Friday the 13th Part 1 & 2

friday the 13th 1980 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Straight-up Shoulda Seen It Shame

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s

 


 

#10. Friday the 13th Part 1 (1980)

friday the 13th 1980 posterFriday the 13th appeared on my Cinema Shame Statement for 2017. I then took it off in favor of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. True to form, I waffled back over to Friday the 13th because I felt that this was the film and the franchise that I’d most inexplicably overlooked.

Cultural phenomenon. Horror icon. Omnipresent imagery. Yet I’d never bothered. I even played the old Friday the 13th Nintendo game.

The reasons? I’ll place blame on the desire to discover and watch more hidden gems. The American slasher genre exploded in the 1980’s. What was the fun in watching a movie everyone had already seen when there were hundreds of likeminded films with far lesser followings in need of a champion?

As I consumed mass amounts of horror in my high school years, I found myself drawn particularly to foreign horror. The Italian giallo films, especially. Where was the fun in calling up your friends in 1996 and saying “Guess what I just saw?! It was some little movie called Friday the 13th. Wanna come over and watch?”

This worked with Michele Soavi’s The Church. This worked with Lamberto Bava’s Demons. Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles. At the time many these films were not all that available and I used to order legal bootlegs from a company called Revok. (I think I still have my copy of Dellamorte Dellamore with Japanese subs laying around somewhere.)

meet the feebles poster
Obligatory inclusion of a Meet the Feebles poster in a bl-g post about Friday the 13th.

The cult of the *new* fueled my moviewatching. Truth be told — it still fuels my moviewatching habits. Hence the existence of Cinema Shame in the first place. Without Cinema Shame, I might continue to ignore these films and these franchises that everyone has seen.

And as a result of Friday the 13th‘s cultural omnipresence, I just felt like I’d seen this film a hundred times over in the hacks and imitators that sprung up in its wake. I watched a bunch of movies that were Friday the 13th in everything but name. At least now I’ve watched the “origin of the species” — and now I can talk about the film’s specific influence instead of waving my hand and saying something about all that “Jason stuff.”

This is progress. Thank you, Cinema Shame.

friday the 13th 1980

The Story

A bunch of kids go to Camp Crystal Lake to re-start a summer camp despite being warned by the lunatic locals that the damn place is cursed beyond all get out and they’re all going to die a grizzly death.

Just a bunch of kooky local flavor if you ask me. Except every five minutes or so another one of them does die so I guess the locals weren’t so kooky and playfully insane after all.

It’s the most basic of concepts — sexy teens, isolated location, rampaging killer — but it’s incredibly effective.

friday the 13th 31 days of horror

Despite my admiration for the film’s simplicity, my gut reaction remained “I’ve been here before.” I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen the evolution of this movie throughout the 1980’s and beyond. And I didn’t find Friday the 13th particularly scary. What I did find impressive, however, was film’s bravado when it came to showcasing cinematic bloodletting.

Straight out of the shoot, Friday the 13th executes two of its characters with abrupt and shocking scenes of practical gore. A slit throat. An arrow impalement. The camera unflinchingly frames these deaths front and center.

This is where the film excels. The practical gore effects and unsettling voyeurism. I found it lacking, however, in that the film makes such an effort to strike the horror chord so regularly, and so efficiently, that Friday the 13th feels like a spreadsheet. Every five minutes “the killer” punches his timecard, goes back on the clock, and a character is killed off or put in peril. As a direct result of this focus on horror elements, none of the characters ever really become known. They all remain faceless pawns in the film’s endgame.

I don’t expect a character study, but when relentless scenes of slashing bleed into each other that leaves no room for the characters to breathe and inhabit the screen as anything other than Slash-Test Dummies. We gain a measure of proximity to the “final girl” because she’s merely on-screen the longest.
friday the 13th 1980 31 days of horror

And in the end Friday the 13th isn’t doing anything wildly new. It’s repackaging a known commodity for a generation of teenagers that had become numb to big screen horrors anesthetized for their entertainment. Halloween updated tropes by bringing terror to suburban teenagers. And while John Carpenter’s film sold legitimate white-knuckle tension and masked most of the overt horror — Friday the 13th upped the ante. Minimal story, maximum horror.

