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piranesi

ITS ALLLLIIIIIIIIIVVVVVVE 2016 PRESEASON of the G-G-G-GHOST (9/1-9/30)

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The following is brought to you as a public service announcement on behalf of Silver Shamrock Inc. and the Undead Coalition of Ghoulish Endeavors and Opportunities (UCGEO)

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You don't really know much about Halloween... you thought no further than the strange custom of having your children wear masks and go out begging for candy.

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It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands, and we'd be waiting... in our houses

 

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of wattles and clay. The barriers would be down, you see, between the real and the unreal, and the dead might be looking in...

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to sit by our fires of turf. Halloween... the festival of Samhain! The last great one took place three thousand years ago, when the hills ran red... with the blood of animals and children.

Sacrifices.

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It was part of our world... our craft.

To us, it was a way of controlling our environment. It's not so different now... it's time again. In the end... we don't decide these things, you know... the planets do. They're in alignment, and it's time again. The world's going to change tonight, doctor, I'm glad you'll be able to watch it. And...

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happy Halloween.

It's almost time, kids. The clock is ticking. Be in front of your TV sets for the Horrorthon, followed by the Big Giveaway. Don't miss it. And don't forget to wear your masks. The clock is ticking. It's almost time.

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We have less than a month to get our flabby overly corporeal asses into shape.  I'd start by drinking ectoplasm and freebasing Stranger Things and then move on to harder stuff.  Here is my tentative watchlist.  Feel free to add yours:

Goodnight Mommy
It Follows
Berberian Sound Studio
We Are What We Are
Kill List
The Orphanage
Trouble Every Day
Cold Fish
The Innkeepers
I Saw the Devil
The Skin I Live In
The Final Girls
When Animals Dream
We Are Still Here
What We Do In the Shadows
Troll Hunter
Hellraiser
Creep
Would You Rather
Dead Silence
Dawn/Day of the Dead
CHUD
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Rosemary's Baby

 

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This was the best $2.00 I've spent in months.  He/she is way too excited about being eaten by me for me not to be just a tad suspicious of this whole setup. 

I imagine this is the easiest way for a spirit to possess someone is to be invited in by way of the stomach.  Not that this is going to stop me.

 

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It's already Halloween when TCM East and West are playing the OG (!!!) Hills Have Eyes and the OG Texas Chainsaw. Followed by The Prowler (ehhh?). 

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Curious about "Berbian Sound Studio" so post your thoughts on that one.

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I was disappointed with Good Night, Mommy.  It felt like an attempt to trick people into watching some cheap torture porn by pretending it was a psychological mystery. 

But the mystery part was also cheapened by the film presenting what,

 

Spoiler

in retrospect, are events that probably only happened in Elias's mind as if they were happening in front of us, the viewer.  Everything from the bug crawling into her mouth, to her monstering-up in the forest, to the bizarrely empty village.  Even her bizarrely inaccurate or nonsensical answers to his questions probably didn't happen.  All of that was shown to us in objective 3rd person perspective so that we would accept it since, I guess, the entire film is filtered through Elias's distorted view, a view that, for the story to work out the way it did, wold have to be so distorted that it doesn't even really give us anything but false information, all the while pretending that we are waiting to solve a mystery.

 

I guess that's okay...unreliable narrator.  But maybe because it all unfolded so damned slowly I felt that was a cheap tactic rather than a valid narrative choice.

 

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Super jazzed for Halloween. My wife, roommate, and I have been watching random horror movies the last few weeks so the spirit is already upon us.

 

Rewatched The Ring which is really a great example of how to whitewash a franchise, sincerely. It's gently structured and framed as a US horror flick which makes the retained malice of Samara that much nastier. Also Gore Verbinski brings the visual flair that helps the movie look good some fifteen years later. Really good stuff. I may see how the sequel is to prep for Rings.

 

The Grudge offers an entirely different approach. Hire the director of the original films and set it in Japan with a solid amount of the cast being Japanese. I'd never seen it before but knew about the mixed reviews and ot made a ton of sense when I realized how Japanese the thing felt, in terms of narrative structure and directorial style. I dug it a lot and now want to check out both the US sequel and Japanese films.

 

Insidious 3 sure was a prequel. Had enough creepy shit and a likeable family at the heart to be worth a watch, but I PVRed it off TMN so I don't know that I can recommend dropping money on it. Probably great in the sub-$10 range.

