Thursday, November 1, 2018

30 THEATRICAL TERRORS: Frankenstein (Day 30)

This is the 200th anniversary of young Mary Shelley’s novel of hubris and creation, FRANKENSTEIN, and being that Frankenstein’s Monster is one of my favorite literary characters and that Boris Karloff is one of my favorite actors, well, this is what you get on Halloween night from this monster.

In 1931 FRANKENSTEIN was put onto the big screen by Universal Pictures—an instant hit with critics and the audience, director James Whale’s film made Boris Karloff a star virtually overnight.

Adapted from the play by Peggy Webling (and based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, FRANKENSTEIN; or, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS) the film tells the story of a scientist who attempts to create his own man from an amalgamation of corpses dug up from the graveyard and what happens when the experiment goes horribly wrong.

What spawned from Universal’s FRANKENSTEIN films and, thus, Shelley’s story is a pop culture phenomenon. The monster can be found everywhere, in many forms and fashions. Sometimes as less than, but most times as more than human in thought and action. He is a sad and lonely and, therefore, a totally relatable character.

Sadly for the character and his creator, he becomes the monster he was perceived as, because the world turns on him, rejecting him. His father hates him and so he hates his father and the world of the living. And, though he cannot speak, that is the magic of Karloff’s performance—what a critic called a bit of “acting mesmerism”.

As for Universal’s design of the monster, that was make-up artist Jack Pierce’s doing, in collaboration with Karloff. Every day, Pierce spent 4 hours applying the cotton, gum, greasepaint and collodion to the actor in order to give him that gaunt undead look that we’ve all come to know and love.

And here is a look at the trailer for FRANKENSTEIN…

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

30 THEATRICAL TERRORS: The Shining (Day 29)

Tonight let’s focus on horror created through order in a look at Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

With Kubrick one gets the feeling sometimes that he sits down and designs each scene down to the letter, sure nearly all filmmakers do this, it’s just that the imposed order is a little more overt. In the case of The Shining, the horror a bit more focused to a sharp stabby point.

What makes these sharp moments of horror so much more effective than most other horror directors’ abilities is that Kubrick has the patience to wait for the right moment to spring his horror upon the viewer.

He’ll pass by it two or three times before springing the scare onto your brain. Danny will pedal his big wheel down one, two, three, four, five corridors before running into the creepy sisters.

He isn’t afraid of the slow burn as Nicholson’s Torrance slowly turns from troubled alcoholic who is seduced by the hotel’s demons into the axe-wielding maniac we find at the final credits.

The isolation gets to the viewer, whereas most directors don’t have the confidence or patience to wait those extra beats as the tension builds, the suspense thickens and the needles get sharpened.

It’s a fine thing, a Swiss watch.
A clockwork that is nearly flawless.

Here’s a look at the trailer…

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

30 THEATRICAL TERRORS: The Exorcist (Day 28)

Let’s talk a little about the movie that scared America shitless.

Based on William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel
of the same name, The Exorcist hit theatres
in late 1973 and portrayed the battle
between good and evil
for one girl’s soul.

Friedkin’s film is so faithful to the book due to the fact that Blatty wrote the adaptation himself and produced the film. He chose the director having seen The French Connection and wanting that sense of energy for his picture.

The Exorcist garnered ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and became one of the highest grossing films of all time and has since been preserved by the Library of Congress as part of the National Film Registry.

It’s on every Top Ten or Greatest list when it comes to horror films, not simply because it was well made and well regarded, but because it took an audience that didn’t go to horror films and it turned the knob up to eleven and ripped it off.

It was a film so powerful it was putting people
in the hospital and converting others.
When it comes to the possession film,
there is no greater example,
not even close.

Here’s the trailer…

Monday, October 29, 2018

30 THEATRICAL TERRORS: The Strangers (Day 27)

Let’s take one more trip down the well and into the deep darkness of the soulless slasher film with an instant classic that doesn’t blink when it’s two stars are facing certain doom.

The Strangers was written and directed by Bryan Bertino  and made on a wee budget of only nine million dollars.
It stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a couple driving to a family vacation home for a relaxing weekend.

Soon, there is a knock at the door, 
it’s a stranger calling.

From there, the movie is an exercise in high tension and creepy suspense. It is dark, it is effecting and it is a thrilling nail-biter.

No, it ain’t Shakespeare, but it aims directly for DePalma,
which, for a horror film, is exactly where you want to be.

The terrific trailer…

Sunday, October 28, 2018

30 THEATRICAL TERRORS: The Devil Rides Out & Night of the Demon (Days 25 & 26)

Due to devilish deeds beyond the kin of mortal men,
we here at The Goods were unable to deliver
a frightful film for you last night,
so tonight we present a...

Demonic Double Feature!

The Devil Rides Out (known in America as The Devil’s Bride) is adapted from the 1934 Dennis Wheatley novel of the same name by Richard Matheson and directed by Terence Fisher in 1968 for Hammer.

The film stars Christopher Lee in his favorite role as Nicholas, Duc de Richleau, an aristocrat, adventurer and occultist who rescues the son of a friend and his girlfriend from a devil-worshipping cult taking refuge at the home of friends.

There, the cult leader pays a visit and forces them all to endure a night of black magic attacks designed to corrupt the souls and force the group to give up or give in to the power of the devil. All of which the Duke leads the group through with great effort and costing the life of one of the group.

What follows is much the same as before, a smart and well told morality play that has good triumph over evil. And it makes one sad that Lee was never able to take up the role of his lifetime again, considering there are eleven more novels featuring the Duke that were never adapted.

Regardless, here is a look at the picture itself:

The second part of our double feature is…

Adapted from the M. R. James story “Casting the Runes”, the 1957 British horror film Night of the Demon (known in America as Curse of the Demon) revolves around an American psychologist investigating a satanic cult’s involvement in murder.

In our first feature, we find skeptic Dr. John Holden (played by Dana Andrews) who intends to expose cult leader Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) as a charlatan. Over the course of the film, however, Holden discovers the occult powers to be real and that a curse has been placed on himself.

Due to artistic differences, the production was fraught with conflict between the writer, Charles Bennett, and director, Jacques Tourneur, on one side and the producer, Hal E. Chester, on the other. The former had no plans to show the actual demon, leaving it up to the imagination of the viewer, but the producer inserted shots of it at the beginning and ending of the film anyway.

In any case, here is a look at the tale:

Friday, October 26, 2018

30 THEATRICAL TERRORS: Halloween (Day 24)

For the role of Dr. Loomis in HALLOWEEN, Peter Cushing was the first choice of director John Carpenter. His agent turned it down due to the small salary the low budget film could pay. Christopher Lee, much to his later regret, declined the role as he was the second choice. Finally it was offered to Donald Pleasence who accepted the role mostly because his daughter liked Carpenter’s soundtrack for Assault on Precinct 13.

Jamie Lee Curtis was not the first choice for Laurie Strode as Carpenter was unaware of her heritige. They were, instead, interested in casting June Lockhart’s daughter, Anne, who had to turn it down for other projects. Curtis got the role when they realized she was Janet Leigh’s daughter and realized it would be great publicity.

The inspiration for the psychopath known as the shape was a visit he made to a mental institution as a college student where he met a boy with a blank, schizophrenic stare.

What also filled in some of the story for HALLOWEEN was the typical small town haunted house. How every town has one home where something horrible—a tragedy or murder that would go on to become local lore.

And those are the elements needed to make The Babysitter Murders aka HALLOWEEN one of the most successful low budget films ever made.

But, of course, you have to credit the haunting score by John Carpenter, hisownself, for adding mood and suspense and even horror!