Today I thought I would talk about something often overlooked on Halloween, when adults who love it suddenly remember it's a holiday for children, or adults who hate it realize it's time to turn the porch light off so they don't have to make a trip to the store. I find that often when a person doesn't like kids, they don't much like the horrifically wonderful day of Halloween all that much either.
Candy, An absolutely essential element to the celebration of when the dead walk the earth. From what I recall, it was usually a struggle to sort out the treats from the tricks at the end of the night. I'd have my neat little piles of daily-use candy (bubblegum, jolly ranchers, the things one always finds in a child's pocket) and then I'd have the little bits of change given by mis-guided penny ponies, that is...the pennies some adults seem to think small children would prefer over a sugar high. Finally, I'd have two more piles. The delicious (the smallest pile) bits I would devour as soon as possible...and the nasty candy.
The nasty candy. The stuff nobody, kid or adult enjoys, and yet invariably remains a major element in most buckets. Why is it that some people think black licorice is any kind of substitute for Reeses, or circus peanuts any kind of stand-in for butterscotch? This year, when October comes around, I entreat you all to do a bit more thinking when it comes to your treating. Remember that a kid only gets so many years to Trick-or-Treat, so it's very important they have something nice at the end of the night to show for it. Buy the good stuff. If you absolutely have to get bad candy too...set it aside for the teens with their pillowcases at midnight, and hardly any kind of costume to show for it.
I'll be hard-pressed to ever put any horror actress above Ingrid Pitt, but of all the icons, Barbara Steele is one of the most memorable. He had an incredibly distinct bone structure and...these eyebrows that could just kill a guy. What's more, she had presence. Presence that dominated the screen, no matter who she was with. Except Vincent Price...they were a good match onscreen. But I'm very biased towards Mister Price, as I'm sure most of you realize by now.
When I first saw 'Black Sunday', I was struck dumb by just how gorgeous this woman was at the same time as being...very creepy. If I had to pick one woman to represent the Victorian ideal of beauty onscreen, I think Barbara would take the cake. Much like Anita Ekburg, Barbara was often dubbed over with other women's voices in her roles. I will go ahead and say I am not a fan of that particular device when I think an actress has a perfectly lovely voice, but what is even more amazing is that Barbara was still wonderful, despite the fact that she still didn't often get the chance to do her own talking.
Unfortunately, Barbara really didn't get a fair cut in a lot of movies. She also grew to resent being known as a scream queen, which is perfectly understandable. She was almost onscreen in a Corman film, but her scenes were cut. I haven't seen them, so I can't say for certain whether or not the decision was a good one...but it probably wasn't.
I'd like to end this short entry with a quote from Barbara herself, which might shed some light as to why she was so incredible in the few horror films she was in, and I think holds true for all great movies...scary or not: "Film is so porous, and to my mind, so oddly occult, that I think that film itself absorbs odd energies like a living skin." You're one in a million, Barbara Steele. One in a million.
One of my favorite artists, I don't think I'd be doing the world justice if I didn't bring him up at some point. So here you go, a favorite piece of mine by the great Zdzislaw Beksinski. Don't ask me to sound his name out, it can't be done.
That song...for me as an impressionable child...freaked me out. It wasn't the actual part about rotting, or leaking coffins, or dying....it was the worms. The bugs. I don't have an innate fear of insects and their ilk, but I can't help but get a little bit of a shiver when I think about being swarmed by/filled with creepy crawlies. So, in honor of their post as really freaking horrible little monsters...the trailers presented today are all about bugs and arachnids. ENJOY....
I really had no idea there were SO MANY of these movies, it's a very expansive genre. So I decided to stop here for now, or risk getting into the triple digits territory. There will be another one some time in the future though, so keep an eye out...and some bug spray handy.
We venture into yet another vintage comic series this week, Adventures Into Darkness. This one was from the end of the 'golden age of comics', and the company who did this little series was mostly known for pulp stories, which...honestly is pretty obvious from page 1. There's something with pulp detective stories, kind of like a common trope, where you always have to have at least one visible garish statue within the first five minutes. This comic managed it within the first five panels. Conveniently enough, the statue also happens to be the monster in the first story too.
I can't help but wonder when they were putting the story together whether the writer was an old man saying to himself 'yes, a monster...and some kind of spooky house. That's what kids like nowadays, right? Daggummit Mortimer Chacahoochie, you done it again!' Because it really does kind of read like a half-lucid summary of a longer ghost story, vaguely remembered by a person who wasn't really fond of it in the first place. I think my favorite aspect of this comic is the eyes, though they're mainly dots...the eyebrows are nicely expressive.
Imagine you have a daughter. She is your only child, and the light of your life. You would do everything for her, but you're not in the right financial situation to give your little girl the education you think she deserves. She is destined, much like the rest of your family, to spend her years doing back-breaking labor every day of her life to ensure that she can eat. So it is decided that she'll get a job. She'll become a servant in the house of an incredibly rich woman, and you know that every day she will be able to eat. Every day she will be able to survive with at least a little less effort than she would have, if she stayed home.
