Horrific Healing

"Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places." – H. P. Lovecraft

The Conjuring

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Have you ever wondered what The Exorcist may have been like if it sucked?  Look no further than the latest hyped horror hit The Conjuring which, despite reading numerous raving reviews for, seems to be yet another dud in the annals of modern horror.  I managed to crawl out of my hole to see this one in a theater packed with folks who I don’t think have ever seen a horror film before and, nearly two hours later (yes, The Conjuring is like 111 minutes long), I left unimpressed and feeling like I wasted mine and my girlfriend’s time.  I am not going to spend a lot of time on this one but I mention The Exorcist because The Conjuring more or less rips off the aforementioned film’s, well, just about everything, heh.  You have a house and a demon that resides within said house who eventually resides in a female medium who doesn’t like Jesus Christ and a couple of firm believers and a happy family to come along and save the day.  Okay, so it’s not exactly The Exorcist but you get the point; the characterization in The Exorcist wasn’t based on caricatures of one-dimensional characters and the depth of the film’s power and atmosphere mesmerize to this day while The Conjuring is so by-the-numbers you would have thought it was made for television.  The holy couple who happen to also be a very serious ghostbusting couple are so over-the-top with their Christianity that it becomes nauseating to hear the “God brought us together” line numerous times throughout The Conjuring’s duration.  The movie’s pacing is also worth noting because what we have here is a nearly two-hour horror film (usually a bad idea) that feels as if it’s four hours because every scene builds to a point where the scare is so ineffective just due to the fact you’ve waited two minutes for it to be over with instead of waiting with bated, tight breath.  The Conjuring’s redeeming factors?  Not a bucketload of swearing and CGI (there’s some, however) and an okay atmosphere for a haunted house flick (by today’s standards anyway but you’d be much better off with something like The Changeling).  The Conjuring’s spectacular factors?  None!  Hmm, I think that is about all I have to say about The Conjuring, another very disappointing effort from post-2000 horror that will hopefully be forgotten as quickly as it came into being.  Avoid.

City Of The Living Dead / The Gates Of Hell

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I have been a fan of European horror cinema for as long as I can remember, being introduced to it through Argento’s classic Suspiria picture back in the early 2000s.  Lucio Fulci, along with the likes of the aforementioned Argento and Bava, is heralded as one of the godfathers of European/Italian horror cinema and I can think of no argument against it.  With films like Zombie, The Beyond, The House By The Cemetery and the film in question today – City Of The Living Dead (also known as The Gates Of Hell) – under Fulci’s belt it comes as no surprise that he is hailed as one of the best of the best.  I decided to watch City Of The Living Dead last night since it had been a while since I watched it and, after a good 15 to 20 lifetime viewings of this picture, I still consider it to be an utmost masterpiece and my personal favorite Fulci film.

Many European horror movies have something that most of the American pictures lack and this is atmosphere – eerie, brooding, horrific atmosphere.  Fulci, along with Bava, presents the viewer with some of the most atmospheric cinematography ever seen in the genre and this alone makes a film like City Of The Living Dead a masterpiece to me.  Oftentimes I watch a horror film because I want to escape within it, to experience it from the inside looking out and atmosphere, at least for me, is the one-way express ticket for such an experience.  It is perhaps comparable to listening to an ambient piece of music that puts one in a particular mood or mindset.  Do any of you experience films of this nature in a similar fashion?

Cinematography and atmosphere aside, City Of The Living Dead takes everything a zombie film should be and shrouds it in exquisite eeriness.  Fulci adopts a less is more approach with The Gates Of Hell as it’s a zombie film that’s not overrun by zombies; that’s right!  When the undead do make an appearance they are just that much more harrowing and frightening due to their scarcity and somewhat unorthodox appearance.  When one ventures into the crypt towards the end of the film they will experience exactly what I am talking about – zombies that nearly transcend themselves by looking as much like spectral phantasms as they do the undead.  I applaud Fulci on this as I’ve seen many zombie films and few have had such uniquely tailored and effective undead.  Did I mention Fabio Frizzi’s score?  It’s one of the best, no doubt, and accompanies City Of The Living Dead’s atmosphere perfectly.

What can I say?  The Gates Of Hell is a masterpiece of European horror cinema that stands up to the best of the best to this day.  If you haven’t seen this gem then I strongly urge you to bump it up high on your wishlist or, if you’ve already had the pleasure, then why not delve into its depths once again?  City Of The Living Dead is one of Italian horror’s best films – period.  An essential masterpiece!

