Friday 31 October 2008

Day 31: Sham Shocktober shortlist!

Well, it’s been 31 days of blog, sweat and tears but finally Sham Shocktober has come to an end, shortly before my tether. As promised, I’ve previewed thirty different horror films over the last month, none of which I’ve actually seen... yet! Now, thanks to some inspirational user comments, I’ve decided which five I’m going to splurge some hard-earned PayPal funds on. So, credit crunch be damned, let the DVD-buying frenzy commence!

The reasoning: I’ve wanted to see this, like, forever anyway, but it was Jenn’s recommendation that finally sealed the deal: “This is one of those movies that I've seen probably a dozen times. It’s probably not worth that many viewings, but I can’t help myself!” How can one resist such fervour? Such passion? Such personal shame?!

The movie: BLACULA
The reasoning: Reader Stacia (of She Blogged By Night) is a connoisseur of classic Hollywood so I was quite surprised when she ’fessed up to a love of this infamous piece of 70s blaxploitation: “One of my favorite parts of Blacula is the opening animation sequence with the bat. It is absolute gold. You must see this!”... You know, I think I must!

The reasoning: Guilt! Pure guilt on my part about calling its star Lesleh Donaldson “horribly named” – which is, in retrospect, a pretty mean thing to say, as one of her cousins pointed out. So, to support Lesleh, and because I recently found out she also starred in the slasher classics Curtains and Happy Birthday to Me, I’ve decided to go for Funeral Home. Oh, and did I mention it sounds freakin’ rad?!

The movie: SHOCK WAVES
The reasoning: Shock Waves is awesome, and I’m glad you chose this one as an option. It’s pretty amazing, claustrophobic and just plain creepy. I say go for it!” So says Made for TV Mayhem-blogger and all-round horror journo extraordinaire, Amanda By Night. And I always aim to please, so consider it bought!

The reasoning: Wow! Mucho love for this one, with Reel Whore calling it “2nd only to Grindhouse for best 2007 horror” and Corey of Evil on Two Legs opining: “I envy your Leslie Vernon virginity. I love this movie so much... and soon (hopefully), so will you”. Well, I can’t wait to pop my BTM cherry and find out!

Tonight, however, it’s just me, a few friends and Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Happy Halloween, folks!

Thursday 30 October 2008

Day 30: Let's Scare Jessica to Death

Sham Shocktober hasn’t been any kind of countdown, but I have saved the best for last. And tomorrow I’ll let you know which of Shocktober’s 30 suggestions have become my Top 5 must-see movies. To me, today’s choice is the Holy Grail of horror films I haven’t seen – the one I almost can’t believe I’ve never watched. Think about it: I’ve seen Cheerleader Massacre and yet I haven’t seen this? I’m clearly either (a) stupid, (b) stupid, (c) stupid, or (d) all of the above and stupid to boot. Anyway, if you haven’t worked it out by now – or read the post title – I’m talking about 1971’s Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.

Key to my fascination with Jessica is the fact that I know so little about it. Basically, I hear it’s creepy and it might have something to do with vampires... who knows? I actively avoid reading about the plot because I really don’t want to spoil anything. Anything at all. But it’s difficult to argue with reviews like these:

“To say it’s one of the best horror films ever made still wouldn’t do it justice”Amanda By Night

“They really don’t make ’em like this anymore. I was mesmerized”Final Girl

“Will linger in your consciousness for years to come”DVD Drive-in

“Shamefully underrated”Kim Newman (and that’s high praise indeed from this venerable horror expert)

So that’s why we might call Jessica the guts of Sham Shocktober, celebrating a month of classic horror I haven’t actually experienced. Behind the scenes, I’ve been frantically flogging unwanted DVDs on eBay, and tomorrow – yes, on Halloween itself, pumpkins – I’ll let you know which five of the thirty preceding movies I’ve decided to buy with my PayPal proceeds. Thanks for the help in choosing!

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Day 29: The Crazies

I’d love to be told The Crazies is a great film. Especially if it’s true. I consider George Romero to be The Maestro as far as zombie movies are concerned, but my enthusiasm doesn’t quite extend to anything else he’s done. The slow-paced Martin, for instance, left me cold, but I’d be prepared to give it another go with my now no-longer teenaged head on (that old teenage head might’ve had more hair on it but, damn, it got bored easily). I fared better with Creepshow and Monkey Shines, both of which were just weird and wacky enough to keep me entertained, but as for Romero’s dull contribution to the two-part anthology Two Evil Eyes... well, talk about your “dark half”. Wait, that’s also the name of the Stephen King novel he adapted in 1993! And that was so memorable I can’t remember anything about it.

The Crazies might be the closest George has got to the outbreak themes addressed in his brilliant Dead movies without making another all-out zombie flick. It concerns the effects of a malignant virus called Trixie (scary!) which, from the looks of things, turns the residents of a Pennsylvania town into CRAZIES – which is an acronym of “Creepy Rednecks Are Zombified In Every Scene” – and causes them to engage in all kinds of “crazy” behaviour. I’m not sure how crazy exactly, but Romero isn’t one to shy away from the violent and nasty so I doubt it’s anything like the sort referred to in those hilarious “You don’t have to be mad to work here – but it helps!” signs.

But how mad would you have to be to miss The Crazies?

