Spooktober Day 21: Rosemary’s Baby

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Rosemary’s Baby was a film I saw young enough where it was one that I didn’t quite understand why it scared me. It was more psychological than some of the others I had been consuming, and my not-quite-yet strange enough brain wasn’t ready to be completely compelled. The fact that it was still was is part of the reason it’s coming up in this list of 31 movies (which was very hard to only limit to 31). I find that for my earliest recollection of the film what stood with me the most was the overarching feeling of unease.

Even if you don’t know fully why something latches onto you, doesn’t make it any less true that it does. In many ways my imagination, and the direction of this film that demanded I use it, created something terrifying in my head without always explaining why it was.

“This isn’t a dream! This is really happening!”

Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) move into a new building, hoping to start a family. After she becomes pregnant, her new neighbors Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) seem to want to help her, but there are ulterior motives underneath, as she grows more and more suspicious of those around her and their intentions. This includes her husband who continuously seems to disregard and dismiss her concerns.

Ominous. Rosemary’s Baby has always felt so ominous, much like another I almost wrote in its place The Omen. From an early onset of both of those films (there are other similarities as well, heh) there’s a hint of dread that is decidedly persistent on never letting you forget it. You see it in the characters, you feel it in the overwhelming mood, and when the end comes, you are consumed by it. What a spellbending ending too!

It’s pure psychological horror at its best, elegant in a way that’s rarely seen now, as the anticipation of what’s to come and the walls of security and certainty begin to fall around Rosemary.

The design of the apartment immediately feels as creepy as it inevitably proves to be, and the expert use of sound editing and that score (!) is perfect. The monsters in Rosemary’s Baby are more terrifying because of their suspected, as they portray it, innocence. The juxtaposition of characters and locale, the horrifying and the everyday life, make it enthralling. This isn’t a show and tell sort of horror, it’s the kind you breath in slowly and with each inhale, you feel heavier and heavier. The film is crafted in a sophisticated fashion, with detail paid to every movement of camera, and as the realizations settle in, and tightness in our chests is also reflected on Farrow‘s face.

Mia Farrow is phenomenal, tapping into maternal fears and sense of distrust with full vulnerability. She carries this film on her shoulders, even as everyone tries to push her further down, she remains, headstrong and resilient. There’s a moment where she’s just walking through oncoming traffic, her head clouded with (rightful) paranoia and fear. The movie uses its slow build expertly, as if feeling the full nine months and perpetual climax as Rosemary does, becoming more and more convinced that what she is carrying may be more than a child.

Rosemary’s Baby has inspired many to come after, finding a pulse of imitations in film and TV alike, with many hoping to capture the disturbing nature of this horror classic. All for good reason. It stands out because it truly is a rare sort of nightmare.

Spooktober Day 20: Poltergeist

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

When I was younger I remember thinking of Tobe Hooper’s 1982 film Poltergeist to be synonymous with static, and for anyone remembers the days you had to fight with the antenna to get the signal just right, know what I mean. Every time it would come on our TV I’d wonder, “is there something in there?” There was, it just wasn’t a poltergeist, just the movie-lovers bug.

MGM/UA Entertainment Co.

Poltergeist is the quintessential haunted house movie, and very imperative viewing for the time and genre. It transcends the period it was born from though, making it still relevant even if it isn’t the most intense of the genre. Which, in my opinion, when it comes to a story like this (and I’ve said it before) less is more.

They’re here

A happy suburban family, The Freelings (Craig T. Nelson, Jobeth Willians, Dominique Dunne, Olver Robins and Heather O’Rourke) unexpectedly come under the attack of a malevolent poltergeist. The American Nightmare, right? (Well, one of them 🙂 )

At first the mere oddities that occur can be passed off, even seeming someone amusing, after all- kids can talk to TV’s right and it’s cute, right? But when earthquakes occur that only the family can feel, furniture starts moving on its own, and trees begin attacking children, well, they might be dealing with a serious problem.

One of the reasons that Poltergeist remains in our collective psyches is the slow burn effect of a haunting done right. The Freelings feel genuine, relatable, and undergo a phenomenon most could never happening in the safe, comfort of their homes. Part of the film is the build-up, the pointed but subtle helpings of supernatural delights. Then when Carol Anne gets taken, the remainder is about how to get her back, enlisting the help of others, including the wonderfully iconic clairvoyant Tangina (Zelda Rubinstein).