The 2013 Halloween / Blu-Ray Experience Thusfar …

The Fog Screen

The autumnal season shall be ushering its way to the North-Eastern United States in a couple months here (hopefully) and there are a number of exciting horror titles that are coming to blu-ray for the first time.  I converted over to blu-ray about a year ago and have since found it to be a delightful format although, at times, there seems to be a number of essential horror titles missing from what’s available here in the States; nevertheless, here’s a list of some titles coming out in case any of the following have gone under your radar thusfar.

In The Mouth Of Madness

Eyes Without A Face

The Fly (1958)

The Vincent Price Collection

Friday The 13th: Complete Collection

The Haunting (1963)

Prince Of Darkness

The Fog

The Uninvited (1944)

The Incredible Melting Man

Chucky: The Complete Collection

House Of Wax (1953)

Dracula: Prince Of Darkness

I am glad that some of the mid-career Carpenter is finally seeing its way to the blu-ray format since I’ve always felt films like In The Mouth Of Madness and Prince Of Darkness were exceptional.  The release of The Fog is also quite exciting although I currently own an import copy of it that happens to play on my US player but I think I may eventually pick up the US version too.  The Vincent Price Collection is going to be quite an essential piece since it includes the classic Corman/Poe/Price adaptations.  What titles are you looking forward to adding to your collection?  Any that I inevitably missed?

Thank you!

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I just wanted to take a quick moment to thank all of you for showing an interest in my blog here and for offering your insights and thoughts on the posts I’ve made.  I never anticipated having such a fair number of followers nor viewers and it is very encouraging, inspiring me to continue to march forward with Horrific Healing; thank you all.

Do You Read Sutter Cane? John Carpenter’s Top Five!

After reading this particular and wonderful post I felt inspired to make my own trimmed-down version of John Carpenter’s best; keep in mind, however, that this list is purely subjective.  I’ll keep the introduction short and sweet this time – enjoy!

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05.  They Live

They Live is as entreating as it is deep.  While one is laughing at the clearly absurd yet clever jokes of Roddy Piper they’re also being exposed to incredibly potent commentary about the system we’re amidst and how it invisibly controls our lives more prominently than most of us would like to realize.  A unique piece in John Carpenter’s filmography that is a pleasure to view again and again.

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04.  The Thing

If I were attempting to make an objective list I think I’d have to put The Thing at either number one or two but, as for my tastes, it rests comfortably at position four here.  What is there to be said that hasn’t been said already (this probably won’t be the last time I say this)?  The Thing is perhaps the most iconic sci-fi horror film other than Alien and the prosthetic effects found throughout its duration are the best of the best.  The entire cast pulls out an incredibly spirited and inspired performance that will have you quivering in your seat as they’re testing each other’s blood and coming closer and closer to the essence of the horrifying and ambiguous “the thing” …

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03.  Halloween

What is there to be said about Halloween that hasn’t been said already (I told you)?  This gorgeous little picture reinvented the slasher genre, has inspired hundreds upon hundreds of films and has yet to be dethroned.  If you haven’t seen Halloween and are reading this blog then you’re either here by mistake or are in dire need of a trip to the video store.  Not only an essential John Carpenter film but an essential piece of horror all together.

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02.  In The Mouth Of Madness

I am so excited that this puppy is finally coming to blu-ray.  In The Mouth Of Madness is generally not regarded as one of Carpenter’s best films but the movie’s Lovecraftian atmosphere is one of the most profound I have ever experienced in cinema and it’s done perfectly right.  John Carpenter, instead of choosing a Lovecraft story to base In The Mouth Of Madness on, decided instead of create a Lovecraftian tale of his own using a variety of Lovecraft’s inklings towards New England, unfathomable terror and, of course, atmosphere.  I know In The Mouth Of Madness isn’t as accomplished as Halloween or The Thing but I adore it wholeheartedly and could easily watch it every month without tiring of it.

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01.  The Fog

Ah, yes, The Fog.  John Carpenter’s The Fog was the first horror film I ever saw when I was six or seven on a camping trip and, as they say, the rest is history.  I can still remember feeling the pangs of terror in my heart as the rain fell on my family’s pop-up camper and laying awake in bed wondering if there’d be a few ominous knocks on the door.  Nostalgia aside, The Fog is Carpenter at his most eerie and atmospheric, the frames of The Fog almost having a hypnotic quality to them.  Did I mention the score?  The Carpenter-penned soundtrack is gorgeous and chockfull of eeriness.  Like In The Mouth Of Madness, I realize that The Fog isn’t John Carpenter’s best work but it has been my favorite picture of his for as long as I can remember and, to this day, I get immense joy traveling through the isolated, ghostly seaside of Antonio Bay.  A masterpiece and forever a favorite!

