The Haunted Palace // The Pit and the Pendulum [thoughts + spoilers]

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Like all Poe/Corman films, the plots of Haunted Palace and Pit and Pendulum are quite similar. We’ll try the lighter of the two first…

Film: The Haunted Palace

Starring: Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Lon Chaney Jr, a painting of Vincent Price, interchangeable villagers

Setting: An old American palace

Plot: Several women are zombified and impregnated at Vincent Price’s luxurious American palace, but some of the villagers find out and burn him to death. Before he dies, Price borrows the Bush family strategy and vows revenge via a future relative who will look exactly the same as him.

A hundred and something years later, a relative who looks exactly the same as Vincent Price arrives to claim the palace he just inherited. The villagers tell him not to stay there, it’s haunted, it’s remote, it’s draughty etc., but Price defies them and stays there until his evil ancestor starts to possess him [with the help of the butler].

Subplot: The wife of Vincent Price takes one look at the creepy painting above the fireplace and immediately enquires about the nearest Holiday Inn. On hearing that the village has a pub, a graveyard, a smoke machine and that’s it, she tells Vince they should leave anyway, but he says nonsense, the palace is great and will make an excellent sex den.

Sub-sub plot: Interchangeable villagers ignore the lack of jobs/daylight in the village and focus on something more achievable i.e. the persecution and possible burning of Vincent Price.

Subterranean plot: An unknown monster waits in a hole in the basement of the castle. It waits there, in that exact spot because Vincent Price keeps bringing naked women for it to stare up at, just like those old men who stand under the transparent stairs in the Causeway Bay Apple Store. Yup, the old Gods may be ancient and glorious with powers beyond human comprehension, but they’re still base enough to sit and gawp at some extra’s muff.

Notes:

I watched this film the day after I saw The Pit and the Pendulum. And the week after I’d watched the House of Usher.

A lot of these films blur into one, and it’s especially true of The Haunted Palace + The Pit and the Pendulum. Continue reading

Manborg [thoughts + spoilers]

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Title: Manborg

Director: Steven Kostanski

Cast: Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Meredith Sweeney, Ludwig Lee, Adam Brooks

Production Company: Astron-6

Plot: A reanimated soldier wakes up in a nightmarish future world where a demon called Count Draculon won. All humans are either enslaved or dead, except two Australians, a treacherous scientist, an Asian martial arts fan and a dubbing artist. It’s up to Manborg to entertain them all for the next 60 minutes.

Subplot: The Baron is feeling things he’s never felt before in places Count Draculon never told him he had. But does the Australian girl feel the same way?

Subplot 2: An amateur martial artist breathes a sigh of relief as he discovers his limited skills are better than anything the bad guys have got and secretly pines for one of the only two women left in the world. Will she overcome typical Hollywood prejudice and accept that Asian men also have sex? Or will she overcome typical Hollywood prejudice and accept that female characters don’t have to fuck a guy by the end of every movie?

Subplot 3: An Australian lout feels positive about things until labels start appearing with words on them. Who put them there? Why are they all in Russian?

Subplot 4: Count Draculon conquers the world and shacks up with Mary Elizabeth Winstead to celebrate good times with buckets full of plum wine. But the party never seems to stop for Draculon, even when Winstead says she’s giving up the booze. Can he get past this or will he drag them both down into the abyss?

Notes:

Manborg is absolutely all over the place.

Seeing the opening five minutes is like seeing that little mermaid statue in Copenhagen and thinking, jesus, this cannot be it.

The dialogue, CGI, and plot is so basic and cheap and…actually, I looked at the running time straight away and if it hadn’t been an hour long I probably would’ve stopped the film right there and then.

But then the CGI kind of grows on you. I can’t explain why or what exactly they’re doing, but it seems to be some kind of method where each shot is of characters moving towards the camera in an action pose and then passing it before moving on to the next one. So, in one of the chase scenes, for example, you’ve got Manborg on a hoverbike zooming from one corner of the shot to the other, then a switch to the bad guys doing the same thing, but at a slightly different angle. Continue reading

Bloodsucking Bastards [thoughts + spoilers]

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Title: Bloodsucking Bastards

Director: Brian O’Connell

Screenplay: Ryan Mitts, Dr God

Cast: Fran Kranz, Pedro Pascal, John Johns

Plot: For forty five minutes an ordinary sales department goes about its daily routine, with a few people being murdered in quick scenes. Then Fran Kranz and Jay Mohr’s son realise everyone’s a vampire and go on a killing spree.

Subplot: The company is doing badly so everyone is turned into a vampire to increase efficiency despite there being no logical reason for vamps to have a strong work ethic.