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Day 28: Nosferatu

Amanda By Night quickly sniffed out the answer to today's riddle:
So, if we stick to our equations, that means: Nosferatu (1922) + Nosferatu (1979) = TWO more movies I've not seen! That's two potential classics, both quite highly regarded from the looks of things. And if we add them to Blacula, Ingrid Pitt and Bela Lugosi's Dracula, that's one rather large pile of Very Important Vamps I've never clapped eyes on.
Sorry, Amanda, there ain't no prize but I will point you in the direction of two fantastic free commentaries for that other classic vampire movie Fright Night, one featuring director Tom Holland with William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys and FX Artist Randall William Cook, and the other with Tom Holland, Chris Sarandon and Jonathan Stark. There you go: it's the gift that keeps on giving! Well, if you listen to them repeatedly.

Day 28: Guess the movie

Monday 27 October 2008

Day 27: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Somehow, somehow, this recent-ish one managed to get away... Which is surprising because I’m usually all over a slasher movie that gets a half-decent review anywhere. As it happens, Behind the Mask has had plenty of favourable write-ups, but something must’ve been holding me back because I still haven’t seen it. Perfect stuff for Sham Shocktober, then.

My problem might be that it’s not immediately obvious from the reviews and publicity how far down the path of comedy this film goes. I mean, I heart comedy and I double-heart horror, but mixing the two doesn’t always produce hearty results (though you should never let anyone tell you that Haunted Honeymoon is anything less than a masterpiece).

From the sound of things, Behind the Mask follows, in documentary fashion, the preparations made by a wannabe serial killer for his big night of slaughter in a small town. We’ve seen film crews following psychos before (Man Bites Dog) and we’ve also seen comedic Jason Voorhees copycats (Freak Out) but a middle ground between those two movies is hard to imagine: the former is as bleak and nasty as they get, while the latter is so low-budget it would actually look like a documentary if it weren’t so silly.

So someone please tell me: what will I find when I look behind this mask?

Sunday 26 October 2008

Day 26: Dead Set

Unless you harbour secret fantasies of graphically murdering Davina McCall, you’ve probably never seen her quite like this before. Admittedly, if you live outside the UK, you’ve probably never seen her before anyway, but Davina is famous for presenting Big Brother here for the last nine years. How has she ended up with a gaping jugular? Well, it’s all to do with a new five-part horror serial starting tomorrow night on E4. It’s called Dead Set and, seeing as it’s timed to coincide with Halloween, and seeing as I can’t wait to tune in, I’ve decided to make it my Sham Shocktober pick of the day.

Big Brother has long been accused of turning its viewers into mindless zombies but, in Dead Set, the whole of Britain has already succumbed to a zombie outbreak, with the only people not yet affected (and indeed blissfully unaware) being the remaining contestants holed up in the Big Brother house. Back up this satirical premise with the presence of Davina and the actual BB sets and you have what could be great TV, assuming the makers really go for the gory horror angle as well as the laughs (and, if the trailer is anything to go by, it looks like they do).

It’s been a while since British TV has tried its hand at straight horror but, with this and the forthcoming BBC shocker Apparitions, things are looking decidedly spooky this autumn. Check out Dead Set’s website here.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Day 25: Don’t Ring the Doorbell

A large part of me wants to see 1978’s Don’t Ring the Doorbell because of its bizarre original name, The Mafu Cage. But another part of me thinks that’s one bad mafu-ing title. (The remaining portion just wants a drink and a lie down.)

Don’t Ring the Doorbell brings together Lee Grant and Carol Kane, who between them have five Oscar nominations and one win. So what they’re doing in a movie about incestuous lesbian sisters living in a monkey-filled mansion, I’m not sure. Neither is a stranger to the horror/slasher genre: Grant is a top final girl (and Anchorwoman In Peril!) in Visiting Hours, while Kane has been in more pseudo-slashers than anyone else I can think of, including the offbeat thriller When a Stranger Calls (and its more satisfying sequel); the previously name-dropped slasher satire Pandemonium; and the gory black comedy Office Killer.

Perhaps the actresses were going for a whole Baby Jane-type vibe. And, if that was the case, please remake it, girls! Thirty years down the line adds all kinds of interesting layers to a project like this. And ageing horror divas are so cool.

Friday 24 October 2008

Day 24: The House of Seven Corpses

Sometimes less is more. Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses boasts 1K’s worth of cadavers but I can’t say I remember much about the movie. The House of Seven Corpses, on the other hand, makes a rather less spectacular claim, but I’m willing to bet that every one of those dead bodies makes a memorable appearance.

As usual, I don’t know too much about Ho7C’s, but I do know it’s about a film crew making a movie in a spooky mansion with a gruesome past. It stars John Carradine (but, then again, what doesn’t?) and also features Charles Macaulay, who appeared in one of my previous Sham Shocktober entries, Blacula, as Dracula... Confused yet?

Yes, it does all sound a little haphazard, mixing in murders, witchcraft, a haunted house and lots of film-within-a-film moments, but I’d always rather have too much going on in a movie as opposed to too little. Plus, The House of Seven Corpses has an irresistible bit of blurb on its DVD case that goes: “Now the crew’s biggest problem isn’t running out of film... IT’S RUNNING FOR THEIR LIVES!”

Yessiree, it’s written in a goofy red horror font and everything.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Day 23: Midnight Lace

Sham Shocktober continues with a vintage woman-in-peril thriller that looks to be right up my fog-shrouded alley. It’s got telephone terrorization, mysterious voices in the night, Doris Day as a middle-aged final girl, and – fuck, yeah! – my favourite actor of all time, Roddy McDowall... It’s as if someone shone a projector through my brain and filmed what came out!

