Monday, July 30, 2018

93 Days to Halloween- 1926 The Student of Prague

Over the next 100 days, I will present one movie of significances in horror, suspense or thrillers for each year from 1919 to 2018. The seventh film presented here is the 1926 German Expressionist silent horror classic The Student of Prague directed by Henrik Galeen and starring Conrad Veidt.

The Student of Prague- (1926) Germany
Dir- Henrik Galeen

A poor student named Balduin decides to sell his mirror image to a man named Scapinelli, a stranger he meets. In exchange for this, he is promised success and the love of an aristocratic woman. When his doppelganger becomes an annoyance, he actively seeks to halt it. This classic tale was told in Edgar Allan Poe's story of William Wilson and makes a great early chiller for its wonderful setting and direction. Unlike its predecessor, this version had a better budget and better feel due to the many years of progress made in filmmaking. This silent remake would be remade once again with sound in 1935.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

94 Days to Halloween- 1925 The Phantom of the Opera

94 Days to Halloween 

Over the next 100 days, I will present one movie of significances in horror, suspense or thrillers for each year from 1919 to 2018. The sixth film presented here is the 1925 American silent horror classic The Phantom of the Opera directed by Rupert Julian and based on Gaston Leroux's novel Le Fantome de I'Opera.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Dir- Rupert Julian

After 90 years no one has yet to match the unforgettable presence of Lon Chaney as the disfigured skull-faced Erik, who courts a lovely young singer in the Paris Opera House behind a faceless mask. A sad tale of a man who is driven into madness and becomes a monster due to rejection and hatred from those around him. Chaney's presence is unforgettable in such scenes as his appearance as Poe's Mask of the Red Death during the masked ball, the abduction scene through the catacombs of the opera house and the famous unmasking which even today packs a shocking blow. Phantom is remembered as a classic horror and tragedy, and Chaney's portrayal would establish an archetype that has yet to be matched even by the romantic musical version of The Phantom

Saturday, July 28, 2018

95 Days to Halloween- 1924 The Hands of Orlac

95 Days to Halloween 

Over the next 100 days, I will present one movie of significances in horror, suspense or thrillers for each year from 1919 to 2018. The fifth film presented here is the 1924 Austrian silent thriller The Hands of Orlac directed by Robert Wiene and starring Conrad Veidt.

The Hands of Orlac
Dir- Robert Wiene
A concert pianist named Paul Orlac loses both his hands after a train wreck, his wife pleads with a doctor to save them, so he transplants the hands of a murder. Soon after Orlac feels the hands are not those of an ordinary man and not only is he unable to play the piano he feels the urge to harm others. The Hands of Orlac follows some of the expressionist techniques of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari without the bizarre visuals. Despite the seemingly absurd plot, the portrayal of Paul Orlac stands out, and the film did gain some controversy concerning the use of fingerprint impressions, but these techniques were shown to be fantasy. The Hands of Orlac was remade twice, and the concepts used in the film have been utilized in more recent films.

Friday, July 27, 2018

96 Days to Halloween- 1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame

96 Days to Halloween 

Over the next 100 days, I will present one movie of significances in horror, suspense or thrillers for each year from 1919 to 2018. The fifth film presented here is the 1923 American silent romantic drama classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame directed by Wallace Worsley and based on the classic novel written by Victor Hugo

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Dir- Wallace Worsley

This adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel is notable for the casting of Lon Chaney and his extensive use of makeup to transform him into the crippled Quasimodo. The story centers on Quasimodo being sent to kidnap a beautiful gypsy girl named Esmeralda who is desired by the evil brother of the archdeacon. Esmeralda takes sympathy on the crippled man as she is thrust into a plot that involves a peasant revolt and attempted murder of an officer who has also taken a liking to Esmeralda.    

