Archive for the Horror Category

Best. Lovecraft. Movie. Ever.

Posted in Horror, Movies with tags , , , , on 31 July 2008 by Doc Tourneau

From the yeah, that was pretty cool — wish I’d written about it then department:

Horror writers H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King share a similar problem: their authorial voices are almost impossible to transfer to the medium of film. Particulars of their stories aside, what we love about these authors’ work is their expository language — their storytelling style and descriptive powers. That’s why, I think, that with a couple of notable exceptions aside, most cinematic adaptations of their works are disappointing.

The 2005 film THE CALL OF CTHULHU , produced by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, is one of those exceptions, and it’s an absolutely spectacular one!

Ironically, that may be because of the severe budgetary limitations the production was working under. Making a virtue out of necessity, director Andrew Leman and writer-producer Sean Branney hit on the brilliant (but not so obvious) idea of filming Lovecraft’s classic tale as a black-and-white silent film, as it might have been done in the 1920s. Instead of worrying about realistic special effects (or, God forbid, CGI) they were instead able to utilize a little Georges Méliès-style magic in their home-built practical effects.These two elements of the film complement each other beautifully, and, combined with the (really terrific!) original symphonic music score, add up to a hugely pleasurable viewing experience.

Especially for Lovecraft fans! Because this movie, this no-budget little labor-of-love fan film, is probably the best cinematic adaptation of an HPL story ever made. All the elements of the original story are there; and the story is very well told by the actor’s facial expressions and body language, plus the occasional well-placed title card (the text of which, as far as I can tell, are taken directly from the published story). The mood and atmosphere of the film are note-perfect, and stands in perfectly for Lovecraft’s ever-anxious authorial voice. A sense of of spooky mystery is evoked in the first act, set in the fabled Massachusetts city of Arkham. Real horror accompanies the second, at the pagan goings-on in swamps of Louisiana. And in the ocean-going third, when the titular Mr. C. makes his dread appearance, the terror of the characters is palpable.

Check out the trailer for yourself —

— and then immediately go to the HPLHS website, or to Amazon.com, and buy it. You’ll be happy that you did! And I’ll be too, because of these cats make enough money, they’re going to go on to film Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness. Woo hoo!

What makes “classic horror” a classic?

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , , on 5 July 2008 by Doc Tourneau

A message board that I enjoy participating on is over at FEARnet, the website for the cable horror channel. On the “Classics” board, a 38-year-old post the question “What constitutes a classic?”

I chuckled when I read that he used the year 1987 as the cutoff point for “classic” status, giving that distinguished appellation to such fare as FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Of course, he was right, to some degree… everybody defines these things, subjectively at least, by their own age, and the circumstances under which they saw these films. But still… 1987?? Why, that was only, um, 31 years ago… geez, thirty-one years? Shit!

Frankenstein's monster

Personally, and trying to remain somewhat objective about the issue, I peg the dividing line at 1968. That year’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was the first film to really break with the Gothic horror tradition exemplified by Universal Studios in the 30s, Val Lewton-era RKO in the 40s, Hammer Films in the 50s, and American International Pictures in the early 60s. From this point in time, it may be hard to grasp how shatteringly taboo-breaking NOTLD was, and why it was. After that, and the soon-on-its-heels THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT , and THE EXORCIST, well… hell. How can anybody find Frankenstein or Dracula or the Mummy or the Wolf Man truly scary anymore? Vincent Price creeping around some haunted house looked pretty quaint by that time. So, by my reckoning, 1968 was the year of birth for modern horror.

The only thing was, those earlier films were, for the most part, pretty damn good. Some could even be called works of art, if you buy into the argument that cinema is an art form. (Certainly, the first films of each of those studio’s franchises were excellent, even if the various sequels got a little flabby.) So, like many old movies that are well made and still remain popular, the “classic” tag was applied.

Another way to think about it would also be that those earlier horror films always dealt with their monsters as an external threat, to be defeated by men of reason and high moral character. (I’m thinking mostly of the Universal and Hammer product here.) This could also be defined as “classical” horror, as opposed to “romantic” horror. “Right wing” horror versus “left wing” horror; “Apollonian” versus “Dionysian.” “The monster is them, out there” versus “the monster is us, right here.”

Just a theory…

H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Statement of Randolph Carter”

Posted in Cool video, Horror with tags on 26 June 2008 by Doc Tourneau

H. P. Lovecraft

Over on the YouTube, there’s an individual who goes by the name of Kuwasseg, who has hit on a simple, but absolutely terrific, idea. The website LibriVox.org offers audiobook-style readings of public domain literature. The recordings themselves are also in the public domain. Mr. Kuwasseg has, with pictures and sound and music, virtually illustrated some of these recordings, and to great effect. (NOTE: It now appears that the original audio was not from LibriVox. My mistake. At any rate, LibriVox is a terrific organization; you should check them out. — PB) The material in question is by that venerable author of the weird fiction, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Kuwasseg uses imagery that, while not directly tied to the narrative, nicely adds to the overall creepy atmospherics of Lovecraft’s prose. It works wonderfully, especially coupled with the Boris Karloff-like sepulchral tones of the narrator, Peter Yearsley Glenn Hallstrom of the narration.

Take a look at the whole kit-and-kaboodle HERE

An unfairly forgotten Hammer Films classic

Posted in Horror, Movies, Science Fiction with tags , , on 18 May 2008 by Doc Tourneau

… Recently, while spending an enjoyable time surfing through Glenn Erickson’s terrific DVD Savant website, I happened along his review of THE CRAWLING EYE (a.k.a. THE TROLLENBERG TERROR,) an old British science fiction vehicle for Forrest Tucker. I had less-than-fond memories of that picture also, primarily due to its US poster for The Abominable Snowman with its American titlinglaughable no-budget special effects. Erickson gave it high marks for its writing and direction, however, noting its tight construction and sustained, mounting suspense. So, figuring I had nothing to lose other than a quickly-turned-over Netflix rental, I decided to check it out. Following a link from THE CRAWLING EYE review, I read his piece on the 1957 THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN. “What the hell?” I figured, “it’s Hammer, it’s got Peter Cushing; maybe it’s worth another look, after 40 years….”

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A way-cool mystery audio program: WORMWOOD

Posted in Cool audio, Horror, Mystery with tags on 17 May 2008 by Doc Tourneau

Wormwood logo copyright Habit Forming Films LLCI’m totally crazy about Wormwood: A Serialized Mystery. It’s a serialized audio drama, of the mystery/horror genre, podcasted weekly. It’s the best example I know of how it must have been in the 1930s and 40s, breathlessly awaiting the next adventure of The Shadow, or I Love a Mystery, or The Green Hornet.

… A psychic vision of a drowned womanleads the mysterious occultist and psychologist, Dr.  Xander Crow, to the town of Wormwood, a creepy little burg that David Lynch would feel right at home at (until it spooked him sufficiently to leave). Various soap-operatic situations abound; the town has a local monster, the “Muddyman,” perhaps an urban legend, perhaps… not. People die in unusual ways. People inexplicably disappear. Mayberry, this ain’t.

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