One thing that really appeals to me about Midnight Lace is a subplot mentioned by some reviewers involving the contrast between Doris Day’s old apartment block (complete with one of those scary “cage” elevators) and the new block being built nearby. Yeah, I know, sounds thrilling, but bear with me... The architect responsible seems to be one of the men suspected of stalking Doris, and I’m hoping she’ll have to do some snooping around the place. Y’see, the notion of “evil buildings” has always intrigued me ever since I first saw Ghostbusters; while some films (like the Toolbox Murders remake) play fast and loose with the idea, others achieve some really creepy stuff with their empty apartments and mysteriously rearranged architecture (think Rosemary’s Baby and Hysteria).

At the very least, who doesn’t love a good Gaslight-style paranoia piece? And with the quality of this cast (which also includes Rex Harrison, Myrna Loy and John Gavin) I doubt I’ll come away disappointed. I just hope Rex doesn’t sing.

Sham Shocktober update

Snippets, news nuggets, “snuggets”... call ’em what you will... As Day 23 of Sham Shocktober looms (with a little-known gem of a movie choice, I assure you) AiP is taking a quick time-out to post a few short thoughts.

ITEM! Remember I was going on about The Literary Six the other day? Turns out that its author, Vince Liaguno, has a blog called Slasher Speak, the masthead of which alone is enough to send any slasher fan into an all-out geek fit. It’s snarky and intelligent and makes me all the more enthusiastic about reading his novel. (Check out his interesting take on Jeepers Creepers if you don’t know where to start.)

LINK! Need to practise your voting ahead of the big election? The 1980s Slasher Cup is underway (I know this because cool kid Amanda By Night clued me in via her awesomely awesome blog) so visit daily and pick your favourite slasher from the two suggested. Together we can identify the Best Ever 80s Slasher! And maybe even make the world a better place.

PLEA! Until recently, AiP had six official followers (see right) but now one of them has apparently deserted... Was it something I said? Come back! I can change!
D’OH! Why is it that I can’t seem to post comments at Retro Slashers?

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Day 22: The Black Belly of the Tarantula

Due to the fact that the Italians produced more gialli in the 1970s than they did gelati, it wasn’t difficult to come up with one I hadn’t seen for Sham Shocktober. Other strong contenders were The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail and Seven Bloodstained Orchids, but The Black Belly of the Tarantula won out simply because it mixes in another horror movie staple I love... Spiders.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: spiders make a film scarier. Halloween, you say? Okay, remember the scene where Michael Myers has Jamie Lee Curtis cornered in a closet? Well, just imagine that, as she frantically searches for something to defend herself with, her hand closes around – not the comforting cold steel of a wire hanger – but the hairy legs of a giant spider! Argh!! She’d be out of that closet and jumping into the arms of a soulless boogeyman quicker than you could say “Rob Zombie remake”. (And, if Rob Zombie did remake it, I’m sure we’d find out all about the spider’s past, why it was in the closet, and how its mom was a stripper.)

Anyway, in The Black Belly of the Tarantula, a killer is stalking a health spa, paralyzing his victims with spider venom before gruesomely slicing them up. There’s sleaze, gore, Giancarlo Giannini, three Bond girls... and, above all, there’s spiders. Scary!

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Day 21: Shock Waves

Gee, it’s so hard reviewing films you haven’t seen... I’m glad Sham Shocktober comes but once a year lifetime. On the one hand, I want to find out enough about the movie in question to have something to tell you about; on the other, I don’t want to know so much that I end up spoiling it for myself. But on the other hand (which is actually my left foot disguised with a glove) there’s only ten days of Sham Shocktober left, so let’s just bite the bullet and turn to... SHOCK WAVES!

I’ve actually already seen a few scenes from Shock Waves because its director, Ken Weiderhorn, had the cheek to sneak them into his later film, Eyes of a Stranger, where they play on a TV in the background (and sometimes foreground). Eyes of a Stranger is a pretty good slasher, and a favourite at AiP due to the fact that its heroine is an Anchorwoman In Peril. The clips from Shock Waves aren’t bad, either: the movie is obviously low budget but, even in miniature doses, some of its imagery looks quite striking.

The whole “underwater zombies” theme is one that has yet to be fully exploited by the genre, and yet it makes such sense. Where else do zombies – who don’t need to breathe, remember – have such a home-field advantage over their non-shambling human counterparts? I don’t know if Shock Waves features any underwater chase scenes, but I hope it does. If not, there’s always George Romero’s next film, reputed also to feature waterlogged zombies, to look forward to...

Monday 20 October 2008

Day 20: The Literary Six

OMG! How unpredictable, original and thrilling am I? You were all like, “Whoa, I wonder what movie’s coming next in Anchorwoman In Peril’s stupendously awesome Sham Shocktober list”... But guess what? Number 20 isn’t a film at all. It’s like totally a novel! ’Scuse me while I blow... your... MIND!

I’ve seen a lot of slasher movies (although not yesterday’s Funeral Home) but, unless you count Christopher Pike, I don’t think I’ve read too many books that could be considered slashers. I guess the rather simple formula doesn’t easily lend itself to the expanded format of a novel, where things like characterization and motivation are usually a little more thoroughly discussed. Still, it’s an intriguing concept, and Vince A. Liaguno’s The Literary Six, which looks to be a conscious attempt to translate the genre to the page, is getting some pretty good reviews.

It’s set, naturally, on the remote island of Shelter Rock, where six former college friends have gathered to relive their exploits as a bitchy campus clique at the mansion home of one of their number, who’s now a bestselling author. Before you can say “vengeful killer”, a storm has cut off the island and the friends are disappearing one by one at the hands of a mysterious figure from their past. Will they survive this Savage Weekend? Or will it be Curtains for them all? I don’t know! And I can’t think of any more slasher title-related puns, either!