Thursday, July 26, 2018

97 Days to Halloween- 1922 Nosferatu

98 Days to Halloween 

Over the next 100 days, I will present one movie of significances in horror, suspense or thrillers for each year from 1919 to 2018. The fourth film presented here is the 1922 German silent classic Nosferatu directed by FW Murnau and written by Henrik Galeen based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker

Nosferatu (1922) Germany
Dir- F.W. Murnau
In all of cinema history, no villain has ever topped Dracula in darkness and evil, and no version of the vampire has yet to match Max Schreck as the dreaded Count Orlok. Considered to be the first vampire movie and as one of the most creepy looking monsters to grace the screen. Count Orlok swept through the German town of Bremen (Wisborg in some film prints) like a plague claiming the innocent until a brave heroine takes it upon herself to stop this monster. Schreck's somewhat stiff and corpse-like Count makes this film a pure classic and as well as a pioneer of horror. The film was almost lost after a lawsuit by the family of Bram Stoker successfully had most copies of the film destroyed yet copies were found and restored to preserve this classic film.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

98 Days to Halloween- 1921 Destiny

98 Days to Halloween 

Over the next 100 days, I will present one movie of significances in horror, suspense or thrillers for each year from 1919 to 2018. The third film presented here is the 1921 German expressionist film Destiny aka Der Mude Tod directed by Fritz Lang and written by Fritz Lang & Thea von Harbou.

Destiny aka Der Mude Tod
Dir- Fritz Lang

This German expressionistic anthology follows a young woman who confronts Death after he took her beloved despite helping Death in the opening scene. Death then offers a challenge to the young woman to use love to save one life in three tragic romances set in exotic locations that include the Middle East, Italy, and China. With love as her inspiration, she feels that she will defeat death and save the man she loves. Destiny was inspired by the Indian tale of Sati Savitri as well as the personal tragedies faced by Fritz Lang. The film was praised for its photography, direction, and use of special effects to create the ghosts as well as the use of a flying carpet in the Middle Eastern story.     

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

99 Days to Halloween- 1920 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

99 Days to Halloween 

Over the next 100 days, I will present one movie of significances in horror, suspense or thrillers for each year from 1919 to 2018. The second film presented here is the 1920 German expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari directed by Robert Wiene and written by Carl Mayer.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-(1920) Germany
Dir- Robert Wiene
Long considered to be the first true horror movie, Dr. Caligari is the archetype mad scientist out to do evil deeds with the aid of a sleepwalker named Cesare. Cesare murders those whom the Doctor feels are too close to his evil deeds. The setting is both nightmarish and expressionistic in its use of exaggerated sets and weird angles. The shock ending is only the icing in a movie that invents a whole genre of horror devices- the mad scientist, the zombie, the helpless heroine carried onto the roofs.

Monday, July 23, 2018

100 Days to Halloween- 1919 The Plague of Florence

100 Days to Halloween 

Over the next 100 days, I will present one movie of significances in horror, suspense or thrillers for each year from 1919 to 2018. The first film presented here is the 1919 German silent film Die Pest in Florenz (The Plague of Florence) directed by Otto Rippert and written by Fritz Lang.

Die Pest in Florenz (The Plague of Florence) 1919

An exotic woman arrives in the town of Florence during the 14th Century and charms the whole community including the towns leader and his son who both fall madly in love with her. As the town falls into wanton behavior a mysterious woman arrives with a terrible curse. The story was based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story The Masque of the Red Death.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

They Paid To Be Scared But How Much Will It Cost Them

Ruin Me (2017)
Dir- Preston DeFrancis

With the popularity of horror films, haunted houses and escape rooms there is a great environment for upping the ante for the ultimate horror experience. In the movie Ruin Me by Preston DeFrancis a young woman named Alex and her boyfriend Nathan join a group of strangers in a horror movie experience called Slasher Sleepout that puts them in the woods with tasks to compete while being stalked by an unknown assailant. What is at first playful turns deadly serious when one of their party appears to be murdered by someone who wanders into their camp leaving the rest of the group searching for a way out. "Ruin Me" plays out as a standard slasher movie, yet the movie does take some creative turns that set it apart from the usual slasher fare. Marcienne Dwyer plays Alex with confidence that hides her deep secrets that are revealed as the film progresses. Matt Dellapina as the supportive boyfriend Nathan will have you hoping he can get them to safety. "Ruin Me" may start out like a copycat 80's slasher film but don't let that fool you as the film does offer some interesting twists and will keep you guessing to the very end. What also helps "Ruin Me" is the relatively unknown cast that adds to the genuine feel of the film as you are not sure who will be next and if all of this is for real or part of the experience.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Sometimes the biggest terrors are found in a house of God