MGM/UA Entertainment Co.

There are scenes from the film that definitely left an imprint when I was young, and when I revisit as an adult I can still understand their heft. It isn’t a scary supernatural film in the likes of more recent endeavors, but what it does show and how it unveils it makes for a fascinating take. The fact that this is produced by Spielberg is felt throughout, even with Hooper’s stamp too, (though quite unlike his other films). It feels more at home in Spielberg’s familial, suburban, “comfortable” landscape. For the time the special effects are done well, but the performances and writing sell it, with a lovely mix of emotion and terror. Kudos to the production design as well.

It’s effective without being harsh, and in a lot of ways Poltergeist is a softer sort of horror because it doesn’t prey, but instead pleads. When you hear Carol Anne’s voice through the TV it’s not only creepy, but a bit heartbreaking. At the end of the day it can’t be ignore either that, well, it’s a bit wonderfully weird at times too.

Poltergeist is a compelling entry that resides in a simpler, but no less effective time of supernatural horror.

Spooktober Day 19: Double M. Night Shyamalan: The Sixth Sense & Signs

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

I would come to have a generally uncertain relationship with M. Night Shyamalan, and for good reason. When the director was on, he was on. When he wasn’t, you wondered… why? More would come that I would love, and dislike (some being a source of laugher induced joy- not the intended reaction) but I would always appreciate these two.

As a film lover, you should always witness and register talent. He has it. Sometimes he just emphasizes it more. With The Sixth Sense he mastered it into a feature length concoction of mood, an exuberance of perpetual unease and melancholy. We strive for what we want, what we have lost, and what we can feel. The Sixth Sense touches on all of that.

source: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

I saw The Sixth Sense in theaters with my mother, aunt and grandmother. A strange group for a theatrical experience such as this, and I remember vividly after how confused, yet, affected they were. No worries fam, younger Kristy would explain. I vividly recall dissecting the specifics, and recalling the signs throughout to punctuate the ultimate surprise ending, “Grandma, this was red here for a reason.” Suffice it to say it didn’t all compute, but it most certainly became clear I was paying attention. You might say, I was in school. And, like many before and after, Shyamalan tought me some things.

There are some scenes in The Sixth Sense that are honestly terrifying. When young Cole (Haley Joel Osment) sees some of the spirits, you feel the cold, the undeniable presence, and you’re invested. I remember truly feeling this as a young kid, wondering how I’d feel in these moments. Would I be brave enough to help? Or frozen in fear? Some of the reasons for these deaths/hauntings are really chilling. You feel that, no matter your age. Even know when I rewatch (and some say it doesn’t have the same effect when you know the end, it does for me) there are certain shots when a ghostly character steps into frame that spike your heartrate and make your hands clammy.

Haley Joel Osment gives one of the best child performances in a film, and with Toni Collette as his mother Lynn, and Bruce Willis as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, there to help Cole through this challenging time, you’ve got quite the star lineup.

source: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Osment‘s performance is haunting, he’s guarded and soft spoken, trauma written in his body language and conflicted eyes. So much of the film is deeply emotional, and his expressions say it all. This isn’t a passing thought, it’s a full grown feeling, wrapped around him like a suffocating sarcophagus. Nobody will ever forget the ending, or now it made them feel the first time you saw it. When the reveal comes, suddenly obvious details come screaming back, and you feel fooled. In the right sort of way. Intelligent and poignant; this is a unique kind of ghost story. The human kind.

There’s a monster outside my room, can I have a glass of water?

source: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

When Signs came out I was excited, and of course, saw it in theaters as well. It was actually one of the few times there was a snafu in the theater which is partly why I remember it as well as I do. That, and, of course, some iconic moments that still stick with me. When the alien comes into frame on a video recording from a child’s birthday party (and Joaquin Phoenix reacts in a way that’s inspired many a memes/gifs) I remember how I felt, the sudden jolt in my chest. Isn’t that why we breathe movies? For that sensation? Whether it be an emotional gasp, a whole-hearted laugh, or a frightful hair-lifting moment, it’s transcendent for a reason.

This was a different Shyamalan even if it wasn’t really. There was still plenty of the tell tale “signs”- ha. What I love about this film is that it’s like an elaborate puzzle. It isn’t just a simple sci-fi/horror story. There’s little hints and answers given before even the questions are asked. By the end, it all snaps together, making the nightmare meaningful. Which, by all accounts, makes life feel a little more hopeful.

