Posts Tagged ‘Movie Reviews’

So it might have been more a celebration for Halloween, first published on FILMSCHOOLREJECTS.COM on October 18, but even if just for the first three-quarters of the year (January 2018 through September), Rob Hunter’s “The Best Horror Movies of 2018 So Far” offers goodies worth a look any time of the year. And,  especially, for Thanksgiving weekend if sometimes the football games don’t thrill enough.

Well, see for yourself by pressing here!


(Triana, on the other hand, thinks she’ll just eat and eat. . . .)


Well, yesterday probably as you read this, but October 29 is National Cat Day in the US “to bring awareness to the number of homeless cats,” as Triana herself was before I found her at the County Animal Shelter.  And what better way to combine that with a Monday Pre-Halloween movie than . . . well, as the Indiana University Cinema explains:  Making its U.S. debut at IU Cinema on the 80th anniversary of its original release in Japan, THE GHOST CAT AND THE MYSTERIOUS SHAMISEN is a rare surviving example of a pre-World War II Japanese horror film.  Suzuki Sumiko, Japan’s original horror star, plays a jealous stage actress who murders her romantic rival — and her lover’s cherished pet cat for good measure!  But her bloody past comes back to haunt her … literally.  In Japanese with English subtitles.  Yes, a cat horror movie!  And, one may add, Suzuki Sumiko is not your Western-style “Scream Queen” either, but more often played the monster itself or, in this case, the second best thing.

As to the monster itself, though, there is a Japanese tradition of the ghost cat that comes upon a murder victim and drinks its blood, becoming itself a kind of ghost-monster.  Here it has evolved a little, however, with Kuro the cat as a go-between in what becomes a love triangle.  Or maybe not — our shamisen player is already promised to Ms Sumiko’s character as he explains to the second woman, a samuri’s daughter — and too high-born to be a musician’s girlfriend anyway — who had found and returned his missing Kuro to him.  He does end up giving her his shamisen though just before his betrothed takes matters into her own blood-stained hands and, well, the ghosts of the cat and the rival combine.  And the shamisen thus becomes a cursed object being passed from person to person — assisted by visitations by the cat/woman ghost, depicted through a sort of kaleidoscopic effect — until it winds up in the hands of the dead woman’s little sister, while in the meantime the actress has dumped the musician, becoming instead the mistress of the local feudal lord.  And then it happens there’ll be a kabuki theatre performance where actress, musician, lord, little sister, and ghosts come together. . . .

But let us end now with a guest review, courtesy of IMDb, which I will agree with for the most part.  I will add via the IU Cinema docent, though, that only about four of these pre-war Japanese horror movies have survived in complete form (after 1940 the Japanese movie industry turned to propaganda films, and afterward “revenge” films were banned until the American occupation ended in the early 1950s) and the print we saw, while less than perfect, was probably the best now in existence.  Also the Japanese described such movies, including the 1930s Universal films (e.g., DRACULA,  FRANKENSTEIN, which were shown there too) with a word that means not so much “horror” as “weird.”

Charming movie which lets itself down with poor horror special effects
19 February 2012 | by oOgiandujaOo_and_Eddy_Merckx

Seijiro is a shamisen player for a kabuki troupe (a shamisen being a type of stringed instrument).  He is engaged to Mitsue, a sociopathic actress.  Seijiro’s kindly behaviour towards his cat seems to prove good karma when the cat (Kuro) brings home Okiyo, a kindly and beautiful lady from a higher caste, with whom he forms a friendship.  For this gesture the cat is murdered by Mitsue.  Movies with ghost cats are apparently a genre in Japan, the only one I had previously been aware of is Kaneto Shindo’s Kuroneko, but this is an early example.

A number of scenes feature subsequent hauntings by the cat’s ghost.  The special effects in these moments unfortunately come across as fairly ludicrous.  The ending of the movie revolves around a kabuki performance that’s fairly unintelligible to a modern audience and some frankly pretty unwatchable action/horror scenes.

All that said though, I felt that the movie was very beautiful at points and was rather elegantly framed and shot.  I think what I love about black and white cinema is busy frames full of detail, and the contrast of light and shadow in these busy frames.  This movie, especially in the first half, is quite voluptuous and ornate, and shows a very idealised form of Japanese life, it’s easy to sense that the Japanese are a people who turned living into an art form.