Subplot 2: Fran Kranz said ‘no’ to his girlfriend when she said she loved him and now she’s not talking to him. This is the obstacle he must overcome in the film.

Subplot 3: The secretary secretly pines for Fran Kranz, gets turned into a vamp and pretty much forgets about her previous character trait. I can’t even remember her dying to be honest.

Notes:

It wasn’t terrible, but I laughed once during the whole film.

I’ve come up with some possible reasons why.

i] Better on the page than on the screen

The lines and the plot mesh well together, you can tell some of it was improv, but it still worked to a decent standard.

Mitts and Dr God probably laughed a lot to themselves writing these lines…’we’re losing quite a lot of guys, boss.’ ‘It’s okay, they’re mostly marketing.’ Continue reading

Blake’s 7 [Redux] // S01E01 – The Way Back

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INT: DOME, FAR FUTURE WITH 1970’S SET BUILDERS

Reluctant Perm on head follows man and woman who may or not be main characters outside of a dome in that forest near Southampton .

‘I don’t know where we’re going,’ says Perm.

‘To a new set,’ says nameless female.

‘Will there be plot?’

‘There will.’

Reluctant perm increases reluctance by a few per cent because they’re outside and the Federation – without Riker or Sisko or Picard, only those corrupt admirals who cropped up every now and then – do not tolerate perms wandering outside the dome, especially welsh perms playing fanatics based on Mexican revolutionaries that most people don’t know about.

 

INSERT:

Emilio Zapata, a Northern Mexican, shot rich people and never dropped poor people in the shit just so he could go and poke drunk college students in Cancun.

Cancun Census 1917: Population: a lot, many rich, but zero zapatas

END INSERT

 

‘I’ve been what?’

‘Brainwashed,’ said the old-ish man.

‘I don’t remember that.’

‘Welcome to brainwashing.’

‘[Welsh swearword].’

‘I wish I had longer to explain,’ said the old-ish man who had hoped this role would stretch out for more than a single episode [stay longer in the dome, Terry, copy Reds, remember Reds? Yeah, they talked a lot, about socialism, revolution, people liked it, copy that, no, you’re sticking with the perm, fuck you then], ‘but we’re about to be massacred.’ Continue reading

It Follows Again [spoilers]

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To: bigbadstudio@gmail.com

From: ifollow@gmail.com

Subject: sequel?

Sorry for the delay, I know you’ve been waiting on this a few weeks, but I’ve just got back home for the first time in 18 months so…yeah. Non-stop promo = late e-mails. I’m not complaining, obviously, but it’s tough starting with festivals, I think even you guys know that.

Okay, sequel. I was gonna type it all out on word [I’ve been thinking about an It Follows Again since making the first film, to be honest], but then my thoughts started branching out a little and turned into the magic faraway tree with a different movie at the top of each cloud, so I think it’s better if I just start jabbing keys here and now and see where we go…

Title: It Follows Again

Simple, effective, obvious…too obvious? I’m reluctant to add a ‘2’, it cheapens it a little, but then again, everyone knows it’s a sequel so maybe there’s some merit in honesty?

Alternative titles: It also follows, It followed [with monster backstory], It Follows and Follows and…, IT [might cut the legs off Cary’s King remake, good or not?], It follows more, It’s Following, It Follows Everywhere…

Setting: somewhere in Europe

Or any other country is okay, really. a] I want the curse to feel global this time, and b]I really like the idea of a foreign guy who doesn’t speak English picking up the curse and travelling around Europe to get away from it.

Actually, does the protagonist need to be a guy? I’ll get to that in more detail soon, but my gut feeling is, yeah, it has to be a guy because things are about to get dark character-wise, so a woman might be too much of a stretch. Is that sexist? I don’t know. Women can be dark too, but…it just seems unlikely that a female character would go on the journey I need the main character to go on in this film. Maika’s character certainly wouldn’t.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Okay, so the premise:

We start with Maika [Monroe] getting out of bed and writing a long note to the guy sleeping behind her. She leaves and the guy wakes up, reads the letter and visibly looks confused. He tosses the note down and goes back to sleep. Later he wakes up and sees Maika Monroe walking back into the room and onto the bed. He smiles and holds out his hands, not realising it’s the monster… Continue reading

House on Haunted Hill 1959 vs House on Haunted Hill 1999 [spoilers]

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Cast: Vincent Price, Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, old crone, floating skeleton

Plot of the 1959 original: A wealthy guy with an unspecified job invites five people to stay the night with him in a haunted house on a hill. If they survive the night, they’ll each get ten thousand dollars, which was quite a lot of money in 1959. If they don’t survive the night then Vincent Price will surely go to prison for accessorising murder. Actually, I wasn’t clear on that part.

