31 Days of Horror Cinema

Etoile (1989): 31 Days of Horror

#2. Etoile (1989)

etoile 1989 posterNature of Shame:
Unopened Scorpion Blu-ray purchased because Etoile was Black Swan before Black Swan was Black Swan. And I don’t care who you are — it’s good to see 1989 Jennifer Connelly.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s

I kicked Hooptober up a notch by watching a horror movie that wasn’t really a horror movie at all, despite the imagery of a black swan beak-stabbing a ballerina on the gorgeous poster art.

Etoile Elevator Pitch

Claire, an American ballerina (Connelly), enrolls in a prestigious Hungarian ballet school. Meanwhile, Jason (Gary McCleery), a young man assisting his uncle (Charles Durning) in a quest for antique clocks, falls in love with the beautiful ballerina. As their relationship blossoms, Claire becomes inexplicably obsessed with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Strange happenings intervene and Jason becomes determined to unravel the mysterious powers behind it all.

jennifer connolly etoile 1989

‘Etoile’ Means Star

Etoile toiled in obscurity until the release Black Swan — at which point it toiled in near obscurity as a few seen-everythings lauded Peter Del Monte’s film as a clear source of inspiration for Aronofksy’s Black Swan. Certainly thematic connections exist. The experience of playing the lead in Swan Lake causing fractures in personality. The dancers’ connections to the ballet approximating religious zealotry. Aronofsky also incorporated elements of The Red Shoes (1948) and The Fly (1986). It’s not exactly the 1:1 parallel that some have suggested.

Del Monte’s film feels more like a toothless Suspiria (1977) than Black Swan feels like Etoile. If this were an SAT question, the answer would have been Etoile : Suspiria :: Black Swan : The Red Shoe Fly (Don’t Bother Me). 

etoile 1989

From the opening scene where Claire arrives at the Hungarian ballet school, Etoile invokes Suspiria‘s alienation and importunate old world mysteries. Both stories depict the attempted corruption of the ballerina by apparent supernatural forces. This narrative easily integrates into the obsessive and often torturous world of ballet. That the act of training for ballet takes the form of torture permits the co-mingling of high art and horror — something that Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 Suspiria re-imagining made far more than subtext.

Etoile pumps the breaks as it approaches and dabbles in genre motifs. The story downplays witchcraft and the ghostly presence that invades Claire’s life. Though Del Monte doesn’t play a smoke and mirror game with regard to the explanation for the ballerina’s obsession, he doesn’t at all sensationalize Claire’s descent into “madness.” Argento goes full tilt on the grotesquerie of witches, and Aronofsky mines Natalie Portman’s psychological and physical trauma. Etoile just is and while that makes for a mostly pleasant experience, it’s also forgettable in light of the other far more successful films in this unsettling cinema of ballet.

etoile 1989

Final ‘Etoile’ Thoughts

Connelly gives an engaging performance in a film that doesn’t really provide her with the meaty bits that allowed Jessica Harper and Natalie Portman to engage the audience beyond the face-value substance of the part. As Connelly’s Claire becomes consumed by her “upcoming performance,” Gary McCleery becomes a leading stiff. He’s not bad, but he’s an American that looks the part of a B-grade actor who’d star in a lesser Lucio Fulci film. For what it’s worth, he’s worked with Peter Yates and Paul Mazursky, and I’m certain he was also wallpaper in The Friends of Eddie Coyle and Harry & Tonto.

Etoile‘s chockablock full of gothic imagery and Del Monte’s final climax contains some memorable cross-cutting between the Swan Lake production and Jason’s struggle to free Claire’s soul from the tormented production. In the end, however, it’s all a rather bloodless and tepid psychological thriller without much bite and a total waste of the clock-obsessed millionaire played by Charles Durning. In the on-disc interview with director Peter Del Monte, he expresses regret about the swan “special effects.” The production ran out of money, but the demonic swan show must go on. He might not be pleased to hear this, but after Etoile rolls its credits — that swan is the one piece of the film you’ll remember. It’s not a bad film, and in fact I’d suggest Etoile‘s worth a watch just for some visuals alone, but it just fails to establish a consistent and memorable tenor.


scorpion etoile blu

Etoile is available on Scorpion Blu-ray and DVD. 