I thought there was just the right amount of imagination, hints of horror (without always the need to show it, a common Shyamalan trait I admire) and that ever growing need to understand why something like this is happening. For Signs, it was subtle and yet terrifying. My kind of flick. All of the acting, including the wonderful kids, hit their mark, and makes Signs as much about family, and the strength found there in the most challenging of times, than about a world-wide attack.

The reason these two stand out to me (also love Unbreakable) is because of this same joint intent; they’re intimate in the way that they’re about relationships, human perseverance, while also not denying that there is an unrelenting theme of the everyday, possible, weird, that can come at any time. Be it supernatural, alien, or our own personal demons, Shamlyan gets it. And, both of these films were influential in my love and expansion of the genre.

Spooktober Day 18: Let the Right One In

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

From the moment I first saw Let the Right One In, I was completely in love. The sub-genre of vampire films is one that struggles the most with originality, but also heart. Many have tried and failed (some tried and somewhat succeeded) but this is one that nails it on the head. You leave this film with such a fluttering array of emotions: fear and empathy, that it makes it really stand out. I mentioned this previously with Evil Dead, but I will say, that while I’m not going to deeply touch on it, Let Me In is one of those rare American remakes that does it justice. It maintains the best parts, while introducing some new, and also features terrific performances. While I prefer the original, I am very much on board with Let Me In, and I’d honestly suggest everyone see both. Quality films, deserve quality appreciation.

source: Sandrew Metronome

Directed by Tomas Alfredson with a sreenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist, (based on his novel) Let the Right One in takes the cake on a variety of levels, from behind the camera, in front, and from its origins: the page.

When you’re dealing with stories about vampires it isn’t easy to be bold and new. But, if you can find a story of two children (one not truly a child- only in appearance) you get a disturbed, but also, meaningful take on friendship, and falling in love. It happens in many different ways, this is one, and while it’s not ideal, or…necessarily safe, you feel for them. Connection is, well, just that. And it should never be tossed aside. It’s rare when we find it.

Shy, Twelve year old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) struggles with loneliness, both at home and at school, the latter of which is where he is victim consistent bullying. When he meets his new neighbor Eli (Lina Leandersson), Oskar finds the meaningful relationship he’s been yearning for, but, Eli has some bloody secret, appetites. The what and who of Eli doesn’t matter much to Oskar, as he begins to learn more. To him, he’s found his missing piece.

Yes, I wane poetic about this film, deservedly so, but at the end of the day it’s also a wonderful horror. There are times when we are very much reminded of the “monster” that Eli can be. She isn’t a child, and she’s responsible for gruesome murders. It can be sinister, it can be lovely, and it is always enchanting. An atmosphere is built early on that never leaves you, like one can feel the cold in your bones as you watch these characters amid the wintry landscape.

source: Sandrew Metronome

There’s something truly beautiful about Let the Right One In, from the look to the moody soundtrack, to the care used when creating these characters. Isolation can be felt by all. Kids are sometimes forced to grow up too soon, deal with issues beyond their years, all while feeling inherently, alone. Coming of age isn’t easy. The film is peculiar in all the ways it should be, and it’s one that is exquisitely imagined. It feels realistic, especially the two lead’s bond, and that’s a rarity among the genre. By the time the credits roll, Let the Right One In, really sinks its fangs in, and you are happy it did.

Spooktober Day 17: Scream

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that creeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Yep, another Craven! While this is a similarly iconic entry into the horror-world, this pioneered a change that would continue to be reverberated over time. At the time it was an affirmation that, yes, this genre can still be creative. Thank the stars.

This is a favorite among many fans of the genre, and while I have seen it a lot and I recognize that it guided a generation, it’s not top-tier for me, but that doesn’t negate the fact that its influence was seen and felt, still to this day. Wes Craven reinvigorated a sleepy genre once more. In a lot of ways, I feel like this is the matured, self-assured Craven, which makes for a wonderful evolution for the director.

This comes on the precipice of a fourth Scream movie arriving next year (oddly just named “Scream” which seems wildly confusing) and it’s got me reflecting on the franchise, and the most obviously, for a variety reasons- the best one (though 2 is also great).