Plot of the 1999 remake: A wealthy guy who ironically owns amusement parks invites five people to stay the night in an over-stylised house that is haunted by CGI. If they survive the night, they’ll each get $1,000,000, which is enough, I guess. If they don’t survive the night then Geoffrey Rush will surely go to prison for copying the plot of the original.

Subplot of both films: Vincent Price and his wife hate each other and it’s implied that he has killed three previous wives. Geoffrey Rush seems a bit nicer, though he does try to strangle Famke Janssen at one point.

Other subplots: An old, blind housekeeper feels bored of life and decides to stop brushing her hair, hang around the basement walking slowly in and out of shadow and skateboard past the second lead actress without saying a word.

A woman who writes a newspaper column has a vision of the future where she is in a remake of this film and wanders off alone into the basement and gets slaughtered. When she snaps out of her trance, she grabs a gun and clings to the other characters like a manacle.

A hot-headed pilot meets a girl he can boss around and so looks for opportunities to impress her and keep her away from the other men in the film. At one point, he locks her in her room, promising he’ll come back later and check on her. In a different film, this could’ve been very creepy.

A nervous man drinks a hell of a lot but only seems to get more nervous, which is surely the opposite of what should happen.

A new media woman mistakes herself for the lead female character and goes exploring in the basement alone.

A token black guy looks around, sees blindingly white faces looking back at him and prepares for death. An hour later, after no one else steps up and Geoffrey Rush seems to be insane, he realises that not only might he get through this thing, he might also get to have sex on a cliff ledge with the blonde woman. Continue reading

Masque of the Red Death [1964] – [thoughts + spoilers]

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Film: Masque of the Red Death [1964]

Setting: Fake Medieval castle

Cast: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher

Director: Roger Corman

Plot: Prince Prospero is on his way back home to his impressive castle when some peasants make loud noises. Irritated, he gets out of his carriage and threatens to kill two men who complain about having no food. Jane Asher begs him for mercy as the two men are her father and love interest. Prospero says mercy is for weaklings, and compares the two men to pet dogs biting the hand of their master, even though biting isn’t really the same as mentioning that people are starving to death.

Luckily, an old woman has red paint on her face nearby, which spooks the Prince enough for him to grab Jane Asher and hole up in his castle with other nobles so they can escape the red death. He also takes the two men as prisoners so they can provide entertainment for him and his guests.

In the castle is something rare, a strong female character, and she’s not happy about Prospero giving her room to a peasant girl. The rest of the film deals with Prospero worshiping Satan and trying to convince Jane Asher that Satan is great, mostly by doing reprehensible things and completely failing to justify them.

Subplot: Another noble called Alfredo hits a dwarf and then gets wine thrown in his face. He then goes into lurk mode and flits about like a bored teenager who’s too bored to even try and sneak into Jane Asher’s room at night and sexually assault her, which is what I thought he would do.

Dwarf subplot: A dwarf watches his female friend, also a dwarf, get hit by Alfredo and plots revenge. His plot: convince Alfredo to dress up as a gorilla for the ball, whip him a bit, tie him to a chandelier then burn him alive. Thanks to Alfredo’s lobotomy before the film, it works.

Hazel Court subplot: Julianna, Prospero’s girlfriend, wants to marry Satan and either be Prospero’s lover forever or supplant him as Satan’s favourite. The idea that Prospero might just be mad seems to escape her.

Another Poe story?

Yes. And there’s still six more to come.

I watched this one after watching The Raven, and honestly, I would’ve watched it even if it wasn’t related to that one as the plot synopsis is so unique.

A Medieval Italian prince worshipping Satan in his castle while the nearby villagers die from the Red Death.

How many modern films even attempt this kind of thing?

Not many.

The plot doesn’t even matter really. The only forward momentum comes from the two men who are captured and have to find a way to escape while also rescuing Jane Asher before she gets brainwashed by Prince Prospero. The bulk of the film consists of Prospero [Vincent Price, in case that wasn’t clear] wandering around his castle, humiliating people, training Julianna in the ways of Satanism and trying to wrap his cultish fingers around the brain of innocent, god-fearing villager, Jane Asher. Continue reading

KLAUS, I LOVE YOU [on the brilliance of Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht] // Soren Melville

PDN_1

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Dracula is not an easy book to adapt. Told in a contemporary form of the epistolary, utilising journals, diaries–one of which is recorded on a phonograph–letters, news clippings, and even a section of a ship’s log, it juggles roughly eleven major and minor characters, five of which lend their voices to the narrative, with most of the flavour and iconic action belonging to the first half of the book. On screen, there are too many characters and relationships to devote enough time to to fully develop (though they are not horribly dense in the novel to begin with) and thusly, many adaptations of the work both combine characters and shuffle their relationships with each other into a more manageable narrative.