Friday the 13th changed the way gore could be viewed at the mainstream cinema. Gore and practical effects would grow to be considered an art form. Low budget invention and creative workarounds. But it all depended upon your perspective. Back in 1980, Siskel and Ebert clearly disagreed. If nothing else I find this debate interesting. I respect and value their thoughts on the matter. While I think they’re missing the point, there’s plenty to think about here.

For the other side of this argument, the side that argues that there’s poetry in blood geysers, I present Chainsaw and Dave’s elaborate prank from Summer School. Maybe they’re not the best debaters, but they get their point across.

Final Thoughts:

My perspective on this film has been clouded. As a landmark even in film history, Friday the 13th occupies a place on the historical record. The film maintains the power to thrill — and even surprise. (Knowing the ending may have somewhat spoiled it for me.) If I’d seen the film in the 1980’s when it was still considered an elicit thrill, watching something parents had deemed verboten, I do not doubt that I would have been far more receptive to it’s dime-store pageantry of blood.

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


friday the 13th part 2 31 days of horror

Nature Shame:
Straight-up Shoulda Seen It Shame

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Franchise sequels

 


#10. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

 

I watched Part 1 so let’s keep this train rolling right on into Part 2, released just the next year to capitalize on the buzz.

Some weird part of me enjoys the deep dive into a succession of never ending sequels of generally decreasing value. After the origin story, you’re free to indulge in trash cinema in the name of completism! Whatever you call it — it’s just fun to watch a bunch of crap that doesn’t require much attention or thought sometimes.

There’s no better venue for such simple-minded moviewatching than 31 Days of Horror and the Hoop-tober Challenge. It’s basically homework. I’m doing this to complete my cinematic education.

Totally.

The Story

See above. No really.

Same camp:

friday the 13th 31 days of horror

 

New Kids on the Camp:

friday the 13th part 2

 

Their theme song:

FINE. So you don’t like the New Kids job intruding on your horror movies. FINE. BUT I LITERALLY DON’T HAVE ANYTHING NEW TO ADD TO THE STORY PART OF THIS BL-G POST. FINE. FINE.

In the interim year between Part 1 and Part 2, someone went and watched Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood, though. So we’ve got that going for us. First the double impalement scene in question from Friday the 13th Part 2:

friday the 13th double impalement

Now let’s take a look at the double impalement scene from Mario Bava’s early and highly formative giallo Bay of Blood:

bay of blood

I went from New Kids on the Block to Mario Bava in under 50 words.

top that

Right. So. I’ve heard tell of weirdos that kinda sorta enjoy Friday the 13th Part 2 more than Part 1. And I was like, “Whatever. They just want to say something weird to be different. Like those weirdos that try to tell me that Temple of Doom is better than Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pfft. Weirdos.

Part 2’s director Steve Miner clearly had a better handle on how to create tension than Sean S. Cunningham. Cunningham thought in high concepts. Test the boundaries of mainstream cinema, amplify the kill count, and foster constant dread every five minutes. Cunningham thought in nuts and bolts (which is why Cunningham likely excelled as a producer), whereas Steve Miner flashed a bit of on-screen directorial ability.

Steve Miner created dread in the gaps between kills so that by the time we’re down to our “final girl” Ginny (a rather terrific Amy Steele), the viewer has a sense that she’s an actual human and not a pawn in a someone’s low budget horror movie. Miner would go on to direct films I quite enjoy like House (1986) and Lake Placid (1999) whereas Sean S. Cunningham’s great post-Friday the 13th achievement would become The New Kids (1985), which I admit is an effective thriller starring Lori Laughlin.

I also admire how Friday the 13th Part 2 dares the audience to balk at its even greater transparency.

Sexy bits!

friday the 13th part 2 butt

Masked killer who only bothered to cut out one eyehole!

friday the 13th part 2

Decapitated heads on a table!

friday the 13th part 2

On the other hand, maybe it all just comes down to the fact that I had zero expectations for Friday the 13th Part 2 and I was pleasantly surprised at its competent (yet still rudimentary) retelling of virtually the same story. Or I just thought Amy Steele was pretty badass with a pitchfork.

friday the 13th part 2

Final Thoughts:

If you’re going to watch Friday the 13th, go deep. Hit that series and keep on going. These are by no means my favorite movies or even my favorite slashers but I’m in this for the Hoop-tober haul. Bring on Part 3. As soon as it arrives from Netflix.