A mysterious killer hunts a group of high school students in the town of Woodsboro, California. With stars of the time like Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard at the helm, that power is just one of the many reasons, Scream is still going strong.

source: Dimension Films

Not only is it the O.G which always carries with a certain level of authority, but there’s also a way that Craven melds the newness and self-awareness of horror with reflections on the old slashers of the past, that makes this something special.

Something I love about Scream is that it doesn’t age. While some of the sequels most definitely do, there’s a sense of a pristine time-capsule like essence with this movie.

I remember when I saw this when it came out. This, I Know What You Did Last Summer and also, Urban Legend because it makes sense, as always, with movies to pile on a theme/trend when something works, were all very present at this time. I liked them all for different reasons, but when I saw Scream I loved the self-referential aspect, and also the schlocky humor. Who was the killer? The fun was in the discovery. Not to mention, a villain that has a mask similar to a famous painting that quizzes people on their horror movie skills? Sign me up please! Wes Craven does it again, with a new decade, and a new appreciation for the genre (also don’t sleep on the his 2005’s Red Eye).

source: Dimension Films

The writing, the music, and the performances/characters all were inspired, and influenced by the time they were formed. I can’t watch this movie without feeling the sensation of the 90s, and even in the most cheesiest of lines, I can’t help but feel a sort of comfort. That’s one of those lovely aspects of film that will never die. It’s like handprints in cement, even as time passes, there’s proof it was there, then, and it doesn’t lose it. It’s deft, hilarious, and ultimately, a huge part of the cinematic horror world.

Even if there’s a bit of tiredness as they continue the saga (for some, yet somehow, I’m still in it- though not assured in my reasoning), the characters and actors are a big part of what has made Scream the force that it is. Does anyone not know who Sydney Prescott is? That’s pretty powerful. It’s meta, irreverent, a bit farce, but also tied in with moments of actual frights- it’s still a horror after all.

Through reinvention and self-awareness, Scream woke us up, and brought the slasher genre to new, fun, bloody heights.

Spooktober Day 16: The Evil Dead (& Evil Dead 2)

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

It’s a Sam Raimi– a-thon (kinda). At least the first two Evil Dead’s, because, well, I feel like they fit immaculately. The second is really a remake of the first with a higher budget, and a bigger dose of wacky. Ot just seems sensible to celebrate both. I won’t dive in, but the remake of The Evil Dead was actually one of the better classic reimaginings that I have seen (another to be mentioned later this month).

I’m not really sure why, perhaps just a matter of circumstance, but I actually saw The Evil Dead 2 before I saw the original, as a pre-teen. I saw them nearly back to back, and of course, as anyone who has seen these, there’s plenty of correlations that make the second more of an improvement rather than a real connective- sequel. It didn’t really change how I felt about either, all I knew was this: Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi were amazing, and I desperately wanted to make movies.

It’s low-budget filmmaking at its best because it utilizes the limited locale, the embracing of camp (is there a film that does this more??) and the fearlessness that goes into giving in to every, gory, strange, impulse.

source: New Line Cinema

When you watch either of these films you can feel Raimi’s love for the genre, from the debut on, there is a passion that is present in nearly every decision, every gloriously unique, rough around the edges, oddity. It’s proof that you can make a film on a low-budget, indie, DIY, and it’s inspirational in that way. As Raimi continues to make movies in the industry, it gives hope to the masses who want to follow in his footsteps. Even if… not exactly these peculiar ones.

Kind of like the Cabin in the Woods setup pokes fun of, five college students vacation in a remote cabin in the woods. Creepy, dark, obviously not the best place for some R&R and yet, they do it anyway. In a way, aren’t they asking for it?

When they find a mysterious book of the dead, they awaken something truly evil, demons that have been resting until the group summons them.

Somehow, despite some of the areas in the film that are too much or don’t quite work, the ones that do make up for it. The fact that this film still lives on in classic horror fandom is pretty amazing. There’s a lot of closeups and zooms, stop motion animation, frequent jump scares and some over-acting, even by our main lead Ash (Bruce Campbell) who continued in the sequels and the eventual show spin-off, but all of that builds to Evil Dead’s benefit. The cinematography by Tim Philo, including some intriguing long takes, really melds the the elements together, fashioning a unique viewing experience.