So there you go. I’ve done movies, I’ve done TV shows and I’ve done books... Tune in tomorrow when Sham Shocktober reviews your MOM!

Sunday 19 October 2008

View of Terror

With Shannen Doherty back in the public eye again (and, shockingly, not for throwing beer bottles) I thought it high time to dig out one of her TV movies from the wilderness years between her exit from Charmed and recent comeback with 90210. And you know what? I liked it! I’m also not alone in this possible delusion, as a surprising number of people have also left positive user comments at the IMDb. Yes, it seems that 2003’s View of Terror (aka Nightlight) just isn’t bad at all. Either that, or Shannen’s been at it with the threats again.

Both sides, huh? Guess that’s why they call it a window!

Like many a post-Rear Window voyeurism thriller, this one begins with a view through a telescope. Someone’s spying on the residents of a New York apartment building and, in particular, a beautiful female resident with some lovely lingerie but, unfortunately, no curtains. The next thing we know, she’s been tied up and left to flambé in a burning apartment, as her mysterious stalker disappears with a whispered “Sleep tight, babydoll...”

SHOCK CUT! to Shannen Doherty, reaching out her hand to grab hold of a large cock...atiel. I’m not sure if this is actually meant to be a shock cut or it’s just a clumsy one but, either way, the terror of the previous scene abruptly gives way to a shot of Shannen fingering her feathered friend – which we learn is a beloved pet that goes by the name of “Kitty”. Irony? I don’t know. But I do know that pets never fare well in stalker movies, and I’ll be surprised if Kitty makes it to the final reel without ending up as cockatiel chasseur.

Flambé... Chasseur... Those cooking classes are really paying off! Anyway, Shannen’s in the middle of bit of a domestic hoo-hah, breaking up with her boyfriend (Michel Francoeur) on the grounds that he’s always starting fights. (Again with the irony, Ms Anger Management!) In retrospect, it’s not the best plan, as not only is she left without a seriously hunky boyfriend but also – oops – a home. Enter her best friend and business partner, Tasha (Jayne Heitmeyer), who pulls a few strings with the building manager and gets her a place across the road in the ominously named (not really!) Sommer Building.

But wait a minute, this new apartment looks familiar. We’ve seen – or rather not seen – its dire lack of curtains somewhere before. Could this be the place formerly owned by the ill-fated exhibitionist from the pre-credits sequence? You bet your spied-upon ass it is! Soon the telescope is back, the threatening phone calls have begun, and Shannen’s starting to regret signing a one-year lease. Oh, watch out Kitty!

As TV-made suspense flicks go, View of Terror is no Someone’s Watching Me! but then it’s not directed by a young John Carpenter. It suffers from the common TV-movie affliction of having good ideas that only get developed as far as the next commercial break. (For instance, there’s a great scene where Tasha decides bring the voyeur out of hiding by performing a seductive striptease in front of her window. Does it work? Who knows, but I can tell you that Peugeot is the drive of your life.™) Similarly, the stalker’s predilection for giving his victims Saw-style “rules” to abide by is never really explored. Despite this, the plot works and even manages to feel like it’s throwing in some new twists.

I liked it that Shannen’s friend, Tasha, is seen both helping her and going behind her back when it suits, like when she sets her sights on Shannen’s boyfriend (y’know, like how people act in real life). It’s actually a shame Tasha’s absent for much of the second half. For once, the police also take our heroine’s fears seriously when she goes to them with her story, but it’s the legal complications that end up making them ineffective. These are simple touches, but they work towards making View of Terror that little bit more believable.

Not that you necessarily want a Lifetime movie to be enormously believable when it comes to providing some decent thrills, but you do want it to be thrilling. And View of Terror manages this and feels so rewatchable that I’d even consider buying the DVD. A few more like this, Shannen, and you can flip ’em the finger when they ask you to star in that next-generation Charmed spin-off circa 2014. Just don’t throw anything, ’kay?

Rating: 3/5

Day 19: Funeral Home

Authentic 80s slasher movies I haven’t seen are few and far between, so that’s why Funeral Home is a definite addition to the Sham Shocktober calendar. From the looks of things, it’s a little more complex than the straight slasher formula of “Teens + Remote Location + Killer” (thus moving it more towards the horror-thriller end of the slasher spectrum) but let’s not split hairs. I simply can’t afford to get picky where unseen retro-slashers are concerned, or I’ll have nothing left to look forward to at all.

Lesleh Donaldson plays Heather, a young woman who, according to the blurb, “helps her grandmother convert the town funeral home into a bed-and-breakfast inn”... Isn’t that just lovely? They could reopen as Dead & Breakfast or perhaps the Mortuary Motel. My only worry is that the town will be left without a funeral home, but hopefully somewhere there’s a young woman helping her grandmother convert an old hotel into one... because the last thing you need when there’s a killer on the loose is nowhere to put the bodies (just ask Michael Myers).

It all sounds like a good backdrop for a horror film, anyhow, but it’ll have to be pretty amazing to replace Mortuary Academy as my favourite funeral home-themed movie of all time.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Day 18: Three Extremes

Extremes. If there’s one word that sums up the whole point of horror fiction, that might just be it. Great horror lurks around the limits of what we can endure, understand and survive, daring us not to turn away when confronted with the worst possible scenario.

