Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In a Cup of Tea

In a Cup of Tea is one part of the Japanese film Kwaidan, directed by Masaki Kobayashi. In this story, a man keeps seeing a face in his cup of tea. Here's a trailer:

Watch the entire segment by clicking on this link to LikeTelevision, or you can see it embedded here:
I watch the DVD of this complete film every year. It's not the usual run-of-the-mill horror movie but tends more towards a ghost story feel. It's more eerie than scary. I like the other parts of the film, too. They work together nicely. I've never seen a face in my tea. Most likely the other T(ea) Party-goers over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's weekly gathering aren't doing scary things. But I'm sure there are seasonal offerings of some sort there.

Monday, October 20, 2014

He Dies at the End

Startle Alert. He Dies at the End is a 2010 self-explanatory short film directed by Damian Mc Carthy. I saw it first at Short of the Week.

via youtube:



Sunday, October 19, 2014

What's the Matter with Helen?

What's the Matter with Helen? is a 1971 thriller/horror movie starring Debbie Reynolds (as Adele) and Shelley Winters (as Helen) as the mothers of 2 young men convicted of murder. Their sons are spared the death penalty. After the mothers receive a phone call threatening to make them pay for the sins of their sons they pull up stakes, change their names and move to Hollywood to make a fresh start opening a dance school for kids. There's a subtle homosexual subtext as Adele is courted by a man in California and Helen's jealousy causes a rift.

Curtis Harrington directs. Also in the film are Dennis Weaver and Agnes Moorehead. And some poor little rabbits.

There's really not much to this. I've never been a fan of Shirley Temple, so the extensive musical numbers featuring child star imitators put me off. (You can see an example here.) I found the child singing, "Oh, You Nasty Man" ala Mae West to be actively offensive. Sheesh! That was horror enough for me.

via Youtube:



Slant Magazine gives it 2 1/2 out of 4 stars. DVD Talk calls it "a pre-sold 'crazy old actresses' project with a predictable script that the stylish Harrington did his best to enliven and embellish." Roger Ebert says, "I guess you folks who watch the movie of the week on TV know more about these plots than I do." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 33%.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dead Until Dark


Dead Until Dark is the first in the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris. They were the inspiration for the True Blood HBO series, which I haven't seen. This book is fun. Nicely written, clever, with well-drawn characters and an interesting plot. Elvis has a small part to play towards the end. I already have the next 4 in the series and will read them.

from the back of the book:
Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn't get out much. Not because she's not pretty. She is. It's just that, well, Sookie has this sort of "disability." She can read minds. And that doesn't make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He's tall, dark, handsome -and Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's exactly the type of guy she's been waiting for all her life...

But Bill has a disability of his own: He's a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of -big surprise- murder. And when one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next...
Sookie is a little delicate about public displays of affection. That has never bothered me -not sure why- and I found her squeamishness odd. It does solidify her character, though, as "virginal" in several ways. I found myself being a bit irritated at the numerous well-described sex scenes, and then I thought perhaps I was being delicate myself. Maybe. It did change the tone from horror/mystery to Romance, though, which made it less attractive to me. If the series keeps tending towards the Romance genre, I won't continue reading the books.

SF Site found it predictable. Tor's review calls it "one of the most popular urban fantasy series around". Love Vampires loves it and calls it "fast paced" and "a joy to read".

Friday, October 17, 2014

Opera

Opera is a 1987 Dario Argento horror film. It's typical Argento. There has to be a better way to keep someone's eyes open.

plot teaser from Wikipedia:
The film centers around young, insecure opera singer Betty (Cristina Marsillach). After the lead in Verdi's Macbeth is injured in an car accident, Betty is reluctantly thrust into the role in the opera. During her first performance, a murder takes place in one of the opera boxes. Mysterious murders continue throughout the film...

trailer via youtube:



Moria says, "Opera astounds in its sheer ferocity and perversity." Slant Magazine gives it 4 stars and a positive review. Horror Review says, "Argento provides his audience with a barrage of engaging ideas which are brought to the screen with equally powerful visuals." Gore Girls Dungeon says, "Argento’s stylish and inventive visuals, great elaborate murder scenes and an absolutely amazing setting certainly make it an entertaining watch." DVD Talk says,
Opera contains some of the best thrill sequences in Argento's career. The camerawork is amazing, going from extreme close ups of crow eyes, knives, Betty's eyes, exacto blades, to the contrasting wide open spaces of the opera house, the fitting room, and Betty's apartment. The camera moves, across huge wonderfully designed sets, and in gliding point of views (from the killers, Betty's, to the flying crows over the opera audience)- just great cinematography and use of Dario's distinctive, wonderfully cruel, and beautifully brutal, imaginative eye.
Rotten Tomatoes has an 83% critics rating.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Wendigo


The Wendigo is a 1910 weird tale by Algernon Blackwood. It's based on a monster from Algonquin legend. You can read Blackwood's story online. You can listen to it here while a video of a campfire plays. It begins easily enough before descending into horror. If you're tired of the gore or maybe never could get into gory horror, this story and others like it might suit you well.

Here's the first paragraph:
A considerable number of hunting parties were out that year without finding so much as a fresh trail; for the moose were uncommonly shy, and the various Nimrods returned to the bosoms of their respective families with the best excuses the facts of their imaginations could suggest. Dr. Cathcart, among others, came back without a trophy; but he brought instead the memory of an experience which he declares was worth all the bull moose that had ever been shot. But then Cathcart, of Aberdeen, was interested in other things besides moose—amongst them the vagaries of the human mind. This particular story, however, found no mention in his book on Collective Hallucination for the simple reason (so he confided once to a fellow colleague) that he himself played too intimate a part in it to form a competent judgment of the affair as a whole....
and from a bit further on:
The two men lay down, without undressing, upon their beds of soft balsam boughs, cunningly arranged. Inside, all was warm and cozy, but outside the world of crowding trees pressed close about them, marshalling their million shadows, and smothering the little tent that stood there like a wee white shell facing the ocean of tremendous forest.

Between the two lonely figures within, however, there pressed another shadow that was not a shadow from the night. It was the Shadow cast by the strange Fear, never wholly exorcised, that had leaped suddenly upon Défago in the middle of his singing. And Simpson, as he lay there, watching the darkness through the open flap of the tent, ready to plunge into the fragrant abyss of sleep, knew first that unique and profound stillness of a primeval forest when no wind stirs ... and when the night has weight and substance that enters into the soul to bind a veil about it.... Then sleep took him....
Tim's Book Reviews recommends it saying, "If you have read Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley and are looking for more authors of their ilk, look no further than Algernon Blackwood." Weird Fiction Review includes this story in its discussion of Blackwood.

The photo at the top of the page is of Blackwood and came from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Devoured: The Legend of Alfred Packer

Devoured: The Legend of Alfred Packer is a 2005 horror film referencing the story of prospector and purported cannibal Alferd Packer, who was convicted of manslaughter in 1886 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. This Troma production actually has little to do with the Packer events and focuses on murders that happened long after his time. This film is dreadful, fully deserving its 0% (yes, 0%!) rating from Rotten Tomatoes. I didn't finish it, and I rarely refuse to finish a film.

via youtube:


I'd never heard of Packer, but he's been the subject of several pop-culture treatments. It's mentioned in a conversation in Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man. There are a couple of songs about him. One is a humorous song from Phil Ochs -"The Ballad of Alferd Packer"- which tells the tale:


"That county had 6 Democrats until he did arrive. Well only one lives on today; he ate the other 5."

C.W. McCall wrote "Comin' Back for More" about Packer:



"It was Al Packer's legendary, coronary, fast-food cannibal bar and buffet."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Black Coffee

This video is of a lovely fire burning in a fireplace (a perfect setting for a creepy tale) while the narrator reads you the story "Black Coffee":


You can read along here at the Chilling Tales for Dark Nights site. The story begins:
I’m sending this email to warn you it is in the coffee. I knew something was wrong when I took the first sip. There was something spicy about it.

Oh, no! It's too late! I've already had my coffee!

Perhaps the folks participating in Bleubeard and Elizabeth's T(ea) gathering are staying away from coffee and will be safe. Check on them just to make sure.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fisheye

Fisheye is a 1980 short horror film directed by Croatian animator Josko Marusic. Turn about is fair play, perhaps?

via youtube:


The Paris Review calls it "an inspired blend of the macabre and the mundane." Animation Blog says, "If one doubts that animation can horrify let me warn you that the whole experience is a chilling one."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pulse

Pulse is a 2001 Japanese horror film directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. It's a type of ghost story, and I like these much better than the splatter- and gore and torture-filled horrors that seem to have become more popular. I have to say, though, that I didn't experience this as a horror movie. It was one of the saddest films I've ever seen, a picture of loneliness and isolation.

trailer:



There was an American remake, which I haven't seen, in 2006.

Slant Magazine opens its review with this:
During a Kiyoshi Kurosawa film, one sits in anticipation of the horrors lingering just outside the frame, and there's a profound sense of unease in those moments of stillness and indecision. Existential dread is an easy catchphrase to toss around, and has become the label for many a psychological terror tale dabbling in the fragility of the human condition. Kurosawa's movies have a genuinely unnerving effect on the viewer because they deal with the kind of loneliness that exists in an overcrowded world.
Moria says it "offer is a great deal of haunted atmosphere, which almost compensates for total confusion about what is happening." Empire Online gives it 3 out of 5 stars and says, "While not exactly reaching Ring-levels of terror, it’s certainly one for connoisseurs of the weird." DVD Talk says, "this is the kind of film that symbolizes what's so special about the sudden emergence of Asian horror. With very little gore and an overabundance of atmosphere, this is a strikingly thoughtful, Highly Recommended take on humans and their place in the universe." Horror News says, "if you are into the ghostly side of J – horror really like RINGU and JU – ON and still have not seen PULSE it is definitely worth your money and time". It has a 73% critics score at Rotten Tomatoes.