Hey, it’s Halloween time, which means I’m watching Halloweenish shows and movies. And I have even more opinions here in part 3, also known as “part last”. (Spoilers for everything)
The Innocents: This from 1961 and stars Deborah Kerr. It’s adapted from the Turn of the Screw, just like Haunting of Bly Manor, but this keeps the original ambiguity about whether the ghosts are real or figments of the nanny’s imagination.
It’s pretty bloodless, in every way. Beautifully shot and acted, but bloodless.
Beyond the Black Rainbow: As a fan of Mandy, I dropped the director’s first movie into our Netflix queue right after we watched it. I loved this weird little art (school) movie, even though it’s full of wacky lighting and design choices. Plus, it features to slowest escape in the history of escapes. It’s more interesting than scary, and more fun than thrilling. Worth seeing on a quiet night.
Dracula (1979): Frank Langella is the sexiest Dracula of all time, pushing the plot of this film through all the usual beats with energy and presence that’s too often missing from these remakes. Plenty of actors go for, I don’t know, “stately.” But Langella gives the undead count real life.
Laurence Olivier plays Van Helsing, and his confrontation with his undead daughter is the most effective scene in the whole film. One of the better versions of this particular tale.
Horror of Dracula: Not the greatest version of this story, but it gets bonus points for being energetic and extremely clean. This movie has the tidiest Transylvanian vampire castle and the fakiest blood in movie history.
It’s still fun. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing would never seem to be having this much fun in later movies. Worth seeing, I guess.
Something Wicked This Way Comes: I’d seen this several times on cable when I was younger, and while I’d remembered the plot pretty well, I’d forgotten how beautiful this movie is. Autumn hillsides, golden sunsets, steam trains in the night, leaf-blown streets, and the fanciest library small town America has ever seen.
Storywise, this is about an autumn carnival that visits a small Indiana town, granting people’s dearest wishes in ways that curse them and make them part of the carnival. Those elements are a little smug and moralizing, but the rest of the film makes up for it.
The dialog is self-consciously homey and elevated, and the adult actors really make a go of it. Jonathan Pryce, playing carnival owner Mr. Dark, really makes his mark with the lines he’s been given. The two child actors, the actual leads in the story, don’t fare as well, but they’re still a lot of fun.
It’s an odd movie, and I wish someone would remake it, self-conscious dialog and all.
Warlock: This was a big hit when it was released, and it still holds up today. Julian Sands is a warlock in pre-Revolution Boston who escapes to the future, and Richard E. Grant is the Witchcatcher who follows. Lori Singer is the bright, energetic, midriff-baring modern woman who gets caught in the action.
Plot wise, it’s a standard mix of fish-out-of-water and thriller elements, and the unusual magic makes the plot surprising. I honestly thought this movie would make a top-tier movie star out of Julian Sands, but oh well.
It’s not a horror movie, really, but it is dark urban fantasy, and it still holds up.
Border: Not sure why someone put this on a list (at #2) of best horror films of the last ten years, but it’s absolutely a good film. Not horror, but genuinely good.
Tina is a Border control agent who is prosthetics-ugly and who has the ability to smell people’s fear, shame, and other emotions. She believes she’s been born with chromosomal damage that has left her deformed, but one day she meets someone just like herself, and slowly comes to realize she’s not human at all.
This is more drama than fantasy, and more fantasy than horror, but it’s a terrific movie. Thank you, northern Europe and your fascination with trolls.