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later

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The Halloween series is somewhat of a long and convoluted mess of sequels that involves a couple different timelines and various interpretations so, when it comes to the seventh film, one may simply ask “why bother?”  Believe it or not, Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later isn’t all that bad considering.  Yup, I said it, the seventh installment in a film series inspired by the success of an original film really isn’t as treacherous as one would anticipate.  For starters, Halloween H20 essentially continues where the second Halloween film ended (albeit twenty years later) as it ignores the events that happened in the fourth through sixth films.  The third Halloween – the underrated Season Of The Witch – has nothing to do with the Halloween storyline so that one doesn’t count … confused yet?  It’s okay, I was at first too.  In a nutshell, if you’ve only seen the first two Halloween flicks then you’re okay to skip right over to this one since this is the so-called “spiritual successor” of those two.

Halloween H20 has Steve Miner (the guy who directed House and Warlock) and Jamie Lee Curtis going for it which probably helped in saving it from complete mediocrity from the beginning.  For those unfamiliar, Curtis played the now legendary Laurie Strode character featured in the first two Halloween pictures and returned to reprise her role in Halloween H20.  She, as one could anticipate, is an overly protective and somewhat paranoid mother that, even after twenty years, is haunted by the “shape” (hopefully someone gets this reference) of Michael Myers.  Janet Leigh (the lady who got killed in the shower in the original Psycho) plays a small role in the film which is a bit interesting since she is Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother and hadn’t starred in a feature film since John Carpenter’s The Fog (from 1980) which also featured both Leigh and Curtis.  Anyway, despite having a couple of solid actors (and a few not-so-solid ones – LL Cool J, anyone?) and a solid atmosphere, Halloween H20 does suffer considerably when it comes to the pacing.  The movie is kind of over before you know it (despite it being nearly 90 minutes) and this I attribute to the film’s lack of tension-building.  Sure, there’s the inevitable “almost-had-you” chase scene and all of that but Myers never manages to invoke that genuine sense of terror and dread that we all know and love from the original Halloween; heck, even when taking the original out of the equation, you still get a more dreadful Myers in any of the other sequels.  As I briefly mentioned earlier, however, the film’s atmosphere is pretty spot-on and there’s more than a few references to various other horror films (including the original Halloween) that will undoubtedly be a treat for the genre lovers out there.

Halloween H20 is far from being a masterpiece but it’s not too shabby for what it is either.  Although I fully admit to having a soft spot for the Halloween series moreso than any of its competitors (Friday The 13th, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Hellraiser and so on), I still think any casual fan of the series will find some, at the very least, aesthetic enjoyment in watching Halloween H20.  If you find it new for four dollars on blu-ray it’s worth picking up since that’s exactly what I did … just don’t spend more than ten, okay?  Recommended for fans of the series and those with an inkling towards moderately bad taste.

Top Ten Non-Horror Films

I suppose one of the ironies about horror films is that the majority of them are, in fact, not that frightening (if at all).  There is a certain absurdity that goes hand-in-hand with horror that allows us to keep a distance emotionally and even intellectually from the contents of the film; compare horror to comedy, for example, and you will find more parallels than you’d initially anticipate.  With keeping this in mind I have decided the time was nigh to introduce you all to my top ten favorite movies that have (more or less) nothing to do with our beloved horror genre; indeed, I’m going outside of the box here to do something a bit different.  The paradox here, of course, is that many of the following selections are horrific at heart in one way or another as they touch upon a deeper, more personal level than most films swathed with gallons of blood and foggy cemeteries.  Keep in mind that this list is meant to be subjective and not objective.  Please enjoy and, as always, your thoughts, reflections and your own selections are both encouraged and welcomed!

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10.  Conan: The Barbarian (1982)

Fantasy films usually have source material but, unfortunately, fantasy films usually also capture nothing of the atmosphere and feel of said source material.  The Lord Of The Rings, anyone?  Anyway, Conan: The Barbarian captures the essence of Robert E. Howard’s Conan work beautifully and without flaw – the characterization is spot-on and the aesthetic of the sets and landscapes transports you right into the heart of the Hyborian Age.  Although Conan: The Barbarian is lacking in social commentary (there is some, believe it or not, as would perhaps be expected from a script coming from Oliver Stone) it is still an exceptional aesthetic experience that is worth numerous ventures therein.

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09.  The Holy Mountain

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 film The Holy Mountain is quite a psychedelic piece chockfull of metaphorical imagery that, depending upon your spiritual center (or lack thereof), could be interpreted in an endless variety of ways.  I have always found the film’s structure to be most satisfying and unique, journeying through the eccentric lives of individual characters that eventually all partake on a journey together themselves ending in one of the most paradoxically climatic and anti-climatic sequences one is likely to see in cinema.  I always enjoy hearing interpretations of the ending since it,  very much like the film itself, could be deemed meaningful in a plethora of ways.  The Holy Mountain is a unique, visually stunning film that comes recommended most highly!