30Hz Movie Rating:


 

Availability:  

friday the 13th dvd

I watched the good old fashioned DVD sent to me in the mail by Netflix DVD. Nothing seemed more 80’s than going to a movie store and renting a battered VHS tape from a low rack in the horror section. But we don’t have that opportunity nowadays, do we? The bastards took all our fun. So I settled for movie-by-mail and it lacks the same je ne sais quoi.


amazon-buy-button

 

 

 

.

2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972) / #8. The Black Cat (1934) / #9. The Raven (1935) / #10. Friday the 13th (1980) / #11. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) / #12. Body Snatcher (1945) / #13. Dismembered (1962) / #14. From Hell It Came (1957) / #15. Symptoms (1974)

The Raven: 31 Days of Horror

the raven 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Long overdue for a rewatch Shame.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1930’s
Pre-1970’s

 


 

#9. The Raven (1935)

the raven 1935 posterYou could transcribe, pretty much verbatim, the introduction to my prior #31DaysofHorror review about The Black Cat (1934) and place it right here for The Raven (1935).

Let’s go on a tangent instead. Tangents are often more interesting anyway.

I always meant to make a triple feature of this, Roger Corman’s The Raven (1963) and James McTeigue’s The Raven (2012) starring John Cusack. So wildly different in tone and form and yet all equally disinterested in adaptation. Instead of considering how they treat the material, you could study the ways in which they just don’t bother.

I’ve been guilty of judging films based on their adaptive muscle, but in many ways this falls back on lazy criticism. It’s a worthwhile exercise to throw shade on poor adaptation — but not adaptations that want nothing to do with adaptations to begin with.

Turning Poe’s poem into a full-length cinematic property approaches the definition of insanity. Marketing shorthand dictates that Poe has been a successful cinematic commodity, and therefore more Poe must be produced to make the dollars — but only a small segment of the population legitimately cares whether the film uses the original text. There’s a reason that three “adaptations” of The Raven exist and none of them approach the material earnestly.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”

 

the raven 1935

The Story

David Boehm’s screenplay merges bits of Poe’s “The Raven” with “The Pit and the Pendulum” to spin a story about an eccentric millionaire surgeon Richard Vollin (Bela Lugosi) whose obsession with Edgar Allan Poe has turned him into a deranged torture-happy psychopath. I should clarify. The story contains a taxidermed raven and features a pendulum. Director Lew Landers populates his screen with familiar Poe imagery, but never actually attempts anything beyond face value association.

the raven bela lugosi

After Vollin saves a girl who had been injured in a car accident, he falls madly in love with her. When she rebukes his advances (she is engaged to be married after all), he makes associations with Poe’s “Lenore” and slips further into his Poe mania. He invites the girl, her father and her fiancé to his humble abode with the nefarious intentions of murdering them with his collection of torture devices.

I considered Karloff’s performance in The Black Cat to be one of the best of his career. In that film he plays a villain of quiet and calculating cruelty, yet the performance never lacked eccentricity. While I admire his work as Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy, the prosthetics handicapped his performance. Watch The Black Cat or the Val Lewton-produced Body Snatchers (1945) and you can see Karloff’s full arsenal of talents and subtlety.

the raven 1935

Lugosi, on the other hand, lacked, shall we say, similar nuance. He never learned to mask his thick accent and therefore always found himself reduced to a narrow collection of put-upons and Balkan misfits. Dracula stands as the monument of his career. Restraint benefitted his characters. When a director managed to corral his enthusiasm for showy performance, Lugosi gave gold. And in this instance, Landers starved Lugosi until it was high time to commence scenery chewing.

