Saturday, November 3, 2012


The problem with participating in the Countdown To Halloween is there is so much I would have liked to have posted but didn't have the time. You have to scramble some times to post something each day, so you take short cuts with a You Tube video or just a photo.

I had some post about horror films I wanted to get to, but didn't have the time because of other commitments. I just wanted to mention these in passing since people tend to stumble onto this blog after several weeks or months.

I wanted to look at a few horror movies that I think are underrated. I'll admit, I'm not big on slamming something as overrated, but I wanted to single out one horror film for this distinction. I'm not suggesting it should be removed from circulation and all copies burned like many websites would do, but just to point out the fact.

MOST UNDERRATED "GOLDEN AGE" HORROR FILM: Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde (1932) Director Roubin Mamoulian created a master piece that set the precedents for how horror films are made with his use of sound, special effects, makeup and writing. The bad part is the film was not seen for many years. When MGM remade the film in the mid-40s with Spencer Tracy, they bought up copies of the 1932 Paramount version and had it hid. The reason was they knew their version was inferior to Mammolien's masterpiece with Frederic March. March (above) won an Oscar because he played Dr. Jeckyl as a caring doctor and idealist and Mr. Hyde as hateful, pushy, abusive Neanderthal monster. Many people have remarked that it was hard to tell when Tracy was Jeckyl or Hyde, because he didn't use elaborate make-up. This is also a pre-Code film so there is some mild sexual content with the character of Ivy (were led to believe she is a prostitute). The sounds heard during the transformation scenes included a recording of a gong played backwards and Mammolien's heartbeat. You must see this film at least once.

MOST UNDERRATED 60s HORROR FILM: Carnival of Souls (1962)  Directed by Herke Harvey, who made educational films in Kansas, this film became a cult classic after airing on late night television. Many people compare the look of the film to the later, more successful 60s zombie movie Night of the Living Dead. Unlike that movie, this film relies more on atmosphere than gore. These zombies prefer to dance with their victim than eat them. The movie stars Candace Hilligoss as Mary, a young woman who survives a horrible car accident. She takes a job as a church organist in Utah. On the way, Mary sees a strange pavilion by the shore of Salt Lake (An actual place known as Saltair Pavilion). At the same time, her radio begins playing only creepy organ music, which she cannot turn off. She swerves to miss a mysterious corpse-like man (Pictured above played by director Herke Harvey) standing in the road. She soon begins to see the man everywhere she goes. The film features many unnerving scene such as when women in a department store ignore Mary. The scene was filmed without sound, so we see the women talking to each other, but we don't hear anything. Another more famous scenes is near the end, when Mary goes to the Pavilion and finds the zombies waltzing to the creepy organ music. I can't tell you any more, I wouldn't want to give away the ending.

MOST UNDERRATED HORROR COMEDY: Shadows and Fog (1991)  Director Woody Allen's homage to expressionist films of the 20s and 30s. You can spot references to German directors Fritz Lang, F. W. Murnau, G. W. Pabst, as well as, Todd Browning, James Whale and, the above mentioned, Roubin Mamoulian. The movie involves a serial killer terrorizing a community, while rival gangs of vigilantes hunt for him in between trying to kill each other. One vigilante group tries to recruit a nebbish accountant named Kleinman (Played by Allen-who else?), who doesn't want to be involved. Meanwhile, a circus sword-swallower named Irmy (Mia Farrow) has a fight with her clown boyfriend Paul (John Malkovich) after she catches him making love to the circus tightrope walker (Madonna) and decides to leave the circus. Irmy and Kleinman eventually meet, as well as interact with a coroner, a poor mother and her baby, a group of prostitutes, college boys, police detectives, an alcoholic magician, Kleinman's bitter ex-fiance, Kleinman's voyeuristic boss and clairvoyant who smells people. Along with the impressive sets and black and white cinematography, there are several well-known people with small parts.
Heather Donahue apologizes for the movie

MOST OVERRATED HORROR FILM OF ALL TIME: The Blair Witch Project (1999) Directed by two guys, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, this film duped more people than Bernie Madoff. The film is supposed to be a collection of found video from three college students (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams), who went to Maryland to make a film about the legend of the Blair Witch. They supposedly never returned and all that was left was the video equipment and video of what supposedly happened. Oddly enough, the young lady leading the group (Donahue) turned up later in commercials for Steak N Shake, so she must not have died a violent death. As a matter of fact, you can't tell what happened at the end. I'm sorry this movie wasn't as scary as everyone said, as a matter of fact, it is downright borring. The only thing I thought was scary was the fact that, as a media major, I have worked with people like the Heather Donahue character. The Blair Witch couldn't be half as scary as the cranky, overachiever taskmaster, who demands she receive an "A" her project, even if she has to leave the others in the group for dead. It is too bad that I couldn't find on You Tube a stand-up routine Bill Cosby performed on The Late Show with David Letterman about going to see The Blair Witch Project at the theater with Mrs. Cosby. He talked about the overuse of the "f-word" to characters running through the woods in the dark with cameras "without hitting a tree."

And that brings an end to my Halloween celebration for 2012.    

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