So, why do I want to see Three Extremes? Number one: it’s a portmanteau movie and portmanteau movies rule. Some horror stories don’t need to be 90-minute features; they need to be short and snappy in order to be shocking (even the 60-minute Masters of Horror TV episodes sometimes feel too long). Secondly, it’s from Asia, a filmmaking region that operates well outside the restrictions and conventions of Hollywood, so who knows what extremes it’ll get up to? And, number three: the trio of short films have creepy and intriguing names – “Dumplings”, “Box” and “Cut”.

Reading about Three Extremes, I’m reminded of “Imprint”, an episode of Masters of Horror that features some pretty extreme material, both in the subjects it explores and the images it presents. It’s also my favourite episode. I mean, it’s nasty. On paper, the plot sounds pretty ludicrous but, believe me, in execution, it just keeps getting more horrific. It’s also from Takashi Miike, who directs Three Extreme’s “Box” segment.

Just call me extremely interested.

Friday 17 October 2008

Day 17: The Vampire Lovers

I’m not a huge fan of vampire movies, and neither am I the type to lust after luscious ladies. In fact, you could even say I’m gay and I hate vampires. Therefore, I’m not sure what I think I’m going to get out of the lesbian-themed erotic horror film, The Vampire Lovers. I certainly don’t think that its famous scene of Ingrid Pitt chasing Madeleine Smith naked around a bed is going to do much for me. But still... it’s one of the last “big” Hammer films I’ve left to see, and I’m all for equal-opportunity bloodsucking.

For once, it can’t be said that Hammer added all the sex and sensationalism to a story themselves; by all accounts, the lesbian angle is pretty apparent in Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s source novel, Carmilla. Indeed, when the British Board of Film Censors objected to it, Hammer simply pointed out that the subtext had been there all along – in a piece of classical literature, no less – and, however surprisingly, the censors backed down.

I think it’s this rebel streak that appeals to me about The Vampire Lovers. That and the warning on the poster that it’s “not for the mentally immature”. Perhaps I’m not ready for it yet, after all.

Thursday 16 October 2008

Day 16: Cameron's Closet

So, yesterday we talked about Howling sequels, a few of which, it turns out, use elements of Gary Brandner’s source novel more faithfully than the original Joe Dante film. Well, it also turns out that, while Brandner wasn’t involved in the screenplay of The Howling, he did write the script for another 80s horror movie – and that movie was 1988’s Cameron’s Closet.

As with a lot of horror films I’ve long harboured an urge to see, my fascination with this one stems back to staring up in awe at the poster in the video store window when I was a kid. (It looked something like the sleeve art to the left, although what language that’s in, I’m not quite sure). Around then, I watched plenty of videos but they were the ones my mum brought home, and tended not to be horror. Or, if they were, they’d be of the tamer variety, like Poltergeist III. Somehow, although I was obsessed with horror films, it never really occurred to me to pester her to bring home a nasty one once in a while. To me, horror was the stuff I stayed up late for on Friday nights (Hammer films if it was BBC1; cheesy monster movies if it was Channel 4). The contemporary stuff looked even better – lurid-looking movies with colourfully gruesome posters and titles like Kindred, The Bite and Pin – but I’d sort of resigned myself to waiting until I was old enough to rent them myself.

Anyway, that’s all I can really base my desire to see Cameron’s Closet on. It’s only today that I actually looked it up on the IMDb and found out what it’s about, and it sounds a bit ropey to be honest. Damn, that poster was cool, though.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Day 15: Howling V: The Rebirth

What do you get if you cross an Agatha Christie-style country house mystery with a werewolf horror movie? Well, actually, you get 1974’s The Beast Must Die, a campy Amicus outing starring Peter Cushing, complete with a “werewolf break” to give you time to guess the identity of the marauding killer. If you want to get today’s Sham Shocktober film, Howling V, you probably need to chuck in some 80s-style rubber creature effects. At least, that’s what I’m hoping, anyway, because nothing peps up a good murder mystery than some toothy monster masks.

Howling V is set in Budapest, in a centuries-old castle where various parties have gathered to – I don’t know, actually... pad out the number of suspects, I guess. Because the guest list is rapidly dwindling and one amongst them is not only a killer, but a hairy wolverine pest.

I adore Joe Dante’s original The Howling. I think it’s unique in its melding of modern and mythical – not to mention innovative, funny and actually disturbing in places. Of the many sequels, the only ones I’ve seen are Part 2 (surely the nadir of Christopher Lee’s entire career) and Part 6 (which isn’t too bad), but this is the one whose plot really appeals to me. While the Wikipedia entry makes it sound like Citizen Kane or something, I’ll be happy if it just manages to be a furrier take on April Fool’s Day.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Day 14: Dragonwyck

If Hitchcock’s Rebecca is a spooky film about a haunted marriage, Dragonwyck looks to be an all-out gothic horror movie about said subject. Gene Tierney stars as Son Goku, a monkey-tailed boy on a quest to recover seven magical artefacts known as— Oops, no, sorry, that’s Dragon Ball... Dragonwyck is more concerned with family curses, locked rooms and mysterious deaths. It was on BBC2 recently and I missed it. I’m a dummy.

Like several of the unseen films I’ve mentioned this Sham Shocktober, Dragonwyck (1946) has carved out a little niche in my mind thanks to its evocative title. It was made at a time when Vincent Price could still be regarded as a romantic lead – albeit a sinister one – and I bet he excels. I’ve seen him in the same year’s Shock, in which he plays a murderous doctor, and his suave menace was hard to shake. I’m guessing Dragonwyck plays on this same quality.