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

  1. Shocker (1989) // 2. Etoile (1989)




31 Days of Horror Cinema

Shocker (1989): 31 Days of Horror

#1. Shocker (1989)

Nature of Shame:
Unopened Blu-ray that I ordered years ago for some really good reason I’m sure.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s

Kicking off Hooptober with some unseen Wes Craven from 1989 to combine multiple misguided moviewatching endeavors: #Watch1989 and the Cinema Shame Hooptober Watchpile Shame-a-thon. There will be many more as I’ve saved all 1989 horror movies for this wonderful time of the year.

Shocker Elevator Pitch

A local teen football star (Peter Berg) catches a serial killer / cable TV repairman, condemning him to the electric chair — only this bad guy has found the Satanic loophole to transform him into radio waves/electricity in order to continue his murderous ways after his execution.

But radio waves and electricity are not the same thing.

I’m not sure that matters. Nobody cares about science. They might as well be the same thing.

No. They’re really not. Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation. This is relevant. Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell predicted the existence of radio waves through his unified theory of electromagnetism in 1870. In 1886, Heinrich Hertz applied Maxwell’s findings to construct a method by which he could send and receive controlled radio waves by using household goods. The unit of frequency of an electromagnetic wave (1 cycle per second) is called a Hertz in his honor. So in a way Heinrich was also responsible for this website, Thirty Hertz Rumble.

You’re losing readers before you even start the review.

I don’t have readers. 

I can’t argue with you there.

The ‘Shocking’ Laws of Electricity

Wes Craven’s Shocker follows a predictable blueprint. Though the parameters have shifted somewhat, Shocker directly recalls A Nightmare on Elm Street in the ways teenagers take on a big bad who’s found an alternative reality through which he can perpetrate his grisly murders. A TV repairman with a limp comes up decidedly lacking against the hugely charismatic Freddy Krueger. It’s no stretch to reimagine this as a late-series Elm Street with Robert England’s Krueger using the television/movies to invade dreams. Mitch Pileggi’s an adequate presence and boosts Shocker‘s dark humor, but there’s a sizable fray in Shocker‘s wiring that he can’t possibly overcome.

Shocker should have been better — could have been better if not for the brazen disregard for the rules of the game. Once Pinker sidesteps his own execution by becoming some kind of electrical charge that can be transferred from person to person or through electrical wiring or via television waves. There seems to be no limitations and therefore no way for the viewer to feel any real stakes. When a villain seems capable of doing anything he pleases, it’s impossible to feel any tension. Shocker‘s status as a black comedy helps ameliorate these shortcomings, but without an ability to foster suspense it can’t rise above horror or comedy mediocrity.

In combating a villain of limitless power, Jonathan Parker’s (Berg) actions to finally corral the electromagnetic killer also feel arbitrary — meant to end a film rather than combat a foe with any narrative relevance. When you completely disregard setting boundaries for the villain, the hero must also follow suit. While the final battle showcase an elaborate special effects sequence and provide a playground for Craven’s finest self-referential humor, it also becomes escapist frivolity completely detached from Shocker‘s already scattered logic.

shocker 1989

Final ‘Shocker’ Thoughts

Minor, fleeting entertainment. Wes Craven’s horror has a definable quality in the polish and innovation; however, in Shocker the polish and apparently boundless creativity belies the horror beneath. The slasher construct requires rules and limits to build tension. We’re left with an average, bloody comedy — based on idea that was given a more definable and effective shape in the John Ritter comedy Stay Tuned (1992).




Shocker is available on a Scream Factory Blu-ray wherever fine Blu-rays are sold.  

