30 Days of Horror – Part 5

We continue rolling past the mid-point of our 30 Days of Horror with five more films recommended to me.

Cape Fear

My introduction to Cape Fear was with the Scorsese 1991 remake, but it was suggested I watch the original. I thought the film felt a little dated and felt this was a case where an earlier film didn’t go as far as it possibly might have. Crucify me if you will.

Gregory Peck is so rigid. I wasn’t waiting for him to “loosen up” as I was waiting for him to become… human. The other characters I found just as wooden. Bowdon’s wife and daughter have very little to do in this film and just seem only to serve as bait. Polly Bergan being attacked by Mitchum on the houseboat was rather annoying to listen to, I had the mute button handy.

The whole ‘perfect family” thing irked me as well. It didn’t lend any credence to the story and made it that much more superficial and cardboard to me.

Robert Mitchum, while creepy, seemed very 2-D as a character as well. In my opinion, Scorsese’s film is one of the few remakes that excels its original.

The Orphanage

The Orphanage is a film that I feel that prospective viewers would be better off going into devoid of any prior knowledge. I would describe it as quite the slick and quietly chilling piece of work.

While most of the chills are more… poetic than gruesome, The Orphanage is a solid old-fashioned ghost story that is genuinely frightening without resorting to gore or gratuitous shocks. I felt that it continues the tradition the filmmaker started with films like Pan’s Labyrinth, by showing the darker sides of humanity through frightening fantasies. In many ways, Juan Antonio Bayona has applied Del Toro’s own winning formula to The Orphanage.

The film showcases stunning photography, very elegant sets, and a gorgeously Gothic orphanage. Sound and music work very well too, and the film succeeds in “less is more” psychological horror templates. There are also allusions to classic literature (in this case a very nicely done “Peter Pan” as Catholic allegory motif). That’s all I’ll say about that.

I feel this is wonderfully creepy, and at times beautiful, very emotional (I ended up in tears) story that is in the vein of Robert Wise’s The Haunting and Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others, so if you like well-told ghost stories that unhinge rather than shock you, The Orphanage will move you.

The Girl Next Door

“Based on the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name, The Girl Next Door follows the unspeakable torture and abuses committed on a teenage girl in the care of her aunt…and the boys who witness and fail to report the crime.”

I saw this in my queue and asked if I should check it out due to its high rating. A friend told me she saw it at a convention and people walked out because they were so disgusted. That intrigued me, so I settled in primed to expect a grueling viewing experience.

Wow. Truly gripping. Truly horrifying. Hard to watch and hard to look away. Black-hole dark and beyond harrowing, it’s nonetheless a carefully crafted work.

This is the type of movie that starts off soft and ends at the climax, leaving viewers breathlessly shocked. I have never before seen children ages probably ranging between 8-13 commit the inhumane acts seen in this movie. All the more shocking because they are perpetrated by children against another child, encouraged by their mother.

While watching this film, I told myself I had finally found the spiritual successor to Last House on the Left and my opinion remains the same. Like Last House, this film is scary because of its realism.

I cannot recommend this film for the squeamish. It’s not your Jason or Freddy film, it’s your sister or girlfriend really being kidnapped and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

Elvira’s Movie Macabre is back on the air! You can check out some past episodes here. I’ve always been a big fan of Elvira and I tuned in Saturday night to a treat. I know, sue me, I’d never seen this flick before.

’60s schlockfest FTW!

What did I think?

This film is an absolute classic for camp and it offers a tremendous amount of entertainment value. It’s not quite on par with those films such as Plan 9 From Outer Space in terms of “so bad it’s good” appeal. LOVE the crappy production and the weird sexual angle when the scientist looks for the bodies (complete with porno sound track). As incredible as it sounds, the picture is legitimately able to hold interest with its outrageous plot and suspense built up over the creature behind the door. Be sure to get the restored version with the monster in the closet finally grabbing the doctor’s arm and making a bloody mess at the end. GREATEST DEATH SCENE EVER!!! A great cathartic bloody end to this near-Shakespearean morality play about how Man should not meddle in God’s business.