The ingenuity comes through even in the truly weirdest of times. The makeup work is really quite amazing for the time, and is a big proponent for the more effective chilling moments. For the most part though, the experience with The Evil Dead is one of wide-eyed curiosity to what will come next, and gut-busting comical moments. It’s also alarming, don’t get me wrong, there’s some parts to this film that are not easily swallowed.

source: Rosebud Releasing Corporation

In Evil Dead 2, it’s basically the same setup, the same lead, but with a bigger budget, and somehow? An even weirder trip. A do-over with even more freakiness. I think it kicks the humor into second gear, while also ensuring surprises are doused on the audience, on the regular. One of the reasons I almost prefer the second is because of how wildly out there it goes. And, that’s saying something considering some of what happens in the first. It’s a legacy of cinema for a reason. This movie goes so manic, so kinetic, it questions you to wonder about your own state of mind.

No one wants to be stuck in a haunted cabin, alone, but Campbell manages to entertain us as he loses his connections to reality, and somehow, we are fine joining him on this funny, strange, journey. It’s straight up gonzo, and it’s a whole lot of fun. It is also bloody mayhem. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you are just unsure of what exactly is happening, which eventually leads to more laughter- mixed with some disturbing content. Nothing you wouldn’t expect, truly, from this reimagining, but it’s a bit of a rollercoaster that one just can’t describe.

For both of these films, at the end of the day, it’s the direction by Raimi that makes these cult classics what they are. While I recognize, even now, that these aren’t for everyone, I feel like most can appreciate their intent, even if the execution makes their stomach woozy or their senses over-fried. It’s honestly a challenge to fully describe these films in a coherent way. To do so would be a misguided and almost- an insult- to the films themselves. You’ve got to experience them.

Either way, an impression is made.

That’s Groovy baby.

Spooktober Day 15: You’re Next

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

So, the idea of a family being stalked by an unknown group of people isn’t a new concept, yet, You’re Next does so in a way that is absolutely delightful. Yes, I used that word. Have you noticed? I adore the concept of terror- when displayed in a different form within cinema. This is why I feel the need to exclaim: You’re Next is a power to be reckoned with, even if some may not see it beyond its surface level flavor. Why? Let me tell you…

source: Lionsgate

Not only do we have a badass female lead, of the likes of many of the iconic final girls of the past but one that goes further with a true knack for killing- but, wait, there’s more: We’ve got some groovy tunes to murder to (some interesting kills) and attackers who use correct grammar. Be still my heart: I love it when they do that.

When I saw You’re Next I wasn’t entirely sold at first. I loved that there was a sort of underlying playful tone, and an awareness that you were in fact, watching a movie (which is usually because of the acting or writing) and can either be intentional or not, but I wasn’t sure I was seeing anything new. In the end, it didn’t really matter if this broke the mold because it was so much damn fun. When I’ve rewatched it since its release, even again recently, that same energy is present, despite knowing what is coming. Almost all of the gore on screen emerges with a clash, never relenting on the shocks and awe. This was also a film that (still) seems to be under the radar and overlooked. Of course it doesn’t help that it was made and then put on the backburner, waiting to truly greet audiences.

Most of the film takes place (with the exception of one scene) in and around a secluded large house, as a family gets together to celebrate their parent’s (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton) 35th anniversary. Their four children and significant others all show up, and soon, are hunted by masked attackers. Things have clearly been rocky between the family for a while, with a shared messy history, and amid a dinner of squabbling, things get serious, very fast. It’s a mic-drop moment that instantly thrusts the film into a suspenseful place, proving that Adam Wingard’s take on the invasion story isn’t one to be missed.

None of the characters are particularly likeable, which doesn’t make it any easier to see them meet their demise. That is with the exception of middle child Crispian’s (AJ Bowen) girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson), who seems to be the only one proactive in fighting their assailants, and one of the only truly rootable characters. Gosh I love her. In fact, she may just be the most dangeous one of them all.

(Bonus, another character in the film is played by Ti West, who directed a previous Spooktober review: The House of the Devil.)

There’s a merging line that You’re Next traces around black comedy, narrowly near parody, that eventually pools around horror. It does so in a way that ensnares the best of the two worlds, while maintaining a level of intrigue. Why are they being targeted? Is it random or is there more to it? Also, can anything not be used as a weapon? You’re Next subverts a lot of tropes, while leaning into others, making it a delicious blend of bloody fun. And yes, most things can be weapons.

source: Lionsgate

Directed by Adam Wingard, it’s a sly thriller that seems self-aware of its intent, making the laughs land, the synthy-score pop, and the thrills and kills squeamishly entertaining.