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08.  Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver is my favorite Martin Scorsese picture and its influence on the more artistic side of cinema cannot be denied.  We follow an isolated, existentially conflicted and relatively misanthropic individual around through the more mundane moments of life that ultimately give bloom to an expression of extremity that is one of the most memorable to be found in the world of film.  Ultimately Taxi Driver allows the internal state of a character to reflect upon the environment rather than the more common opposite which is something that, to this day, sets this remarkable film apart from most of the so-called competition.  Essential viewing!

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07.  The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Sergio Leone pretty much single-handedly reinvented the western genre with his “dollars trilogy”, giving it a much-needed injection of humanity.  Westerns beforehand generally focused on a very defined “good guy” and “bad guy” with there being very little room for development within that basic, obsolete construct.  Leone gave us characters that, despite their almost mythological and highly romanticized presentation, were undoubtedly driven by human nature as is made obvious by their actions throughout the films.  Eastwood’s character in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, for example, is “the good” but not in the archetypical sense and this is exactly the kind of characterization that helped evolve the western into something much more compelling and powerful.  The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is not only Leone’s ultimate film but the ultimate western as well.

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06.  Fatal Attraction

Adrian Lyne is quite an excellent director and if this list was detailing horror films Jacob’s Ladder would be right towards the top (although it’s more than just a horror picture, of course); anyway, Fatal Attraction is another Lyne picture and it is by and large the best thriller I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot, actually).  Infidelity can quite literally destroy lives – not only those who decided to partake in said infidelity but all those who it negatively affects – and Fatal Attraction epitomizes this very real horror of human desire, nature (?) and sexuality.  An intense, culminating and very real film worth seeing more than once.

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05.  Scarface

Capitalism has been covered in a number of films in a plethora of ways but Scarface seems to capture its essence more accurately and romantically than any other movie I’ve seen.  Scarface warns of the self-destructive nature of capitalism; it warns us against the disastrous snowball effect it has not only on people’s lives but  on the system itself; it does these things, yes, but it also covers the glamorous, hedonistic excesses of capitalism that make those who really benefit from it feel invincible.  When Tony Montana expires at the end we experience a moment of disbelief that this seemingly indestructible force of greed and desire was, at long last, destroyed.  There is a great balance and harmony to be found in the film itself which is ironic since all of the characters are unbalanced and corrupt in some way or another.  Scarface is a masterpiece and will forever remain De Palma’s best and most iconic film.

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04.  First Blood

Yup, you’ve got it, a Stallone film at number four here.  I used to be quite the Stallone fan in my youth and, as a result, have a lot of nostalgia attached to his films; had I seen most of them for the first time yesterday I probably wouldn’t be too impressed but First Blood would undoubtedly be the exception to this.  Featuring beautiful cinematography, intelligent action, an ending no one would expect from an action film (instead of the shedding of blood there’s the shedding of tears) and war-time commentary that’s potent enough to get even the most uninterested viewer thinking.  First Blood is an all-around great film of the action genre that transcends the genre’s negative stereotypes with flying colors.

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03.  Salò, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom

Where to even begin with Pier Paolo Pasolini’s breathtaking and heartbreaking Salò?  Being banned in several countries and having had to go through intense criticism and scrutiny from most viewers and critics, some say Salò ultimately cost us Pasolini’s life.  Salò is, reputation aside, one of the deepest, most intense and strongly inspired films you will ever see although it is also one of the most extreme.  If you’re reading this you’re undoubtedly well-versed in horror but no amount of conditioning can prepare you for the emotional and intellectual onslaught you’ll experience amidst the depraved, surreal scenes to be found throughout Salò’s depths.  This is an adept and challenging piece of cinema that remains one of the most vivid and important I’ve ever seen.

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02.  Amadeus

I was entranced by this film the first time I saw it in my youth and, to this day, I watch it at least a few times a year and never fail to fall under its magnificent spell.  The undercurrents of commentary to be found throughout the film meditating on things such as faith and hatred come from such a human place that it’s actually quite easy to relate to Salieri’s emotional disposition throughout the film.  Overall the characterization throughout the film is of the utmost quality and thankfully Amadeus falls into none of the one-dimensional pitfalls we generally see with period pieces.  Speaking of period pieces, Amadeus is one of the most convincing I’ve seen, every little minute detail making up a whole that is arresting in its grandiose, eloquent and operatic (no pun intended) vision.  An incredible film and an all-time favorite of mine.

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01.  The Godfather

No commentary is really needed for this one, is it?  Imagine cinema as a whole and then imagine every possible facet of that whole perfected – that, my friends, is The Godfather.