Monday 13 October 2008

Day 13: True Blood

True Blood is SO not me. The whole Buffy and Angel thing passed me by completely, along with the more recent Moonlight. I guess I just prefer my vampires fangsty, not angsty, thank you very much. That's why I was shocked - shocked like I'd suffered a stake to the heart - when I read the first of Charlaine Harris's "Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Mysteries" on holiday and, er, loved it. Ahem.

Now there's a new TV series adaptation and, until recently, I still found myself conflicted about whether I'd like it or not. Even though it was made for HBO. And even though it came from Six Feet Under's creator Alan Ball. That was before I saw the show's opening credits on YouTube (because it hasn't made it to the UK yet) and, although I know it's like judging a book by its cover, I have to say I'm well and truly psyched about it. And I always did quite like the original book cover, anyway.

True Blood's opening credits, set to Jace Everett's "Bad Things", are a Southern-fried flickerbook of mundane-made-macabre imagery. They're gothic, gospel-infused and darkly sexy, with only the wittiest hints of the vampire theme, from strawberry-stained lips to a sign reading "GOD HATES FANGS". Uber-cool and, if you're a fan of the books, probably not what you expected at all.

So, yes, today's Sham Shocktober film isn't actually a film. Sorry. We'll get back to the cinematic stuff tomorrow, promise. In the meantime, if you've seen True Blood and it bites, be sure to let me know I'm just a sucker for the hype.

Sunday 12 October 2008

Day 12: The House Where Evil Dwells

Today's Sham Shocktober movie has a great title, which is possibly why I've wanted to see the film ever since I first heard of it. Just try sounding it out for yourself: The House Where Eeeeeevil Dwells... Notice how the word evil seems to linger on your tongue as you say it? Just like peanut butter. Eeeeeeevil peanut butter, that is!

The House Where Evil Dwells sounds a little like the template for The Grudge. It's about an American family who move into a house in Japan, only to discover the place is plagued by hostile supernatural forces borne of some horrific past tragedy. But it's the unique manner in which these spectres apparently make themselves known that accounts for why I want to see this. Read any review and you'll come across references to giant monster crabs and screaming faces appearing in bowls of soup... Wow! If I were a ghost, that's exactly the sort of spooky shit I'd want to pull off. The Grudge with extra pincers and haunted soup? Count me in! And, while we're at it, where's the remake? Is Jan de Bont available? I want my souped-up CGI eeeeevil soup!

Saturday 11 October 2008

Day 11: Student Bodies

Let’s stick with 1981 for today’s Sham Shocktober movie. It was a great year for slasher movies, seeing the release of classics like My Bloody Valentine, The Prowler, Hell Night and The Burning... but was it a great year for slasher spoofs?

Remember when Scream hit it big in 1996? Soon after, there was the run of copycat movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend, swiftly followed by the franchise sequels Scream 2 and 3, and finally the parodies: Scary Movie, which was funny when it stuck to actually spoofing slashers, and Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th, which wasn’t funny when it spoofed anything.

The same pattern of clones, sequels and spoofs emerged in the original slasher cycle post-Halloween, with Student Bodies first out of the gate. I’ve never seen it but the very fact that it’s associated with 80s slasher movies and comes authentically from the era, means I’m inescapably intrigued. Plus, it recently came out on DVD.

Trouble is, I’ve had my fingers burned in the past by early 80s slasher spoofs – specifically, I’m looking at you, Wacko, with your amusing opening followed by a tedious decline into nothingness (seriously, did that movie actually end, or just stop when the director clocked 80 minutes on his stopwatch?). Then again, 1982’s spoof Pandemonium is a joy – as you’d expect from anything that managed to collect together Edie McClurg, Carol Kane, Paul Reubens, Eileen Brennan and Judge Reinhold. But what about Student Bodies? It certainly has the best title, but is it any good? And should I splash out on that DVD?

Not sure about that tagline, though: “At Last, The World’s First Comedy Horror Movie”... Didn’t they see Exorcist II?

Friday 10 October 2008

Day 10: Dark Night of the Scarecrow

I like to think I know my straw when it comes to scarecrow horror movies. I’ve seen Scarecrow, Scarecrows and even Night of the Scarecrow but I must admit I haven’t seen the one that precedes them all, the classic 1981 TV movie Dark Night of the Scarecrow.

What is it about scarecrows that we apparently find so frightening? They certainly scare crows (hence the name), presumably because they look like people, and birds are jittery when it comes to people. But we aren’t scared of people – at least, not ones who wear dungarees, hang around in cornfields, and never move. Perhaps scarecrows unnerve us for the exact opposite reason: they don’t quite look like people. They’re a little off. A little wrong. But still a little too lifelike in their lifelessness.

1988’s Scarecrows is certainly quite scary. It’s an eerie slasher-cum-ghost story with some truly nightmarish moments, and it beats the weather-beaten pants off the later, more conventional slasher, Scarecrow. On the other hand, Night of the Scarecrow is a cheerfully innocuous possessed-scarecrow outing from 1995, which reminded me a little of Pumpkinhead, only with a far less intimidating monster. In fact, it’s this film that seems most closely inspired by Dark Night of the Scarecrow, both in its plot and title. I can’t wait to find out for sure when the latter gets its promised special-edition DVD release from Image Entertainment next year.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Day 9: Blacula

You know what? There’s a little gap in my horror knowledge where vampire movies are concerned. I’ve already owned up to not having seen one seminal Dracula, and there might be a few more famous fangies getting a mention before we reach the end of...

