatloads of practical gore effects—how many damn films fit that bill? Highly recommended.

And Soon the Darkness (1970)
This was my “Blind Buy of the Month,” which turned out to be truly blind because I thought that I had seen it decades ago, and it turned out that I had not. I must have confused it with another low-budget Pamela Franklin art film/horror hybrid. My seven-word review described it as a horror film made by Michelangelo Antonioni, and I wasn’t just being a pretentious douche nozzle. This film borrows a bit from the plot of Antonioni’s L’Avventura, but turns it into a giant cat and mouse game between the filmmakers and the audience. Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice play English girls on a cycling vacation in France. They quarrel and Dotrice goes missing. Who-dunit? What-dunit? Where-wasitdunit? This film seems designed to provide a stripped-down murder mystery for viewers who think they have seen it all. It’s deliberately slow and low-key, but watch how director Robert Fuest ramps up the tension using the plainest techniques. I particularly like how he uses the locals’ inability to speak English as an off-putting distancing device. What other film features Pamela Franklin shouting, “Hello! Where are you?” to a character that SHE KNOWS IS DEAF?

Creepshow on Shudder
Boy, am I ever glad that I subscribed to Shudder. What other streaming service gives us so much for so little: the Halloween Ghoul-Log; Joe-Bob Briggs’ The Last Drive-In series, which is becoming default Friday-night viewing in my house; One Cut of the Dead LEGALLY, as I mentioned above; the uncut Eli Roth History of Horror series, and now a new weekly series, loosely based on the George Romero/Stephen King chestnut. I love the fact that Shudder didn’t just drop the whole series at once to encourage binge watching the whole damn thing in a ten-hour stretch. Like The Last Drive-In, I look forward to a little piece of this every week. Every episode segment is at least good, and the great ones are truly great: my current favorites include “The House of the Head,” about a creepy dollhouse (Is there any other kind?); “Bad Wolf Down,” a WWII tale; “The Man in the Suitcase,” which is better seen than summarized; and “The Finger,” an amazing first-person revenge tale written by David J. Schow, who seems to be channeling Edgar Allan Poe. Schow-Poe! Sham-Wow!

If your old favorites somehow aren’t doing it for you during October this year (Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein AGAIN?!) check out these new and/or obscure horrors. I can’t say that you will be glad that you did… because you will be terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

Happy Scary Movie Month!


  1. “The Finger” is my favorite of all the Creepshow segments so far. That episode (the other segment was the werewolves) is probably my favorite of the season.

  2. "The trees get naked" is my favorite thing I've seen anyone write this month. I keep meaning to watch One Cut of the Dead. This will be the thing that pushes me to finally do it. "Creepshow" is really great and fun. Like all anthologies, the rough edges make it feel more authentic. "The House of the Head" is one of my favorite segments, too. Not sure it lands on its feet but everything up to the last shot is exactly what I want out of October. ...By the way, did anyone else read The Dollhouse Murders in elementary school or did I dream that book?

  3. Ohh nice - haven't watched The Finger yet, but the wWWII Werewolf episode before it was awesome, as was The Man in the Suitcase. Didn't care much for All Hallow's Eve which was unfortunate, because setting.

    Couple favorite 1st time watches this month have been WITHOUT WARNING & TO THE DEVIL...A DAUGHTER, which is unexpectedly bonkers, but not in a bad way. Just didn't expect all the imagery from a Hammer movie.

  4. I agree each Creepshow has been good. Episode 4 being the weakest. The Man in the Suitcase is my favorite followed by The Dollhouse (which didnt stick the ending).