In The Raven Karloff again finds himself hidden behind grotesque prosthetics (the fake eyeball is especially unnerving), and Lugosi benefits by slipping into the trousers of the brilliant but sociopathic doctor. Here he’s allowed to underplay Villon’s madness until it all comes pouring out during the film’s wild and eccentric ending. In a bit of a role reversal, Karloff becomes the put-upon assistant and Lugosi the proper, regal villain.

the raven boris karloff
The makeup effects on Karloff after the mad Doctor Lugosi has his way with him.

Landers competently handles the material he’s given, but contemporary reviews proved unkind.

From the New York Times on July 5th, 1935: “If The Raven is the best that Universal can do with one of the greatest horror story writers of all time, then it had better toss away the other two books in its library and stick to the pulpies for plot material.”

And this was not an isolated criticism. Most everyone it seemed still believed that studios should attempt to adapt Edgar Allan Poe. As has been proven time and time again, adapting Poe’s stories — which almost wholly belong to the realm of psychological terror — proves problematic. How does one convey internal terror in a commercially-viable film?

Let me answer that. One doesn’t. One borrows bits and bites and plays fan service. A black cat wandering. The shadow of a raven. Haunting echoes. Reciting a poignant line hither and thither. The palette holds only so many shades of black and grey.

Final Thoughts:

The Raven entertains by virtue of Lugosi’s potent performance. Landers presents the mad doctor’s torture devices statically and perhaps in the vein of a low-budget adventure serial, but his grasp of light and shadow make up for a lack of inventiveness with the camera. Despite a prolific career, Landers never emerged from B-film purgatory.

It’s always entertainment when Karloff and Lugosi get to share the screen as equals. The Raven works, not because it has any inclination towards adapting Poe, but because it doesn’t bother and lets Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff fill in the gaps.

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


Availability:  

the bela lugost collection universal

The Raven (1935) is available on the Universal Bela Lugosi Franchise Collection. The set also features Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, The Invisible Ray, and Black Friday.


amazon-buy-button

 

 

 

.

2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972) / #8. The Black Cat (1934) / #9. The Raven (1935)

 

The Black Cat: 31 Days of Horror

the black cat 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Long overdue for a rewatch shame.

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1930’s
Pre-1970’s

 


 

#8. The Black Cat (1934)

the black cat 31 days of horrorThere’s a limitation to the kind of horror films I can watch while the wife goes to sleep. Silent are great. Gothic are good. Likewise for old Universals. “The bad” involve lots of screaming, slashing, and general gore.

Trust me when I say you don’t want your wife waking up and seeing eyeball stabbings on the television. She will not “just go to sleep” and she will not abide.

So when I was scanning some acceptable options to fulfill some #31DaysOfHorror requirements, I landed on the Universal Bela Lugosi Collection because it was there and likely contained few examples sonic protuberances and few eyeball stabbings.

I last watched The Black Cat when I wrote a term paper on the inability to properly translate Edgar Allan Poe to film during my freshman year at Emory University. To clarify, I suggested that the only way to properly translate Poe was through silent cinema. I cited Jean Epstein’s La chute de la maison Usher from 1928 as the pinnacle of cinematic Poe.

La chute de la maison Usher (1928)
A still from Epstein’s La chute de la maison Usher (1928)

I wish I still had a copy of that essay. I bet I could learn a thing or two from the obsessive research of 19-year-old me. Alas, I can merely recall fondly the dozens of hours I sat up watching every cinematic adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe. They were many. Few stood out as honest representatives of the text. The short list contained not The Black Cat.

The Story

“Based” on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat, Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1934 The Black Cat concerns the scheming machinations between two psychologically scarred World War I veterans, Werdegast and Poelzig, played respectively by Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.

the black cat 1934

Here’s the maniacal backstory: Poelzig betrayed 10,000 of his men. He then built his gothic, shadowy mansion of excess over their mass grave. Werdegast, one of the battle’s survivors, has returned to the scene of the crime after 15 years of imprisonment to seek his revenge. It turns out that Poelzig also stole away Werdegast’s wife and daughter during his prison sentence, further fanning the flames of Werdegast’s fury. And then an innocent couple, mere vacationers, gets caught up as pawns in the duo’s sick and twisted bloodsport.