Sorry – I just had to stick my spiffy Sham Shocktober logo in there again... It’s been at least a week since I last used it and those things don’t draw themselves, you know! So far this month, classics like The Bad Seed and M are getting all the love, while no one seems to have anything good to say about recent French shocker Sheitan.

Anyway, let’s get back to the fangs at hand, those being the pearly whites of one Blacula, star of yet another vampire film I haven’t seen.

Blacula – and I believe he’s actually called that in the film – is apparently shipped to “present day” Los Angeles in his coffin and accidentally released from a hundred years of undead slumber by two gay antique dealers (this sounds like a funny idea but I fear it might come off as a tad offensive as far as 70s exploitation fare goes... although I’m keeping an open mind). Thus, with any luck, the scene is set for some amusing interplay between a 19th Century black bloodsucker and the swinging, shagadelic world of 70s LA, along with – who knows? – maybe even a few chills. Whether or not the film turns out to be any good (and, if you’ve seen it, please let me know what you think) it has to be said that Blacula has one of the best taglines ever:

Rising from the echoing corridors of Hell, an awesome being of the supernatural – with satanic power of sheer dread, chained forever to a slavery more vile than any before endured...

Well, either that one or:

He’s black! He’s beautiful! He’s Blacula!

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Day 8: Bug

You may remember I mentioned a 1975 movie called Bug in the Horror That Made Me series. Well, today’s Sham Shocktober entry is an entirely different Bug, directed by William Friedkin and released more recently in 2006. The fact that Friedkin is behind it is enough on its own to make me want to see it, since I generally find his stuff pretty interesting – well, apart from CAT Squad, which he must’ve been seriously hard-up to have considered making (although, while making one CAT Squad movie might be considered a misfortune, making two?! That’s just careless).

Anyway, the two Bugs have nothing to do with one another. Bug #1 was a 70s creature feature about pyromaniac cockroaches, while Bug #2 looks to be a psychological freak-piece about two mentally unsound lovers (Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon) holed up in a rotting motel room and facing a possibly imaginary insect infestation. Harry Connick Jr. seems to be in it as well (the film, that is, not the motel room), possibly crooning a few appropriate songs like “I Got You Under My Skin” and “Lofty’s Roach Soufflé”.

What I find interesting about the idea of watching Bug #2 is that it looks to encapsulate perfectly how my idea of horror has changed in the years since Bug #1 had me quivering under the bedsheets in fear of flammable cockroaches. To wit, things that scared me as a pre-teen included mutant killer cockroaches, cockroaches on fire, cockroaches crawling down my ear, and cockroaches in my bed. These days, I’m far more likely to have nightmares about mental illness, bad hotel rooms, and Harry Connick Jr.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Day 7: The Bad Seed

Oh dear, I do hope that Sham Shocktober isn’t just turning into a daily dose of me reeling off a film title and saying “OMG! I can’t believe I’ve not seen this!” – because that would be so boring. I had hoped the idea might have a little more depth than that. On the other hand, in respect to The Bad Seed, OMG! I can’t believe I’ve not seen this!

Now, I’m not totally clueless when it comes to the movie – I mean, I know it’s not about gardening or anything – but, considering how synonymous its title is with the notion of devil-children, it’s surprising how little I actually do know about it. I know it stars Patty McCormack as the eponymous pipsqueak, and I assume she gets up to some things that just weren’t socially acceptable in 1956 – like holding her cutlery in the wrong hands or perhaps even shouting “atom bomb!” in math class. I saw 1993’s The Good Son, which everyone compared to The Bad Seed, and that had Macaulay Culkin throwing a mannequin off a motorway bridge and calling Elijah Wood a shithead or something, but I doubt The Bad Seed is as histrionic as that (or as goshdarn funny).

Patty returned to her suburban-psycho roots in a couple of other 90s movies, Mommy and Mommy 2: Mommy’s Day, this time playing a bad seed who’s grown up, germinated and produced seedlings of her own... Uh, yeah, that’s about as far as I can run with that metaphor. I doubt they’re as good as Serial Mom, anyway.

Monday 6 October 2008

Day 6: Sheitan

Vincent Cassel. Is. Scary. One minute he’s goofing around like a silly French puppy; the next, BAM! Your teeth are halfway down your gullet, your feet are encased in cement, and you find yourself flying off the end of a jetty somewhere sur la Seine. That’s why I wouldn’t want to run into Vincent Cassel on a dark night – which is exactly what happens to the young cast of Sheitan, who encounter Cassel dressed as a shepherd on their way home from a nightclub. But this shepherd is one sheep short of a flock, and the friends are soon fighting for survival at a remote country house.

I’m itching to see Sheitan, which is strangely apt because one of its plot keywords at the Internet Movie Database is Scratching. I’ve no idea how “scratching” fits into the story (perhaps Vincent’s sheep have fleas) but the rest of the keywords include: Threesome, Disco, Female Nudity, Puppet, Bathtub, Locust, Hair Pulling, Blood, Goat, Christmas, Incest... Now, can you honestly say you have anything better to do than watch this movie right now?

Sunday 5 October 2008

Day 5: Terrified

1963’s Terrified is quite obviously the best movie ever. It’s about two fun-lovin’ teens travelling to a ghost town to meet someone called Crazy Bill. But when they get there, they discover Bill dead – impaled on the railings outside a cemetery. Yes, a cemetery! In a ghost town! Is that not the scariest location ever?! Not only that, but there’s a masked killer on the loose who’s intent on getting rid of any witnesses... It’s the perfect horror set-up! Of course, like all the movies I’m pseudo-reviewing for Sham Shocktober, I haven’t actually seen Terrified but, wow, if I had, I’m sure I’d be just... terrified!

