Night One: Frankenweenie
“You are afraid of what you do not understand, like a dog is afraid of lightning or balloons.”
The only reason this movie was first was because the only free time I had day one was with Emily, and she can be pretty tough to get to watch scary movies of any sort. That being said, this actually ended up being a great fit. I knew it was an homage to Frankenstein, but I didn’t know it was also an homage to the entire genre, with Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Godzilla, The Wolfman, and The Mummy all being prominently featured as references.
The film is short and airy, and was about what you’d expect. It was stylish, fluffy, and had its sweet moments as well as some good lessons for the whole family about science and love. Still, nothing remarkable. As a film that is the same in many of its themes and style as ParaNorman, it is a much weaker film, and while I will watch ParaNorman again, I doubt I will ever revisit this one.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Probably not.
Night Two: The Descent
“I’m an English teacher, not fucking Tomb Raider.”
The Descent is a British film from 2005 in which a group of women go on a caving expedition, and as you would expect in a horror movie, it goes really, really well. Everyone ends up happy, healthy, and relaxed after a successful bit of spelunking.
With a premise that would be claustrophobically terrifying even if it weren’t for the flesh eating humanoid monsters the women encounter, The Descent delivered for me in the spine-tingling department. Getting stuck in tiny cave openings? Being lost underground with no guaranteed way out? I would welcome the emergence of monsters just to keep my mind off of the terrifying feeling that I couldn’t breathe!
There were some special effects moments that were distracting enough to pull me out of the scares, and the monsters teeter precariously between silly and scary, but there were also some winning moments throughout and enough atmosphere and tension to make me glad I finally got around to seeing this one.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? I bet someday, but not soon.
Night Three: Re-Animator
One of the reasons I started doing these HMF’s back in 2009 was because I wanted to expose myself to movies I wouldn’t normally watch, and genres I had no experience with. Re-Animator is exactly that sort of movie. It’s a campy, over-the-top gory, midnight movie that has achieved that special level of cult status only a few films ever will (there is even a musical stage production of the film).
As this type of film goes, this is probably the cream of the crop. The imagination with which these filmmakers invented gory moments and absurd bloody special effects is impressive. Everything is played for laughs instead of scares, at least I sure hope so.
Overall, this type of film just isn’t my jam. This is partly because due to scheduling I watched this alone, and I don’t really think this is best suited for solo viewing. This is meant for party viewing, where everyone is laughing at all the insanity. I will keep that in mind for future midnight movies if I can help it.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Unlikely, maybe with a big group in which everyone is super high.
Night Four: Les diaboliques
“Some things are hard to swallow, and I’m not talking about the fish.”
Michel is an abusive asshole, so his wife and mistress team up together in a plot to get rid of him once and for all. Thus the stage is set for Les diaboliques.
This had all the visual beauty and photographic mastery one would expect from a celebrated French film of this era. It is also one of those movies that would have been much more satisfying to see it when it originally came out in 1955. Since it has been aped, paid homage, and influenced so much that has come after it, there were no real surprises. However, upon its release it actually had one of the earliest examples of a “no spoiler” warning before the credits, telling viewers not to ruin the end for their friends who hadn’t seen it. In 1955, I bet there were some thrilling twists, but in 2013, there were only two possible endings you could see coming from a ways off, it was one of those two.
It was still a great film because of how well crafted it was, but it would have been significantly better to have experienced it in the 1950’s.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? I would say chances are fairly good.
Night Five: Peeping Tom
“Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is? It’s fear.”
I now have a perfect new example to illustrate how much critics usually suck: Peeping Tom. The story of a mad man with a videocamera, who records women’s faces as he kills them so they can capture the fear on their faces encountering their own violent ends.
This film was universally, and with great fits of rage, panned by the major critics of the time upon its release in 1960. People accused it of being a tasteless ‘stalk and slash’ film that simply reveled in sex and violence. The initial reaction was so bad that director Michael Powell had to move from England to Australia in order to work. This is the most stunning example I have yet encountered of a unanimous misreading of a text. What movie were these original critics watching?!? Not once does this film revel in its subject matter, there is no blood or gore, and the film is never ambiguous concerning how we should feel about the violence as viewers.
Fortunately, now the film is hailed as a masterpiece, which it is. One critic of the time has even famously said she hopes there is an afterlife and that conversation is permitted there, so she can apologize to Powell for getting it so wrong originally.
I would be stunned if this isn’t the best new movie I watch for HMF13. It is amazing on so many levels. Perfectly crafted, beautiful to look at, and with one of the best characters I have ever seen on film in the titular voyeur Mark Lewis.
One of the hardest things to do in storytelling is creating sympathy for a villainous character without either excusing or justifying his/her actions, or at least downplaying the tragedy. Peeping Tom somehow allows the viewer to feel sympathy for Mark without ever denying that he is a monster. His second victim is so happy, so full of life, so innocent… this is no slasher film where some bullshit implication is made that “loose women” are asking for their own violent murders (*barf*). Mark’s actions are inexcusable, and still the filmmakers and leading man help us feel genuine sympathy for him, albeit without any hope he gets away with it.
This film was also way ahead of its time in terms of popular portrayal of a serial killer. They hit notes in Peeping Tom that still resound in every murder mystery in the cinema and on every procedural cop show inventing a psychopath for a mini-arc leading up to sweeps week.
Best of all, the film is an amazing interaction with what art in film really is. What are the darker, more invasive, more aggressive aspects of the medium of videography? What more sinister impulses are at work within the desire to watch others, to create films, what power dynamic is at play between director and actor, recorder and audience?
I could write about this one for a week, but you’ve already stopped reading by now, so…
Will I Ever Watch It Again? 100%. Absolutely. Yes. Are you free right now?