Ulmer’s direction embraces the supernatural and impressionistic elements of the palatial house itself as a main character in the drama. The elongated staircases, the madness contained within the visual bleakness of glass and cold steel. In many ways, the film reminded me of a reverse negative of the original German impressionists. Where there would have been shadow there was stark white. The collision of these dark themes and Poelzig’s vapid minimalism creates an imbalance in the viewer and a purgatorial mise en scene where lost souls congregate, one step away from hell itself.

Unless I’m utterly mistaken, the connection to Poe’s short story “The Black Cat” happens in the metaphorical connection between Poe’s black cat (that he walls up in the basement) and the 10,000 dead soldiers upon which Poelzig has built his house. The cat represents the human conscience, the regret that cannot be suffocated by time or tide or walls or floorboards.

The Black Cat (1934)

Meanwhile Ulmer relies on genre conventions to make the oddly weighty metaphor palatable for mass consumption. He presents Karloff’s Poelzig through the already established “mad scientist” trope. There’s a mute and cro-magnon man-servant. The innocent couple trapped in a situation beyond their control — which trades on the spooky house blueprint established in films such as The Old Dark House (1932), The Cat and the Canary (1929), etc.

Karloff, per his usual, turns in a terrific performance, but it’s the purposeful and restrained Lugosi that most surprises. As the two old warriors dance around each other, it almost feels as if The Black Cat is the most Universal horror of all the Universal horrors. Two masters of the genre facing off without makeup, without capes or monster trickery, within a house built of chiaroscuro and latent evil.

Audio/Visual notes:

The version included on the Lugosi collection could use some TLC. It’s hazy and without sharp contrast. It’s perfectly reasonable for a lesser Universal shocker, but The Black Cat deserves better. It deserves “monster” treatment. Far lesser films have been given a deluxe revitalization just because the title contained the name “Frankenstein.”

Final Thoughts:

Whether you view The Black Cat with an eye toward genre or an eye toward the symbolic placement of World War I and the failure of humanity there’s something for everyone in the family! It’s only when the appreciation of the two schools come together into a melange of respect and kitschy thrills that you’ll mine The Black Cat for all it’s worth. It’s not a successful Poe translation, but it is effective at using Poe’s text as an inspiration for something completely other.

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


Availability:  

the bela lugost collection universal

The Black Cat (1934) is available on the Universal Bela Lugosi Franchise Collection. The set also features Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Raven, The Invisible Ray, and Black Friday.


amazon-buy-button

 

 

 

.

2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972) / #8. The Black Cat (1934)

 

2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax / #29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage / #30. Dead and Buried / #31 Ghost and Mr. Chicken

Night of the Lepus: 31 Days of Horror

night of the lepus 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Moldy, Unseen DVR’d TCM programming

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1970’s

 


 

#7. Night of the Lepus

night of the lepus posterNight of the Lepus has a reputation, so when I viewed my DVR’d broadcast from TCM and witnessed a Ben Mankiewicz introduction that included the phrase “one of the most effective horror films of the period,” I paused.

Was I watching the movie I thought I was watching?

It only took a few minutes to realize that Ben was overselling his feature presentation.

Rest assured… Night of the Lepus contains every advertised ounce of unintentional humor. I tried to take it seriously. I tried to abide the Chewbacca “rabbit” arms reaching out to slice a victim’s jugular. I tried to accept that 3/4 of the film’s runtime seems to be occupied with slow-mo rabbit leaping.

I tried… but in the end, you know what? It’s better just to give in, make the wrong turn at Albuquerque and embrace the terrible movie on its own terms.

night of the lepus title

The Story

Bunny rabbits have taken over a small Arizona town after residents eliminated their natural predator — the coyote. Rancher Cole (Rory Calhoun) approaches a couple of college smartypants of rectifying the problem without the use of poison. College president Elgin (Deforest Kelley) enlists researchers named Roy (Stuart Whitman) and Gerry (Janet Leigh) to come up with a solution.

night of the lepus

They begin experimenting with hormones intended to disrupt the rabbits’ hyperactive breeding cycle. They inject a birth-defect serum into a test group, but oooops, the researchers’ daughter falls in love with one of the injected animals and switches him into the test group so she can keep him as a pet. This is why we can’t have nice things, kids.