This film’s inherent and unintentional humor (how can you not love a film that inspired such fare as Frankenhooker and The Man with Two Brains?) is derived from stale ideology (the “bad girls” harvested to replace poor Jan’s crushed body – they had it comin’), overused plot (a mad scientist trying to play God), violent yet conscientious monster (whose presence in the heretofore-normal-seeming scientist’s rural lab is never fully explained), and acting that polarizes at wooden or over-the-top. This is wonderful over-the-top entertainment for fans of sleaze cinema.

From a Whisper to a Scream

This movie has nothing to do with the Icicle Work’s hit done in 1984, but rather is a wraparound story starring Vincent Price (filmed in the autumn of his life) as a historian who tells of the “evil” goings-on in the town of Oldfield to a reporter who comes to dig up dirt on the man’s recently executed niece. Listed as a cult favorite, probably due to the inclusion of  Vincent Price, this being his last horror movie done. I’m a fan of horror anthologies such as Tales from the Crypt, Trilogy of Terror, and even the recent Trick r Treat. I’m also a fan of campy 80’s schlock such as Shocker, Vamp, and Fright Night.  It was excruciating trying to make it through this.  There was no rhyme or reason, other than “Oldfield is a town that infects its inhabitants with evil…” which really didn’t make much sense considering the main characters of each story really just got what was coming to them.

The acting was really terrible and the dialogue was really corny. This is a ghastly horror movie but done in the most unimaginative manner. I was quite baffled to see that each segment was less effective than the one before, which is something odd in a movie of this vintage. Usually anthologies save the best episode for last, but here the opposite is true. Director Buff should have edited the vignettes backwards. Also, I wish Price had narrated the stories; his elegant voice would have given the movie a much-needed touch of class.

Don’t really get all the “hype” behind this one as it did nothing for me. It was downright painful to make it all the way through.

Want to check out some horror movies yourself? AMC Fearfest 2010 has announced their full lineup and schedule!


Among a vast library of horror favorites, AMC Fearfest will present premieres of the following:

House of Wax debuting Oct. 22, 10PM | 9C
Dead Silence debuting Oct. 23, 12 :30PM | 11:30C
28 Days Later debuting Oct. 24, 8PM | 7C
Jeepers Creepers 2 debuting Oct. 24, 10 :30PM | 9:30C
From Dusk Till Dawn debuting Oct. 30, 8PM | 7C
Evil Dead II debuting Oct. 30, 10PM | 9C
• Dawn of the Dead debuting Oct. 31, 8PM | 7C

In addition to the AMC Premiere events, AMC Fearfest will feature horror favorites from the vintage to the contemporary including :

Friday the 13th parts 1-9 airing together for the first time, in celebration of the franchise’s 30th Anniversary airing primetime, Oct. 18-22
Halloween I-V airing primetime, Oct. 25-27
• Stephen King classics Cujo, Pet Sematary, The Shining, Sleepwalkers and Graveyard Shiftairing throughout the day on Oct. 9
Night of the Living Dead (1968), Frankenstein (1931), Dracula (1931), The Wolf Man (1941), and many others … check out the above link for more.

There are one or two I haven’t seen, so I’ll be including them in a future installment of 30 Days of Horror.

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About Dementia

Said to be the demi-spawn of the Old Ones, Dementia was conjured up in Darkness (some say by the devil himself) in a small village in the Banewoods where she began her torrid love affair with all things supernatural horror. She has been sighted chasing serial killers, cavorting with demons, exploiting ghostly entities, and fiendishly plotting with various nocturnal bloodthirsty creatures. These sightings have lead to a small but devout cult following to spring up around her at the various conventions she attends. Dementia spends her free time designing epic costumes, being a snarky horror snob, and generally enslaving humanity. Beware the woods at night… beware the lunar light…