It just occurred to me that, through no conscious effort other than a desire to match my entertainment choices with the cozy chilliness that’s been happening with the weather here lately, I’ve watched a scary movie every night this week so far. As you’ll see, the choices in movies that I’ve made have varied widely, but you’ve got to go where the autumn breeze carries you.
Sunday: WHAT LIES BENEATH (2000)
Robert Zemeckis apes Alfred Hitchcock with a supernatural thriller about a woman struggling to learn the nature of the haunting in her big lakeside house. In the early days, Zemeckis seemed to have good, tight relationships with storytelling and the performances of his actors. But — in my observation — starting in the mid-90s or so (around the time of Death Becomes Her) he shifted his focus toward the more technical aspects of filmmaking…Special effects and bravura camera setups (and often some combination of those two) became the main reason for his going to work every day, and it became harder and harder to connect with his movies as an audience member apart from the occasional “Cool shot!” moment. What Lies Beneath has story contrivances aplenty — the entire first half is a red herring, amounting to nothing — and some goofy characters moments, it wears its Hitchcock influence on the front of its t-shirt in a spooky glow-in-the-dark drippy font, but simply as an exercise in generating a mood of suspense in a big house and producing jump scares, it works. And knowing that it was filmed quickly during a break from the production of Cast Away, I can forgive it a lot of film school indulgences (basically, it only exists because Zemeckis wanted to keep the Cast Away crew working while Tom Hanks grew a beard and lost 400 pounds).
Monday: THE CITY OF THE DEAD (1960)
This is a small-scale B-movie that makes the most of some indoor sets and a smoke machine to create an effectively eerie mood of dread for a story about a tiny Massachussetts town secretly populated by witches. When a comely blonde college student visits the town to research its history…I won’t spoil anything, except to say that there are some plot elements that are very reminiscent of Psycho. Interestingly, Psycho had been released only two months prior to this being released, so it’s actually more likely a remarkable coincidence than a rip-off. If for no other reason, you should watch this one to hear Christopher Lee speak with an American accent.
Tuesday: HUNTER’S BLOOD (1986)
A turd sandwich on Deliverance bread, flatly directed and boring. Some late 30-something dudebros and their dads drive into the woods to do some hunting, where they fall afoul of a bunch of antagonistic hicks and have to fight for their lives. Among the hunters: jOEY tRAVOLTA (I hit caps lock there by accident, but it seems appropriate so I’m leaving it), Clu Gulager; among the hicks: Bruce “father of Crispin” Glover, Mickey “King of the Hicks” Jones, Billy Drago, Charles Cyphers. As you can see, the hunters didn’t stand a chance…Which is why it’s so unrealistic that they end up winning in the end spoiler alert. In summary: I can’t remember the last time I saw Charles Cyphers in a movie that wasn’t directed by John Carpenter. And this was really, REALLY not directed by John Carpenter.
Wednesday: THIRST (1979)
A weird Ozploitation movie about modern vampires who kidnap a descendant of Elizabeth Bathory in order to initiate her into their coven. The interesting thing is that the vampires have a “dairy” (looks like a weird health spa facility) where “blood cows” (humans they’ve kidnapped) are held alive and regularly bled for the vampires’ needs, which is a pretty good idea and when the vampire plague begins signaling the End Days of Mankind’s Rule of the Earth, I’m totally going to suggest it. But back to the fictional world of this movie…It starts of pretty good, like a cross between Rosemary’s Baby and The Prisoner with vampires, as the vampires hold the main character at the “dairy” and try to convince her to join them. But there’s only so many times you can fool me with a hallucination that turns out to be another attempt to trick her into drinking blood, so by the time the finale rolled around I was kind of yawning. All in all, a worthy addition to a vampire movie collection if you happen to be building one, but I probably won’t be watching it again any time soon.
It’s been about 11 years since I updated this, but trust that more content is currently in the works. I’ve found that lately I haven’t been watching very many of the kinds of movies I like to write about for VIDEO DEAD…but I definitely feel a new kick coming up, so if you’re still following then get ready…
In the film…
…And on Google Street View.