The rabbit, of course, escapes and commands a scourge of bloody terror across the southwest. If these chupacabras are Night of the Lepus‘ Godzilla, then this 8-year-old girl is atomic radiation. Anyway, Rory Calhoun running all over Arizona pumping hot lead into these cow-sized rabbits placed him approximately one half step away from full-on Elmer Fuddness.

And how much better would Night of the Lepus have been with Elmer Fudd leading the charge? But I digress.

hunting wabbits

The humans in the film become window dressing. They’re wallpaper, the cogs necessary to spout exposition and move the narrative forward. The star of Night of the Lepus? Slow-motion rabbits galloping through scale models of towns and the countrysides. Rabbit paws taking swipes at screaming humans.

night of the lepus

And best of all, rabbits just chillin’ in a grocery store turned diner, waiting for a slice of pie and drinking coffee but god forbid they order anything with real substance so the waitstaff can actually earn a goddamn living.

night of the lepus

 

 

Audio/Visual notes:

The fuzzier the better. That’s my motto regarding 1972 monstrous rabbit movies.

Final Thoughts:

Best viewed in .gifs and stills, Night of the Lepus leaps off the screen as less than the sum of its individual clips. I paused scenes to see how the rapidly cut images fit together and what kind of absurdity could be revealed. (The below .gif does a great job of simulating that experience.)

Rabbit attack paws and countryside frolics make for good laughs, but the nature-gone-wild/evils-of-meddling-with-mother-nature storyline offers little reward. Night of the Lepus qualifies for the I’ll-watch-it-drunk video store banner, but just barely. And don’t get me started on the way the film resolves its stampeding rabbit issue.

…wait for it….

It’s hare-brained to say the least.

night of the lepus gif

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


Availability:  

Night of the Lepus has been released by Warner Archive, presumably to fuel the Interwebs’ requirement of bloodthirsty rabbit .gifs.

night of the lepus warner archive
amazon-buy-button

 

 

 

.

2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972)

 

2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax / #29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage / #30. Dead and Buried / #31 Ghost and Mr. Chicken

Poltergeist: 31 Days of Horror

poltergeist 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
25+ year overdue rewatch

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Tobe Hooper

 


 

#6. Poltergeist

 

poltergeist posterOne major component of Cinema Shame that often gets overlooked in the drive to right unwatched wrongs is the joy of rediscovering movies you thought you remembered or understood. I’m not necessarily talking about my Godfather III guffaw from earlier this year (which was an egregious oversight), but rather the movies you actually have seen but just forgotten.

Let’s do some simple math. I’m pretty sure this was covered in Pre-Calc.

Time + tide = erosion. (Time + tide) x omnipresent imagery = erasure. My memories of Poltergeist had been boiled down to a few select images. The girl in front of the television (poster artwork). Also, the clown. Some latent memories of the Spielbergian nature of the production remained. Boisterous adventure scoring and pre-teen thrills.

That’s Poltergeist in a nutshell, right? Silly scares and a girl becoming too attached to her Saturday morning cartoons, which in 1982 was, what, Scooby-Doo, Richie Rich, The Smurfs, and Laverne and Shirley in the Army? Why I recall the latter show is anyone’s guess.

Poltergeist 31 days of horror
The horrors of a girl who can’t find a clicker to watch her Saturday morning cartoons.

The Story

I only remembered the first third of Poltergeist and conveniently overwrote the rest of the film with my own prime time TV edit. I’ll break it down in terms you can understand. After watching the film this past Saturday night, my eyes started darting to every creak and thump. I wasn’t consciously jumpy, but Poltergeist clearly affected my subconscious.

In short, I was pretty wrong about all things Poltergeist — except the Jerry Goldsmith score, which wants to let you know you’re watching a goddamn exciting film, okay? OKAY? (It didn’t help that the mixing on the Blu-ray foregrounds the score, but maybe I’ll get back to that later.)