PONTYPOOL anyone?  REPULSION?  THE VANISHING (the original 1988 Dutch-French version, not the remake)?  THE BROOD?  These are but four of “10 Bizarre but Great Horror Movies You Need to See,” by The Lineup Staff on THE-LINE-UP.COM.  Subtitled “[t]hese weird horror movies flew under the radar, but they’re worth finding,” the feature adds:  Horror movies are inherently at least a little bit weird.  These picks lean into it, resulting in some twisted, hilarious, haunting, and horrifying films.  Next time you’re in the mood for something a bit off-beat, one of these bizarre but great horror movies should do the trick.  I will say I’ve enjoyed the titles here that I’ve seen myself, or, as days grow shorter, here perhaps are some films to shake up your late night viewing, for more on which check here.

Let’s give the piece its exact title, “The 100 best horror films,” subtitled “The best horror films and movies of all time, voted for by over 100 experts including Simon Pegg, Stephen King and Alice Cooper, and Time Out writers.”  The byline (that is to say, the TIME OUT writers themselves) is to Tom Huddleston, Cath Clarke, Dave Calhoun, Nigel Floyd, Alim Kheraj, and Phil de Semlyen and it was posted Friday April 13 2018 on the British site TIMEOUT.COM.  So how can you go wrong?  And, credit due, it comes to us courtesy of C.M. Saunders as mentioned in an interesting review on his blog of the Spanish film [REC] — one of the relatively few “found footage” films that really works — for which one can press here.

But to the main event, quoting the “Time Out writers” (as well, credit due, appropriating their title illustration):  For years, horror, unlike romance, action and science fiction, has been mistreated and subjected to vicious critical attacks.  For some, horror films are focused purely on provoking a reaction with little thought for ‘higher’ aspirations.  For others, they’re just a bit of fun.

Thankfully, it looks like the horror genre is finally getting the recognition it deserves, with recent releases getting Oscar buzz and proving to be box office hits.  To celebrate this often overlooked and thrilling genre, we approached horror experts, writers, directors and actors to help us chose the 100 best horror films.

Yes, I disagree with some, although if it is an endorsement of sorts I’ve seen or own well over half of these.  And everyone reading this will no doubt have their doubts about others, and possibly even criteria used to decide which is best.  And of course some favorites will fail to be there — we all have our tastes, yes?  But for me, also, part of the value of lists like these is finding the films I haven’t seen, but from the descriptions I might well want to.

So, giving a press here, shall we explore together?

There’s THE OTHER, THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, THE ORPHANAGE . . . but then there’s also PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.  Well, as they say in the biz mileage will vary, or, some people’s tastes may be different than others.  But to cut to the chase, according to compiler Aliza Polkes:  Spirits, poltergeists, otherworldly visitors:  Hollywood ghosts go by many different names.  Whether they’re possessing people, haunting houses, orphanages or schools, or just generally terrorizing those around them, these souls have a bone to pick with the living.

The List?  “14 Haunting Ghost Movies That Will Send Chills Down Your Spine” on THE-LINE-UP.COM, with its mocking sub-title: “We see dead people.”  To see for oneself, one need but press here.

Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions and though he worried about his mental stability, he often neglected his physical health, did not eat properly and drank heavily.  His friendship with Gauguin ended after a confrontation with a razor, when in a rage, he severed part of his own left ear.  He spent time in psychiatric hospitals, including a period at Saint-Rémy.  After he discharged himself and moved to the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, he came under the care of the homoeopathic doctor Paul Gachet.  His depression continued and on 27 July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver.  He died from his injuries two days later.  (Wikipedia)

Sunday, roughly from noon to 3, saw the fall semester’s opening “Art and a Movie” doubleheader of a lecture/presentation on “the artist’s technique and influences” by Arts Museum Curator Nan Brewer (including the department’s own copy of a rare Van Gogh etching of Dr. Gachet) followed by the film LOVING VINCENT at the Indiana University Cinema.  Only six weeks separated Van Gogh’s leaving the hospital proclaiming himself as feeling cured, a prolific six weeks and under a possibly himself melancholic Dr. Gachet’s care, and his taking his own life — if indeed it was suicide.  There were no witnesses to the actual shooting and even some disagreement as to where it happened, out in a field where he liked to paint or in a local barn.  And so the film, while covering the painter’s whole life, ostensibly takes place a short period after Van Gogh’s death and seeks to answer the question why.

But the film itself is a work of art.  While perhaps not the world’s only “hand-painted feature film” (one thinks, for instance, of Georges Méliès’ 1902 A TRIP TO THE MOON and others like it, where he and his assistants painted directly on the processed film), but, quoting the IU Cinema’s blurb, [i]t weaves nearly 130 of the artist’s iconic paintings into a detective story that is itself a “one-of-a-kind work of art.”  Made over seven years, actors recreated the scenes in front of green screens, then 125 artists hand painted each of the 62,450 frames in Van Gogh’s style.  Voice work by actors like Saoirse Ronan and Chris O’Dowd enhances the experience.

It really has to be seen to be believed, simply on a visual level.  But add to that the tragedy of an artistic genius, driven by whatever demons came with it, to end after only about a decade of fortunately very prolific work and LOVING VINCENT is, in my view, a film not to be missed.

Here’s another list, this one rather long and special as well as one I’d like to save for myself:  “43 Underrated Films from the Darker Side of Cinema You’ve Probably Never Seen — A Gehenna Post Article” via GEHENNAANDHINNOM on WordPress.  Well, of course I’ve seen some, but I use these things to check out the ones I haven’t in case there might be something I’ve missed that I’d better look for at least on DVD.  One’s mileage varies, as the saying goes, but to see for yourself check here.  In addition, G & H’s editor, publisher, and now list maker C.P. Dunphey not only bought my story “Flesh” for YEAR’S BEST BODY HORROR 2017 ANTHOLOGY (see November 1 2017, et al.), but also ran an interview of me on the GEHENNA POST along with an extremely positive review of TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH (cf. June 3 2017, and/or check it on Amazon et al.), which can be seen by pressing here.  Or in other words, we know already he has good taste.

Just a quick note, another list but one I want to save for myself courtesy of WordPress’s blog feed, “The Top 10 British Comedy Horror Films,” by C.M. Saunders.  I’m embarrassed to say I’ve only seen three of them myself (and maybe one of the Honorable Mentions), number one SHAUN OF THE DEAD, of course, and LESBIAN VAMPIRE KILLERS, plus AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON which almost doesn’t count as it pops up on TV from time to time on this side of the pond too.  But see for yourself by pressing here, and CARRY ON SCREAMING (number seven on the list and one of a series of British “CARRY ON” outings, this one parodying Hammer films).

Two items to start the weekend, the first a quick note from Editor/Publisher Casia Schreyer, that after a few unexpected delays, CHILDREN OF THE SKY (cf. July 11, 5) is now available in hard copy on Amazon.  Or from that site’s description:  Children of the Sky is a collection of 8 short stories by different authors.  What happens when aliens come to Earth?  What happens when humans finally reach for the stars?  There are so many possibilities — these are just a few.  Featuring stories by John M. Floyd, Jennifer Lee Rossman, Peter Medeiros, Liam Hogan, James Dorr, David A. Gray, Daniel M. Kimmel, and Hannah Dade.  My story in this is in the “humans finally reach for the stars” category, titled “Frog Pond” and originally published in England in HUB MAGAZINE, December 2006, on expediency’s possible role in the perception of alien intelligence.

CHILDREN OF THE SKY is one of a series of anthologies by Schreyer Ink Publishing, for details on which one may check here.  Also a Kindle edition has apparently just come out, for which press here.

Then for horror buffs, “The Scariest Horror Films Ever — Ranked!” by Peter Bradshaw on THEGUARDIAN.COM, courtesy of Kealan Patrick Burke on Facebook, is today’s serendipitously discovered movie list.  Mileage, as they say, no doubt will vary, though some solid — and well known — examples score high such as EXODUS, ROSEMARY’S BABY, and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.  There is a predilection toward giallo, with Fulci and Argento both represented (e.g. DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING and SUSPERIA) among the twenty-five films in all, but with others including THE ADDICTION, THE INNOCENTS, AUDITION, DON’T LOOK NOW, EYES WITHOUT A FACE (see also July 23, below), and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD indicating a range of approaches.  And is your favorite there too?  To find out, press here.

Well it’s not really late summer, but August is nearly upon us and outside right now we’ve had a couple of relatively cool days. So, cold thoughts/cold cinema, courtesy of DEARDARKLING.COM, might one offer “Slow-Burning Chillers:  Thirteen Eerie Horror Films” by E.K. Liemkuhler?  While jump scares can be used as the “easy” way to spook an audience, one of the hardest things for a horror director to do is create a sustained and genuine sense of dread.  When you come across a good, atmospheric slow-burn, the film tends to stick with you.  Here are thirteen films, ranging from vintage classics to newer releases, that are guaranteed to keep you looking over your shoulder well after the credits roll. . . .  I can vouch for some of these, such as THE VANISHING (original Dutch version), DON’T LOOK NOW, THE BABADOOK, or the groundbreaking 1960 French EYES WITHOUT A FACE.  For more, check here.

Then for a quick foretaste of the upcoming ALTERNATE THEOLOGIES anthology (cf. July 22. 7, et al.) with, let us not forget, my poem “Tit for Tat” concerning a young man named Willie and what the preacher said to him, B Cubed Press has just revealed a new logo for the book’s page on FaceBook, for which see right here.

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