 

Loooved The Boy. Not sure why it didn't get more hype when it came out. It's super tense and creepy the whole way through with twists that make sense and are built up by the narrative instead of derailing it. The film totally plays fair yet keeps being creepy in new and different ways without ever treating the audience like an idiot. One of the smarter horror flicks of the last few years and I am again baffled by the lack of hype.

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Lots of good suggestions on that list, bro.  I'll post mine when it is a little less chaotic.

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Apparently once it is closer to H-Ween, B-Movie TV just marathons all of their horror stuff 24/7. I am ready for this.

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On 9/5/2016 at 1:39 PM, nate said:

Curious about "Berbian Sound Studio" so post your thoughts on that one.

I caught it in the theater and it was really good but impossible to describe properly. It's something you just have to watch. That may sound cheap or trite, but it really is the truth, the film is a very personal sensory experience that seems remiss to try and review like a normal film -- which it is NOT.

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I had to stop watching BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO almost exactly halfway through because my wife was sleepy and I'm supposed to wait for her to finish...goddamit.

But it's not a bad place to stop and muse a bit, since I don't know what actual plot outcomes are headed my way.  All I have so far is the setup and the beginning of the twisting.

And so far it is utterly brilliant and conflicting.  Just on a technical level it is astounding.  I grew up with hautned house recordings and scary sound LPs and, of course, horror movies. I've actually given a bit of thought to sound design in horror films but it still cuaght me off guard how much focusing on sound could make one queasy.

There is a clever mixture of living sounds with this running theme of the dead "still-life" as the fruits and vegetables used in teh foley work pile up and decay they begin to turn into one of those sickly Caravaggio still lives where the fruit is all rotten and the leaves curling.  And then they begin to look like gore and viscera of the horror films themselves.  It's a really nice formal touch and a great metaphor for a gradual moral decay. It reminded me a bit of the old French film TOUS LES MATINS DU MONDE which also made a lot of visual references to still lives, but for very different and more romantically mournful purposes.

There is something about sound that is a special sort of torture.  Jaques Atali wrote about how it is the most intrusive of sense data because unlike visual you can't easily "close your ears." You either leave the area or you are stuck.  We've all experienced this at a coffee shop when a song you hate comes on and you realize that music, when done badly, is literally the worst of the arts.  There is no such thing as a song that is "so bad it's fun."  Bad sound is just torture and it seems to go on forever while you fumble for youe earbuds to get something else into your ears stat.  Hell, sound is literally a form of torture at Guantanamo.  So in that way where Argento was so fond of making us squeamish about the vulnerability of eyes to being poked, Strickland here reminds us of how psychologically vulnerable we are to sound. Even more so for Gilderoy, our main character, who has particularly sensitive ears.  Sensitive to the beautiful and therefore vulnerable to the grotesque.  So as we listen to someone be aurally tortured it becomes like this weird headphone version of Malcolm MacDowell's eyes being pinned open in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. And let's not forget that in that movie, after all the images were done, it was the sound of Beethoven's ninth that remained to drive him mad.

Special Note: the scenes of the actors recording various screams and howls and Goblin growls remind me that the title is there for a reason.  If you've never heard the work Kathy Berberian did with her husband Luciano Berio (and I think Berio is personally the model for the producer in the film here) during the same era that the film is set in, have a listen to this, some of the most unsettling vocal music ever written (Just make sure you're not where someone else can hear or you may have some explaining to do:

 

My wife was as uncomfortable simply listening to these unseen giallo gore scenes as she ever has been actually watching one. I wonder if that part is supposed to make us all feel guilty about the form itself.  Certainly Gilderoy makes us feel that way, constantly questioning the value of "horror" as a genre if this is what it leads to. And there are plenty of moments that make me feel a little uneasy with my comfort level at a lot of what I've watched with the emphasis now placed on an unwilling participant. By placing us in the role of, this is kid of weird but, doubly-removed spectator (that is we are watching someone watch the movie and our feelings are determined by their reaction) we end up feeling a very strong moral objection to a film that many of us might casually giggle our way through if we actually saw it.  We see "horror" for once from the perspective of someone who cannot stand horror.  Like I genuinely felt toward the "film within a film" a kind of revulsion that I imagine some non-genre fans must feel toward a lot of what I watch every October.  That's a pretty amazing psychological sleight of hand.

But at the same time, I'm not quite sure if we are supposed to identify with him.  He is obviously likable in a way compared to the Italian caricatures around him.  He is vulnerable and sympathetic and schlumpy and lost. 