A young girl (Heather O’Rourke) begins talking to the television, and her parents, Diane and Steve (JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson) think she’s being a cute, eccentric whippersnapper. So she’s taken up talking to the spirits of the dead across an ethereal plane. Everyone’s got to have a hobby. During the first spiritual breach, the girl disappears into the television and becomes trapped by the malignant spirits beyond. Steve and Diane call in a team of paranormal experts to find their little girl.

Tobe Hooper proves mastery over pacing and high concept. Poltergeist could have easily been series of flatulent jump scares and fallen back on cheap haunted house tricks to spook an audience. The story demands these things, after all. What he does instead is abide the jump scares and haunted house tropes in order to craft a film that forces the view to identify with parental anxiety.

The trees flying through the window, cantankerous clowns, spectral hands reaching forth from the television — these things are required to put the audience in the fear register. We’re all numb to these types of scares by now, but in order to place the viewer in the position of uncertainty, Hooper allows for anything to happen. The evil — while initially on broadcast through the television — can eventually come from anywhere.

It’s not these “horror beats” that create tension — it’s the breaths in between. It’s the moments when Diane and Steve sit in silence and worry about what might come next, worry if they’re going to see their daughter again. In many respects, this film isn’t about the haunted house at all. It’s about the daily horrors of parenting. The decisions they have to make, the regular fear that comes along with watching children grow up and becoming their own people and making their own choices.

Of course, it’s also about the soulless existence of suburban living and modern technology as anesthesia, but all this ties back into the choices made by adults to protect their family from the potentially scary world.

poltergiest 31 days of horror

An early scene depicts Steve and Diane smoking weed, escaping for a moment to their own retreat. A child, of course, invades this privacy and makes the moment about them. Parenting is a surrender of the self, which is of course what ultimately happens when Diane and Steve argue about which one of them will breach the plane in order to attempt a rescue of Carol Anne.

That’s Poltergeist — not a silly thing with ghost hands and crazy clowns.

Audio/Visual notes:

The Blu-ray looks great — I noticed a very nice, natural grain with clarity and contrast throughout — but the mixing is all over the board. I had a hard time hearing characters whispering, but a moment later I’d would get blown off my seat by a swell of Goldsmith score. When the tree branch came crashing through the window, my cat (who is well used to boisterous moviewatching by now) jumped off his furniture and sprinted upstairs. After that I kept a finger on my receiver’s volume controls at all times. It sounds great, though, so maybe we should just rattle the windows and scare the cat and be done with it.

Final Thoughts:

I found the difference between my memory and the reality of the film striking. Maybe I just wasn’t old enough to appreciate the true nature of the horror in the film. As a kid, the haunted house stuff (especially the clown) seemed silly — and those images stuck with me. Not JoBeth Williams (who is excellent in this film, by the way) plunging into the unknown to rescue her daughter or Craig T. Nelson sitting by himself at the kitchen table trying to put the pieces of his family back together. It’s the rare pleasure — a scary movie that pulls you into the human drama with fantastic performances.

Zelda Rubinstein as Tangina — the heroine of this here picture.

One final thought. Can I just say how much I love Zelda Rubinstein? Between Tangina in Poltergeist and Madam Serena in Teen Witch, she’s my favorite 80’s character actor of the moment.

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


Availability:  

Poltergeist is available everywhere because it’s Poltergeist. Your only danger is picking up the 2015 version instead.

poltergeist blu-ray
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2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982)

 

2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Vampyros Lesbos / #2. A Chinese Ghost Story / #3. The Haunting of Morella / #4. Delirium (1972) / #5. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin / #6. She-Wolf of London / #7. Son of Frankenstein / #8. Killerfish / #9. The Bride of Re-Animator / #10. A Bay of Blood / #11. The Seventh Victim / #12. The Fly (1958) / #13. The Fly (1986) / #14. Deep Red / #15. Dracula’s Daughter / #16. Day of the Animals / #17. The Unknown / #18. Kuroneko / #19. Komodo / #20. Tremors / #21. Tremors 2 / #22. A Nightmare on Elm Street / #23. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge / #24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors / #25. Tenebrae / #26. Salem’s Lot / #27. Veerana / #28. House of Wax / #29. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage / #30. Dead and Buried / #31 Ghost and Mr. Chicken

A bl-g about classic and not-so-classic movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick