First things first: happy, happy Hallowe’en!
October was a busy month, with a horror-and-nothing-but focus, a guest blog, a movie marathon and three (!!!) podcasts, all recorded within twenty-four hours.
For November and December, the goal is to finish off those four lingering final episodes of Hannibal before anything else. Screeners have started to come in for end-of-year award consideration, so there’ll definitely be some of that in November and December. Also, apparently Fangoria is doing an online film festival late next month, maybe I’ll check out some of that.
This month’s content
Reviews of current or recent releases
TV Good Sleep Bad
- Episode 3: “Tales from the Crypt and Tales from the Cryptkeeper“
For Cinema Axis
- LAMBCast #292: John Carpenter Retrospective with David Brook (Blueprint: Review), Darren Lucas (Movie Reviews 101), Will McGainey (French Toast Sunday) and host Jay Cluitt (Life vs. Film)
- LAMBCast #293: Whatcha Been Watching Lately? (Horror Special) with Heather Baxendale (As You Watch), Mette Kowalski (French Toast Sunday) and Lindsay Street (French Toast Sunday) and host Jay Cluitt
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Other movies I watched this month include…
Cop Car (Jon Watts, 2015)
Despite all the panoramic shots of the vast Southwestern landscape, Jon Watts’s thriller Cop Car is at its best when it tightens its scale. A pair of preteen runaways take an apparently abandoned police cruiser for a joyride, finding themselves involved in a dangerous situation involving a corrupt county sheriff and a drug deal gone very, very bad. James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford transcend the usual limitations of child actors while Shea Whigham exudes twitchy menace as a petty criminal, but Kevin Bacon steals the show as the cocaine-addled sheriff. Even Camryn Mannheim manages not to be annoying.
My rating: Pro.
In the Mouth of Madness (John Carpenter, 1994)
This month I took part in a retrospective discussion of John Carpenter’s body of work for the LAMBcast; the slate consisted of ten of his films, and I had enough prep time to revisit two of the three films I was least familiar with.
In the Mouth of Madness, on the other hand, suffers from the same problem as its spiritual predecessor Prince of Darkness: it tries to do too much, but doesn’t have much idea how to make it all work together. Mouth of Madness tries to be a Lovecraftian horror film with social commentary, meta/self-referential aspects, and disgusting special effects, topped off with a not-particularly-sympathetic hard-boiled detective as a protagonist. It understands that the most important aspect of the Cthulhu Mythos is the philosophy, not the monsters, but it still feels the need to have monsters in it.
I think it would have been better if it had a stronger cast, but most of the actors don’t understand what they’re doing (Julie Carmen, Frances Bay, and saddest of all Jürgen Prochnow) or don’t care (Sam Neill, Charlton Heston). Only David Warner and John Glover really seem engaged, and the film suffers for it.
Which isn’t to say that it’s entirely unenjoyable; it’s got some great bits, like the “tearing page” scene and the rubber room covered with scrawled crosses. But I don’t think it’s possible to claim that Carpenter isn’t on a decline at this point in his career.
My rating: Mixed.
The Fog (John Carpenter, 1980)
The Fog, on the other hand, suffers from having to follow Halloween. Carpenter’s flopping around quite a bit, and it shows. He doesn’t really know how to write the relationship between Elizabeth and Nick (indeed, the connection between Elizabeth and the weird events is a great implication that, disappointingly, never gets followed up). He stretches out some sequences way too long–Adrienne Barbeau’s almost endless begging people over the radio to save her son is a great example. And the film ends on a cheap gotcha moment.
What redeems The Fog for me is the palpable sense of atmosphere Carpenter lends it, and those lovely shots of the titular fog rolling across the darkened landscape. Carpenter’s visual style tends to be more technical than aesthetic; The Fog goes for beauty in a way he rarely attempts, and it’s at its best when you can just sit back and let it wash over you. One of Carpenter’s best scores, too.
My rating: Pro.