But he is also absurdly weak and therefore not a strong candidate for providing our moral perspective.  I'm ending right at the place where he breaks down while providing the sound effects for a witch being tortured with a burning poker up the veejay, and the berating he gets from his producer "You are here to be professional.  You do your job and do not question" makes me wonder if this is all going to workout as another fascist metaphor.  This would be a little funny given that the film is partly a parody on Italian film directors, and let's face it, Italian directors seem to never be able to get past that idea and work through it obsessively in generation after generation of both art and exploitation films. If that's the case, the Gilderoy is not "us" but our worst version of "us," the version that is incapable of standing up to the grotesque out of fear and a childish romanticism mixed with an impotent pacifism...the version that just lets the system do what it's going to do because we are too weak to even raise a voice against it. Shit. He is us.  Damn it, movie, stop making me hate myself.

It's bleak then, because we have a poor excuse for "us' being ground up within a Anthony Burgess-esque setting that is cold and heartless but also sleek and alluring and there's nothing in all that but a depressing truth.

Halfway through and I give this two Italian sound-based fascist-metaphor films up

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UPDATE ON MILK CHOCOLATE SKELETON GUY:

 

Spoiler

PROGNOSIS: GRIM

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Meanwhile, things look better over at HOME DEPOT as they are BRINGING IT!

 

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Note that the tag says "Animated Corpse."  Goddamn Universal Lawyer Brigade!

Also, I have that exact same suit.  So buying this is like doubling my traffic court wardrobe.

 

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WE ARE STILL HERE: (2015)

I completely slept on this and only noticed it was streaming today.

I'm going to have a non-spoiler bit here at the beginning because if you haven't seen this I can't recommend highly enough that you go to Netflix and watch it IMMEEDIATELY.  IT is the perfect way to begin your Halloween festivities.

It begins as a pretty standard "Conjuring" haunting "something terrible happened in this house these people are just moving into and will start doing things slowly until a medium shows up and reveals a horrible secret" movie that frankly I'm kind of sick of.

But don't be put off by that or by it's at times problematic budget.  Yes there are some audio issues and a few scenes fall flat because it,(for instance there is a scene that is clearly modeled on POLTEREIST where the hippie medium friend starts saying spooky things along the lines of "He knows what scares you" but it falls flat because there is so little cinematic buildup around it, no music, awkward lighting, bad audio, etc.). To be honest, sometimes looks like a cheap "Made for Chiller Network" movie.  But there are so many brilliant bits of directing that right from the start make up for that.  

This is almost a "meta" parody in fact of the haunting genre.  It's so clumsily on the nose at times dialog and plot-wise that you might dismiss it, but that is all in the service of letting amazing things happen and spin out of control at a pretty astounding rate.

Some brilliant things:
- It coopts that no-budget to create an effective naturatlistic style that makes the spaces feel real.
- It uses actors in their 30s and 40s to tell an adult story about very normal, schlubby people (low rent tubby fake Jack Nicholson is my personal favorite). The acting is sometimes stilted but the characters are believable and even when they are stupid, they are stupid in believable ways.
- It's not a found footage movie, but it borrows one really effective idea from those.  At times the camera sort of "bobs and weaves" just a bit making what is a "normal' movie shot feel more like a POV shot. It's not overdone but the effect is amazing.  Since you know it's not a POV shot, you are assuming it is "your view" at home...but since it now feels like a POV shot it pulls you way into the space.  There is one great scene where someone hears a thump and rather than have the camera follow her we, the audience are "jumped" over to the other room closer to the noise...and because we are feeling it as a POV shot, we are suddenly hyper aware of how much less safe we are than where we were before because we know the next time we hear the noise it will be a lot closer to us than to the actual person in the movie...if that makes any sense. It's not quite the same effect as the moving shots in the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies that make you feel like a voyeur stalking the victims, but instead makes you feel like you are there with the victims.
- The scares are brilliantly shot and genuinely get you. It managed to make my wife scream three times.  That's pretty solid for someone who watches a lot of horror movies.
- But if this isn't enough to convince you, know that a huge wave of influences of other films start to show up as the plot takes a very severe twist...and it is amazing.