A smart take on the home-invasion horror You’re Next offers plenty of realistic terror with situational comedy. Not everything hits the perfect note, but it’s more than enough to have a blast with it if you’ll allow it to. Also, the final shot of the film is surprisingly perfect and unexpected (as well as the credits). Give it a go, I dare ya.

Spooktober Day 14: The Fly

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Disturbing, body horror, tragic romance, mania, genius gone wrong and…well, insects. How could The Fly not be iconic?

My introduction to The Fly was when I first rented it on VHS from a local video store, and watched it with a friend. Suffice to say, the friend and I had drastically different reactions, but both are generally the kind one person would have watching this movie. It’s that repulsive but intriguing brand of filmmaking that David Cronenberg can do so well. I can’t act as if I’m immune to the obviously nauseating moments throughout this film, but- I also was amazed by how “good” this looked. By good I mean, believable, of course, because there is some truly unsettling imagery at large here. If I didn’t know Goldblum before watching this film (which I had) I may have very well thought he had become a fly. That was his fate. I believed it.

source: 20th Century Fox

Weird Genius Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) has created a teleportation device. Right from the beginning of the movie, which spares no time introducing his creation and also the chemistry between him and journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis), we’re thrown headfirst into this madcap story, wondering if his invention is real, but also, wondering what they will be, but knowing, there will be consequences to it. Nothing this influential to mankind can come without them. Should humans interfere with such things or are we destined to a karmic/cosmic response when messing with such forces of nature? Sometimes these arrive in the tiny, pesky package of a fly.

An experiment gone very, very wrong.

Goldblum masters the mad scientist bit, right from the first scene when we meet him. Obsession and glory leads him to testing it on himself, and because one of our favorite (lie) buzzing houseguests one makes its way into the machine, things go… badly from there.

At first things seem hopeful, but it doesn’t take long for that to reveal itself as a facade; a misguided dream. Veronica and Seth begin a romance that seems sweet, but as his invention becomes more important, and soon, the effects of this decision more apparent (and visual) their love story turns tragic, and… scary. It’s a Beauty and the Beast sort of tale, except, with considerably more… eww.

He begins to deteriorate, and beware: it isn’t a pretty sight. The design/makeup team here leaves no disgusting part unturned. From the very first creepy thick-fly like hair to the eventual beastly end point, Brundle tries to reason with himself, and it’s clear that this isn’t only affecting his body, but his mind as well. He becomes impulsive, unstable, and The Fly becomes as much a psychological thriller as it does a horror/sci-fi.

In The Fly we watch the fervor transformation from man to monster with part curiosity and part terror. One shouldn’t deny that there are laughs to be had too, especially with how Goldblum delivers some lines, especially as he reports/journals his progress. However, part of the humor is wrapped up in the psychosis that threatens to overtake Seth as his humanity inches further way. So, even when we are smirking, it’s inevitably followed up by a wince.

source: 20th Century Fox

This is David Cronenburg at his best. It’s messy, it’s discomforting, and it’s ultimately devastating, because the people involved aren’t ill-willed, but just innovative, and with Brundle, it is to his detriment.

It’s truly an amusing script too, by David Cronenberg and Charles Edward Pogue, that really relies on the characters and the space (which the film barely ever strays from). The journey is elaborate in scope, but internally, it’s a real head-trip. The performances will ensure sympathy and the effects to follow will curdle your stomach, but one thing you won’t do? Forget any of it.

The perfect sort of monsterpiece, as you will.

Spooktober Day 13: Shaun of the Dead

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Let’s be honest, it’s been a bit morose up in here (happily so) so why not venture into another horror-comedy? Cornetto style? Hell yes.

I can’t think of zombies, beer, or horror, without clocking Shaun of the Dead in my weird little brain. Edgar Wright’s film is absurd but it is chock full of campy humor, and it’s always a blast of living dead proportions.

source: Universal Pictures

Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost), are 30 something- relative, by societal standards (and the films description)- “losers.” Shaun is unhappy at work, and at an impasse with girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) who wants him to show maturity and commitment in their relationship. Then, of course, when things seem to be going badly and Liz ends things then comes… zombies.