The Devil's Doorway (2018)
Dir- Aislinn Clarke

One of the worst real-life horrors were the Irish Magdalene Laundries that held "fallen" young women and forced them to work without pay to seek redemption for their sins. Irish director Aislinn Clarke's film "The Devil's Doorway" uses a Magdalene Laundry as the backdrop for this found footage movie that focuses on a pair of priests who are sent to investigate a reported miracle. The elder priest Father Thomas is a scholarly man who has traveled the world and is very skeptical of events like the one he is sent to check out. His younger colleague Father John films the events using a 16mm camera and displays a much more hopeful outlook on the possibility of witnessing a blessed sign from the Lord. Once inside the Laundry, they are met with hostility from the Mother Superior and appalled by the conditions the young women are subjected to. Yet the real terror emerges when the younger priest begins to hear voices of children in a place that has no children and witnesses some unexplained events. It gets worse when the two priests find a young pregnant woman who has the staff on edge and what happens next will test the faith and stamina of the two priests. The Devil's Doorway effectively captures the dismal condition of the notorious Irish Catholic Laundries that were prisons for many young women who worked like slaves and often had no legal protections. Ms. Clarke spent years researching the history of the Magdelene Laundries and uses an old manor house and linen mill as the setting for the movie. The institutional look of the buildings reminds one of prison while creating the perfect environment for the found footage setup. The movie does follow common tactics of found footage movies so much of the film will seem familiar, yet the realistic looking sets and dark interiors will terrify you as the events unfold.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

10 Great Horror Films of 2018 So Far

The Ritual 
The Ritual plays on a theme similar to that of Deliverance as well as The Descent. Both films center on a group of friends who find their friendship challenged when they get lost and face a threat in the woods. The Ritual does make efficient use of the wooded scenery that adds significantly to the element of fear in much the way that The Blair Witch Project did two decades ago.

Mom and Dad 
A mysterious static noise triggers parents into killing their kids as mass hysteria sweeps the nation. Carly and Josh Ryan fight for their survival as their mom and dad plot their demise in this black comedy that features Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair.

Art, the Clown, was the center of the horror anthology All Hallows Eve and this film gives this most creepy clown a chance to showcase his bloody bag of tricks. Like the gory slashers of the 80's this film is bloody in its gore and surprisingly well made given its small budget and cult following.

A woman's sanity is called into question as she is committed to a mental institution against her will. While there she is being pursued by someone and not sure if its real or imagined. Unsane uses ones own suspicion and paranoia to fuel this creepy film directed by Steven Soderbergh and featuring Claire Foy.

Ghost Stories 
Andy Nyman appears in this creepy ghost movie that has him playing a skeptic who investigates a number of supposed hauntings. The cases are told in anthology format and follow in the tradition of the great English horror films of the 1960's. Martin Freeman also appears in this film that wowed the critics and has excellent word of mouth from the audience.

"Upgrade" is an intense action thriller that shows the perils that technology can offer despite the promises of making our lives better. In many respects, the movie reminded me of the original Robocop movie of the 80's with all the action, violence and some of the dark humor thrown in to lighten the mood.

This film is a more conventional horror film in the style of The Conjuring and does not rely on found footage. Instead, we see a paranormal movie that plays into the standard possession tropes that involve Quija board, Catholic teachings and misguided kids playing games they shouldn't.

A biologist is called in to investigate a region that has been quarantined with a mysterious force called The Shimmer. Once inside the team sent in to find the laws of physics don't seem to apply. Annihilation is a sci-fi horror thriller that critics complimented for its ambiguity and style that owes significantly to HP Lovecraft.

Hereditary is a slow burn kind of film that presents an uncomfortable situation for the family and throws in some shocking scenes and unsettling moments of terror. The young daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) stands out with her odd habits such as her tongue clicking as well as the creative but strange toys she makes.

A Quiet Place 
A year after an unknown event has left the world mostly empty of people a family somehow survives by keeping as quiet as possible. Despite all efforts to maintain as normal a life as the circumstance allows the threat of death looms closer as the family prepares for its future. How one can survive and fight back is portrayed quite effectively in this thriller from first time Director John Krasinski