2019 @CinemaShame / #Hooptober Progress

  1. Shocker (1989) //




31 Days of Horror Cinema

Hooptober / 31 Days of Horror 2019

Prior Hooptober/31 Days of Horror Lists on 2015 / 2016 / 2017 / 2018

I always have a healthy stable of unwatched horror films at my disposal because I end up buying horror movies all year but waiting for the Hooptober binge. It’s not a healthy moviewatching model. I always try to include as many first-time watches as possible, but old favorites always find a way into the mix because sometimes you need to watch The Mummy for the 14th time, like being wrapped in warm blankets (inside a sarcophagus). Last year my daughters became obsessed with Abbott and Costello so we binged all of the Meet the Monsters films. They weren’t on the original agenda, but Hooptober requires spontaneity and the ability to pivot… or at least the understanding that I’ll be laying awake in bed some night without my Hooptober stack handy and surely there’s a horror movie laying around here somewhere (probably a Universal horror collection).

I’m also continuing my year-long #Watch1989 Movie Marathon throughout Hooptober. There’s no rest for #Watch1989. That accounts for the mass numbers of films from 1989 that don’t fit the Cinemonster’s 2019 Hooptober agenda. After watching each movie, I’ll toss up a mini-review and a 30Hz rating that will correspond to my review on The review may or may not contain any actual insight. The reviews are the part of this project that will leave you a quivering pile of bloody goo. And now for the more specific Hooptober / 31 Days of Horror 2019 demonic hurdles, courtesy of The Cinemonster. Here’s the original post on

Cinemonster’s Hooptober 6/6/6 Guidelines:

CATEGORY// followed by my entries satisfying the criteria


Mexico, U.S., U.K., Russia, France, Italy, Yugoslavia(!)


30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s


The Mummy, Two Monks, The Bride of Frankenstein, Captive Wild Woman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Revenge of the Creature, The Creature Walks Among Us, A Bucket of Blood


Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Blood Bath, The Tenant, Eaten Alive, Friday the 13th Part 6, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Jack Pierce, Rob Bottin, Screaming Mad George, Lon Chaney
and Carlo Rambaldi//

The Mummy, Captive Wild Woman, Bride of Frankenstein, Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Friday the 13th Part VII, Four Flies on Grey Velvet


Friday the 13th Part 6


Eaten Alive


Pet Sematary, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Blood Bath


Jaws, The Revenge


The Church


A Bucket of Blood


The Mummy, The Bride of Frankenstein, Captive Wild Woman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Revenge of the Creature, The Creature Walks Among Us






Two Monks (Dos Monjes)


Eaten Alive

***FOR THOSE THAT LIKE TO DO EXTRA WORK: WATCH Horror Noire and Innocent Blood***

-review them all.(eek)

Clearly one film can satisfy multiple criteria. Viewing and reviewing will begin at 12:01am CST on Sept 15th.

blacula hooptober 2019

31 Days of Horror 2019 Roster

I plan to call some audibles when spur-of-the-moment cravings strike, but here’s my blueprint for the 31 Days Of Horror 2019 CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-Thon.

Past #31DaysOfHorror Shame-a-thons: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 Part 1 | 2015 Part 2 | 20162017 | 2018


The Mummy (1932)*
Two Monks (1934)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)*
Captive Wild Woman (1943)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)*
Revenge of the Creature (1955)
The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)
A Bucket of Blood (1959)
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)*
Blood Bath (1966)
The Blood Rose (1970)
Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)
All the Colors of the Dark (1972)
Blacula (1972)
The She-Butterly (1973)
The Tenant (1976)
Eaten Alive (1976)
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
The Church (1989)*
Leviathan (1989)*
Etoile (1989)
Pet Sematary (1989)
House III: The Horror Show (1989)
Society (1989)
Warlock (1989)*
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child (1989)
Shocker (1989)
Popcorn (1991)
Innocent Blood (1992)*
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019)

What’s your list? What’s your plan for horror movie watching this year? If you’re keeping a list or participating in the Hooptober challenge, I’ll link you in the header for my posts. Just leave a note with a link in the comments. Together we shall overcome… or we’ll be the losers knocked off in the first act to establish the killer’s indomitable menace. It’s more comforting to know you’re not doing this alone.