The dream came true on October 28th, 2013 at …
31 Days of Horror
In a padded cell adorned with crudely drawn crosses resides John Trent. Trent has gone so far as to not only decorate his new insane asylum home with crosses, but himself as well — they run up and down his mental patient uniform and dance across his very face. Outside the asylum, the world is going to hell, and John Trent knows it. When the kindly Dr. Wrenn comes to talk with Trent, Trent tells him the cold hard truth: “Every species can smell its own extinction.”
One of the best at blending the two genres is Sam Raimi, whose answer to the question of why horror and comedy go together is his Evil Dead trilogy, which crackles with the energy of a mad scientist’s concoction.The Evil Dead II is largely considered the best of the three, taking the camp, gore, and over-the-top situation from the original and cranking it up past eleven.
In a month full of horror and malevolent covens and blood-curdling scares, I offer now the soothing respite of Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful and serene Kiki’s Delivery Service. Possibly Miyazaki’s most under-appreciated film, it is surely his most modest, which I mean as a compliment. It is the epitome of Miyazaki’s quiet filmmaking, letting the soft emotion and warm aesthetics of the animation do most of the talking. The fact that Kiki is a witch is rather beside the point, because this is a coming-of-age story for a young girl committed to helping others but forgetting about herself.
Re-Animator, another obscure zombie flick, questions scientific advancements by revealing potential consequences and effects to the people around us. This last Tombstone Tuesday could have easily been given to Army of Darkness by Sam Raimi, Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero, Shaun of the Dead by Edgar Wright, Dead Snow by Tommy Wirkola, or maybe even Dead Alive by Peter Jackson. But Re-Animator offers something beyond braining eating and strange noises. Re-Animator is a non-traditional classic that is centered on an underlying message of whether or not science is going too far.
Just when I thought there weren’t any great filmmakers working in horror anymore, Ti West just scared the shit out of me. West bust out on the scene with the moody throwback The House of the Devil showing that he could replicate period aesthetic with ease. His first several films were shot standardly, but for The Sacrament, West dips his toes in the waters of the found footage genre.
After the success of Horror of Dracula (1958), it only made sense to make a sequel. The Brides of Dracula tells the story of a young Marianne who happens to stay the night at a baroness’ castle only to discover her host’s dashing son is locked up in an adjacent wing. Feeling sorry for the Baron Meinster, she releases him from his bonds with no clue that she just unleashed a vampire to wreak havoc on all the ladies of Transylvania. It’s a psycho-sexual scenario peppered with mommy issues that Hitchcock would certainly appreciate – his film Psycho was released the same year as Brides.
It may be more true in horror than in any other genre that certain subgenres ebb and flow in popularity over time. Vampires were hot in the mid-’90s when you had Interview with the Vampire, From Dusk Till Dawn, Blade and the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Then, vampires sat out of popular discourse for the next ten years or so, until the double whammy of Twilight and True Blood hitting in 2008, causing a tidal wave of vampiric fiction from the arty (Only Lovers Left Alive, Byzantium) to the schlocky (Dracula Untold, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) that hasn’t slowed down since.
Featuring a closely-coiffed Mia Farrow as the soft-spoken, childlike Rosemary Woodhouse, potential mother to the devil; John Cassavetes, post-Shadows, and just about to truly kick off his great directorial run; and the inimitable Ruth Gordan as a sort of Grace Zabriskie-precursor: the creepy neighbor next door, heavily made-up and eerily meddlesome, Rosemary’s Baby picks up the paranoid thread of 1965’s Repulsion. The film also anticipates the similarly – though more political – claustrophobic suspicion of Alan Pakula’s 1970’s films.
The original Universal Studios Wolf Man left an indelible mark on film history, particularly in it’s painstakingly specific make-up transformation that turned Lon Chaney, Jr.’s Larry Talbot into the title character. That effect has hung over every werewolf feature since, with films trying to compete with makeup maestro Jack Pierce’s legendary design. 20 years after the first Wolf Man film, Hammer Horror took a stab at the monster, utilizing a script based on A Werewolf in Paris and a barrel-chested Oliver Reed in his first film role.