Now imagine instead that you do have money, but you still have a daughter. You love her, much as you would were you in the former situation. As much as you don't like to admit to yourself, she's getting older by the day. Soon she'll have to be married, but she'll only be able to find the best husband if she has the best manners. You receive an offer from a very rich and elegant lady to teach your daughter all of the etiquette and grace she would need to know, and she's lucky enough to be 1 among only 25 chosen at a time.
Time is beginning to pass, whether you are the first parent or the second. You do not receive word of your daughter, nor do you receive letters. Nothing. After months, maybe even years of anxiously waiting, you find out something very awful about the household your daughter 'joined'. Many, if not all, of the girls brought there have been murdered. Your daughter is among them, and she was killed in an unspeakably brutal way, her blood used in a sick ritual to bathe that very same rich woman who promised your daughter a better future.
This happened to over 650 young women. Girls. Children. Though the people who aided in the torture and disposal of these girls were tried and put to death, the monster responsible for this genocide was never put to a trial. She was sealed in her bedchamber with just enough of an opening in the wall for food/drink. She would go on to live like this for 4 years.
Elizabeth Bathory, the 'bloody countess', a very rich and very horrible person by all accounts. She is often practically glamorized in film. Why wouldn't she be? She was one of the richest people in her country, purportedly beautiful, elegant. But one think that always seems to be under-played...is the sheer scale of her crimes.
She was born in 1560, and grew up watching her father torture local peasantry for kicks, so her sadism was learned from a very young age. She married (at the age of 15) an infamously 'brave' warrior Count known affectionately as 'The Black Hero of Hungary', and from then became heavily involved in occult practices. This wasn't the new age crystal shaking of today, nor parlor tricks like pouring wax into water and predicting your future. This was the heavy-hitting satanic worship, complete with (very likely) sacrifices and naked Latin poetry circles.
Surprisingly, Elizabeth really didn't get started on her rampage until she was in her early 40s. She had children, and lived a relatively normal life by the standards of a rich Countess. She had kids, raised them, managed to keep herself from drinking their blood or using it for cosmetics, and honestly things might have gone on fairly nicely if she hadn't been a psychopath.
The story goes that her maid brushed Elizabeth's hair too hard, so she got a good smack for the incident. Somehow blood was drawn, so I suspect something far worse than a smack, and Elizabeth deliriously thought that the blood rejuvenated her skin when she rubbed it into her hand. I, personally, would not recommend this beauty treatment.
I could go on for ages describing all of the insanely ridiculous Bava levels of gruesome activities this woman did. Perhaps I'll even do another post about her some day. But for now, I will stop here. I would like to leave you with one final gruesome thought in the meantime: why do we say Bloody Mary when we look in the mirror? I think Bloody Elizabeth would be far more horrifying...
Maybe it's because the movie came out the year I was born, maybe it's because I think Eric Stoltz was incredibly cute in this movie. Whatever the reason, I actually prefer this sequel to the remake than the first part.
This is a very good late-night movie, as most of my favorites tend to be. When you're hardly awake, and your body gives you the option of immediately falling asleep when your head hits the pillow, or to just chill out in front of the tv flipping through the weird stations you don't bother with during the day. I saw this when I was 12, which was actually the most active late-night movie year in my life.
The combination of atmosphere, setting, and the sheer isolation the protagonist faces dealing with his 'affliction'...it's just the perfect formula for a fun horror film. Not to mention it came out right at the peak of incredibly horror SFX before the decline in the mid-90s as the people were discovering they much preferred really bad CGI to the look of actual visceral horror. Can you tell I'm bitter? Yes, I'm bitter.
There is something in the film too, which I think a lot of horror directors today have forgotten about, and even most non-horror directors. I actually felt for the characters, sympathy. There's of course room for the anti-hero in a well-written screenplay, but I don't think it is ever nearly as powerful as caring about what happens to him/her when you're watching a movie. It makes the next terrible moment actually terrible, and in The Fly 2, there are so many little (and a couple of major) moments that legitimately make me sad every time I watch this, and enhance the power of the more gruesome moments.
With that in mind, if you are an animal lover, the kind who can not handle bad things happening to sweet little pets...maybe you should stay away from this movie.
For those of you distraught at the seemingly small selection of watchable horror on Netflix instant, rejoice. I have found a movie (I'd been looking for for ages) that will tickle your fashion bone, chill your spine bone, and remind you just how good an exploitation film can be. I speak of course, of Sugar Hill.
Now I'm hoping you managed to get the plot from that quick trailer, and I'm sure you might have caught that it's rather like a combination between Dr. Phibes/Theatre of Blood/Cleopatra Jones. If you didn't, trust me...it is. What's more, I watched the movie expecting more slash and hack deaths for the bad guys than the sheer variety of epic murders delivered to me. There's of course, the voodoo, plenty of zombies (with some of the most interesting make-up I've ever seen), the massage parlor massacre, and more. It's just...god it's good.
Half the time, I was thinking about how awesome the storyline was...and how deliciously campy-cheesy it managed to be, while still maintaining quite excellent film quality for the genre. The other half of the time, I was reminded that the 70s get a horrible wrap for clothes, which really isn't justified. Just look at all the glamorous get-ups she wears in that trailer, the gorgeous hairstyles, and those INCREDIBLE LEISURE SUITS!
Well, what are you waiting for? Watch it. Watch it now! QUICKLY!