Now the spoilery stuff including some of the influences that come out in subtle ways throughout the movie:

Spoiler

- THE FOG: The ghosts are immediately physical and remind me a lot of the ghosts in THE FOG. They don't fuck around and can eviscerate you at will.  Once that starts happening we are out of "The Conjuring" territory and the movie becomes something totally different
- HOUSE OF THE DEVIL: The conspiracy theory of old people looking for a sacrfice.  Needless to say I was thrilled when Monte Markham showed up if only to know that Monte Markham is still alive.  I love love, LOVE the fact that these people end up trapped between two groups coming to kill them.  It's genuinely suspenseful.
- EVIL DEAD: The seance and possession scene is great. At first it gets so much just out of fake Jack Nicholson saying gross things and, yes, It suffers a bit for the "naturalistic" vibe necessitated by the low budget and at times suffers from a "shot on video" feel, but it's just such a great "fuck you this is not the movie you thought it was!" and leads to some amazing over the top grossness
- THE CABIN IN THE WOODS: The unravelling of the conspiracy and the bloodbath is amazing as a movie that began as a contemplative movie about loss and haunting memories turns into a full-on hilarious splatter fest that makes the whole thing seem like its simultaneously a good horror movie and a parody of every recent horror movie

 

Also, too, sweaters.


WATCH THIS!!!

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DEAD SILENCE (2007):

This was James Wan's followup to SAW and was sort of his in-between that and INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING, etc.. It has a scray old dead lady, haunted dolls and ventriloquist dummies, and Donnie Wahlberg as a Tom-Atkins-in-Night-of-the-Creeps style detective.  That should be enough to convince you to watch.

There are a few reasons to enjoy watching this as a one time Netflix watch.

1) He trades in the gritty gross grime of SAW for something arch-gothic and that's not bad for Halloween season.  The sets are waaaaay overdone in that way but goddamn who doesn't love cobweb be-swamed old theaters and crazy overgrown cemeteries?  In fact in a lot of ways this is a nice throwback to old gothic movies from someone who started his career pushing a different direction. At one point I was complaining in my head how much the cemetery was an obvious sound stage and then I was like "So what?  What's more awesome than a scary movie with an absurdly staged Cemetery?  What am I? The Dogma '95 police?"

2) Dolls are inherently scary...a breaking point to some people.  And Wan lays that on thick here.  Every variety, every weird tick, and predictably a bit of doll/human body horror.  Not so much as SAW might make you expect, but remember  Wan's movie wasn't as gory as the later installments.  The final twist, though, is very SAW-like both in grossness and execution (and absurdity). It's also telegraphed form about 700 miles away and I totally called it within literally three footsteps of the guy walking up to his old house.

Things I didn't like (but then did):

1) The story is absurd.  We've all seen a lot of "small town that used to be thriving and is now dead harbors a horrible curse" stories, but none with a backstory as convoluted and nonsensical as this one about a famous ventriloquist living in a theater built just for her and the terrible crime that destroyed a whole town.  As I was watching, though, I was grousing in my mind about how completely idiotic it all seems and then I suddenly thought "wait a minute, jerk, you don't get all pissy when Vincent Price shows up in THE HAUNTED PALACE inheriting a castle in a town plagued by the ghost of a satan worshipping magician that they burned to death for stealing the souls of their women?  That you are fine with that because it's Vincent Price but you're not fine with it for that douche from TRUE BLOOD?...so why don't you just stop your endless bitching and enjoy this for what it is, asshole."  And I thought "You know what, mean self-critical me?  You're right!" And things got much better from there on.

2) The score: This is unforgivable. It's by Charlie Clouser from NIN and it won't fucking let up.  Every single second has to be blasted on about with electronic swooshes and bowed gongs and seering strings and little explosions. It's the kind of movie where you have to keep turning the volume up to hear the dialog and then back down to get ready for the next stupid loud music cue.  Fuck you, Charlie Clouser.  I know that you know where in a horror movie to use a glockenspiel and where to use an organ and I know you've got a lot of neat buttons on your big home studio but FUCKING STEP BACK FOR A MINUTE IT"S NOT ABOUT YOU BUDDDY IT"S ABOUT THE SCARY DOLLS IT"S ALWAYS ABOUT SCARY DOLLS!!!

VERDICT: Worth a watch.  Will make you jump a few times.  If you set aside the overdone-ness of it all and enjoy it as a throwback to old Saturday horror matinees, it's perfectly enjoyable. If your S.O. has never seen a SAW movie, the ending will probably freak them out a little.  Just keep the remote handy.

 

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