Oh, and that masked killer I mentioned – apparently his outfit consists of a tuxedo topped off with a balaclava... Freaky! I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it, and I don’t mean the series of children’s books. In all, Terrified sounds like a little-known and neglected influence on the slasher genre... and most definitely not a derivative, boring melodrama produced on the cheap for the drive-in crowd. I hope.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Day 4: Tentacles

Okay, I’ll admit I’m cheating slightly here because I already own the DVD of the 1977 octopus opus, Tentacles. But I haven’t watched it yet, so it still totally counts as a Sham Shocktober movie, right? Right!

Oh, so many reasons to watch Tentacles... not least of which is the presence of Shelley Winters, playing the wonderfully named Tillie Turner. She was such a good swimmer in The Poseidon Adventure (well, until she drowned) that I feel sure I’m in for some stunning aquarobics here as Tillie battles the many-tentacled menace, armed only with a nose-peg and verruca sock.

Then there’s the film’s preponderance of hilarious foreign titles. Yes, “tentacles” is a pretty funny word in English, but just you wait till you see it in Italian (Tentacoli!), French (Tentacules – so classy), Polish (Macki!), Finnish (Lonkerot!) and Norwegian (Blekksprut!). But my favourite has to be the German title, Der Polyp, which isn’t, of course, a direct translation of the word tentacles, but instead refers to the film’s marauding creature – or, as we call it, Shelley Winters.

So what’s holding me back from watching Tentacles? I’ll tell you – it’s the violence. Not the chewed-up humans; I can handle that. It’s the reports that the climax of the film features puppetty killer whales attacking and maiming some not-so-puppetty octopuses. Killing living things for the sake of a monster movie is just not cool, and it’s the one thing I’m squeamish about when it comes to exploitation cinema. Bad killer whale puppets... Go to your rooms!

Friday 3 October 2008

Day 3: Killer Klowns from Outer Space

It’s time now for Sham Shocktober to move away from the classics and look instead at a Klassic! It was the late eighties... Everything I knew I learned from House, Troll and Critters, so I’ve really no idea how I managed to miss out on Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Must’ve been home watching MacGyver when it came into the video shop or something. Anyway, it’s recently been released on DVD in the UK by Optimum Home Entertainment, apparently because they noticed it’s this country’s most illegally downloaded title, and I was a little surprised to see it now has a 12 certificate. I mean, I’m sure it’s a pretty goofy film, but all I really know about it (other than the fact it apparently concerns some “klowns” who are “killers” and come from “outer space”) is what I heard in the school yard – most of which came from a friend who loved to tell me in gory detail about the victims who become “human hand puppets” whenever we got onto the subject of scary movies. Human hand puppets? In a 12-rated movie? What’s the world coming to? It sounds like something out of Brian Yuzna’s Society. Of course, I may be wrong...

Thursday 2 October 2008

Day 2: Dracula (1931)

What is it with 1931 and films I haven’t seen?! First M, now this... Anyone would think I’d been avoiding the year, which is technically true because I hadn’t actually been born yet. But I assure you, 1931, it was nothing personal!

“Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make...” Yup, I may not have actually seen Bela Lugosi in his most famous role as Drackie O, but I can at least quote his most famous line (as well as the spoofy reference in Love at First Bite, in which George Hamilton says, “Children of the night... shut up!”). I also heard that, at any given moment in time, some TV station somewhere in world is showing this version of Dracula, which means it’s actually on right now (...or even now, if you’re reading this later). So why haven’t I seen it? Well, Bela never struck me as a particularly menacing count. He just seems to lack the stature, the fangs, the sinister sexuality of the Dracula I grew up with, Christopher Lee. In fact, he looks a bit like me in a cape. And who wants to see that?

I’ve also heard the film takes some strange liberties with Bram Stoker’s source novel – like sending crazy bug-eater Renfield off to Dracula’s castle at the start instead of Jonathan Harker (although that’s still marginally more believable than having Keanu Reeves in the role). And then there’s that rumour that the Spanish version, shot at the same time on the same sets (but with different, more Spanishy actors) is actually superior. Is there anything that Dracula ’31 has going for it? Be sure to let me know!

What? You liked this movie? Gah! Tell it to Chud Emmet Walsh.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Day 1: M

It’s the first day of Sham Shocktober so you’ll have to forgive any factual inaccuracies this month, as I’ll only be “reviewing” horror films I haven’t seen. And don’t forget to let me know if the movies any good or not so I’ll know which ones to buy for Halloween. (Hey, that rhymed... I’m a poet and I didn’t realize it!) Anyway, let’s kick off with a classic: Fritz Lang’s 1931 chiller, M.

Dame Judi Dench stars as M, a child-molesting serial killer stalking the streets of an unnamed, highly expressionistic German city. From what I gather, the only clue to M’s identity is his whistled signature tune – “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” by the Crash Test Dummies. Can the police catch him, or will it be left to the city’s other criminals to implement their own form of justice? What are you asking me for? I haven’t the fucking foggiest. But, since M is at #44 in the IMDb Top 250, I’m guessing it’s a pretty good film. So good, in fact, that its influence continues to be felt in contemporary culture over 70 years later, from the ongoing prevalence of child molestation, to the rumour that respected character actor M. Emmet Walsh was so impressed by the film he actually named himself after it. Lucky for him he wasn’t a big fan of C.H.U.D. huh?