A year prior to my delve into the world as an adult, I was venturing to the theater to see this British mirth on zombie lore. I was taken right away, and even now, I wonder, would a pub be the right place to see the end of the world out? Shaun of the Dead certainly makes a case for it. So, I’m not ruling it out.

“Take car. Go to mum’s. Kill Phil, grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over.”

It’s also always good to know which records you can afford to throw in the name of survival.

Something I love about Shaun, is how a portion of the film just follows the mundanity of the central characters, going through the hum drums of life, unbeknownst to them that the apocalypse is coming. And, once they are aware, not much really changes, they’re still the slackers as originally portrayed, though by the end their arcs show them as unexpected heroes. Who wouldn’t want these two fumbling hero’s leading their way to survival? There in lies, one of, the beauties of Shaun of the Dead.

source: Universal Pictures

Its both a parody of zombie films while being a dissection of our disconnect and ignorance as a society, we so often move through oblivious, until something pushes us to awareness. Its a wake up call and a call to action, there’s one life: live it. This was back in 2004, and I feel like it’s even more relevant now as we march on, seemingly zombiefied by our own creations.

It’s also a clever satire that melds horror and comedy efficiently, never letting up on physical gags, almost sitcom-like humor, and the hilarity that arises when one tries to figure out the “correct” thing to do in an impossible circumstance. The makeup and effects are also top-notch, making the walking corpses no less frightful, even when they are being hit with pool cues to a Queen’s song in an almost- choreographed dance. The comedic timing of our leads, who would continue, and still do, to star together in several other roles, is expertly matched. While Wright’s flair for style and smart comedy, make Shaun a real joy.

A witty riff on zombie lore with plenty of gore to suffice, if you’re a fan of comedic reprieve on a horrifying sub-genre, look no further than Shaun of the Dead, you won’t be let down.

Spooktober Day 12: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

I have no qualms admitting my love for Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the classic vampire tale. I watched it as a youngin (shocker!) and loved it. At first it was eerie to me, and though it wasn’t my first or last entry to Dracula, it left an impression. (Much like Nosferatu did). It continued my appreciation for the many splendors of visual storytelling.

source: Columbia Pictures

A lot of words come to mind when I think of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but one that comes ripe with punctuation is indulgent. In many ways, and in ways that I quite appreciate, the film is excess, over the top. It takes the subject matter we know, and many love, and emphasizes it with new flourishes.

I love the use of shadows, of colors, and the unyielding score (by Wojciech Kilar). Some of those beautifully haunting shots are unforgettable: the horse pulled carriage thrusted into the darkness with a fervent pace, or the train as it whistles loudly, headed into the ominous Carpathian Mountains. It’s rich with these moments, and you can be smitten with the gothic visuals alone.

“Do you believe in destiny? That even the powers of time can be altered for a single purpose? That the luckiest man who walks on this earth is the one who finds… true love?”

It attempts to romanticize Dracula in a way, which, honestly, I don’t mind. Love never dies. Even for blood sucking vampires. It’s like a fairy tale/gothic romance, mixed with some camp and the threat of eternal damnation. There’s more to this Dracula than other iterations, because even when his actions are those we’ve seen before, and he’s the “monster” (chefs kiss by the way with the makeup, costumes and effects). There’s also the occasional glimpse of a burgeoning heart of “man” before, a reminder that he was once human.

I also adore the occasional silliness, Anthony Hopkins and Keanu Reeves (as do others) play it up and succeed. Meanwhile, one of my favorite heroines as a kid, Winona Ryder adds more emotional resonance to a film that isn’t always selling that point. Meanwhile, Gary Oldman (talk about star power) nails the performance of Dracula, giving us a reminding reason, yet again, of how versatile the actor is. He’s as haunted as the character has ever been, in his moments of reflection and pain. Dracula transforms a lot throughout the movie, not just physically, but shifts from guilt-stricken, to furious, brooding and then maniacal.

source: Columbia Pictures

It’s decadent, blood-soaked, eye-catching candy. Albeit, not one that’s for everyone, especially those relishing the older Dracula feel. That’s why I like it. James V. Hart’s screenplay takes Stoker’s tale and makes it feel modern, and yet still… ancient. But, it’s Coppola’s vision and Michael Ballhaus‘s cinematography that stands out most, and makes this a lasting feature.

Luscious to look at, and looming with a variety of delights for your senses to revel on, Dracula is spellbinding entertainment.