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This is what both Nosferatu and, naturally, it’s adaptation Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht do. Nosferatu is a minimalist version of Dracula, retaining the original flavour with only a handful of the original characters. In it, the Jonathan Harker of Dracula is turned into the character Hutter; his fiancée Mina into his wife Ellen; Dracula into Count Orlok and the mad Reinfield into Knock. Lucy, her suitors, and her subplot–her seduction and death at Dracula’s hand, her transformation into the “Bloofer Lady” and her sensational second-killing at the hand of her betrothed–are gone, as is the prominent character of Van Helsing, who guides the majority of the novel. Without this character leading the others, it is up to Ellen, the Mina character, to save the city from the vampire and its plague. Unlike her counterpart in the novel, she is not without power, and it is she, not Van Helsing, who becomes informed on the nature of the vampire, and how to kill it. It is this knowledge, paired with her beauty and purity of heart, that overcome the vampire in the end.

Unlike Stoker’s Dracula, Murnau’s vampire Count Orlok is vanquished by Ellen in a stark contrast to the book, in which it is the boys that do all the noble vanquishing of evil. The 1922 date of the film argues that it was not a feminist agenda that changed the plot, but a simple need to streamline and, perhaps (to be quite honest) to keep things from being too boring. Continue reading

The Raven [1963] – [thoughts + spoilers]

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Film: The Raven [1963]

Setting: Medieval California

Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Hazel Court, a young Jack Nicholson, not John Cusack

Director: Roger Corman

Plot: A magician, Craven, sits in his castle and sketches out ravens looking through telescopes using hand gestures to pass the time. Awkward sentence. I mean, Craven uses hand gestures, not the raven. There is no raven, just a magical, purple outline of one. Craven then hears a noise, gets up, goes to the coffin containing his dead wife, Lenore, which has been lying matter-of-factly in the hallway for the last two years, and says, ‘come back to me, Lenore.’ His daughter interrupts and tells him to stop hanging around the coffin so much, to which he replies, ‘you are young, you don’t understand grief…and neither do I, apparently, as I seem strangely joyful for most of this movie.’

Then Craven goes back to his study alone and hears more noises. A real raven turns up, follows the text of the Poe story for a few minutes then starts speaking in the voice of Peter Lorre. He asks the magician to return him to human form so he can get revenge on Scarabus, the magician who cast the raven spell on him. Craven does as he asks, but tells him not to go back to Scarabus’ castle as his dad told him Scarabus was a dick. Lorre asks him to come along, to protect him, but Craven says no, he’s too busy fondling the corpse of his wife magically sketching purple ravens in his study. Lorre says, wait, I saw your wife in Scarabus’ castle, she’s alive. Craven relents for the sake of plot and the two of them set off for the castle, taking the daughter and Jack Nicholson with them.

Luckily the castle is about five minutes away by horse and carriage, so it’s a quick transition. They arrive, Scarabus greets them, acts nice during dinner then checks his watch and turns into the kind of Boris Karloff we can relate to i.e. menacing, sleazy, fierce.

Subplot: Craven’s dead wife fakes her death, because life with a magician is tedious, and moves in with another magician, Scarabus, a psychopath who wants to have sex with her, but is somehow put off for two years without becoming violent. Scarabus also seems to sit around his castle all day doing not very much, but Lenore doesn’t seem to notice the hypocrisy of her actions.

Theme: Don’t trust smiling Boris Karloffs. Don’t spend all day in your castle without pleasuring your sociopathic wife. Don’t look directly at Peter Lorre. Continue reading

Cam2Cam / Darknet / Pervs on the internet [thoughts + spoilers]

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Film: Cam 2 Cam / Darknet / Pervs on the internet [depends which country you’re in]

Setting: Bangkok, Thailand

Cast: American woman [Tammin Sursok], French woman [Sarah Bonrepaux], British man [Ben Wiggins], Thai pervert

Director: Ex Pat [Joel Soisson]

Plot: An American woman with big calves and backpack checks into a shitty Bangkok apartment. Someone tells her a girl got her head cut off in the same apartment a few weeks earlier and she doesn’t even blink. After looking at some of the slum buildings outside, she logs onto a sleazy website recommended to her by a French woman staying in the same block. Sleazy things happen, but not to her, she just watches. Some people die. Is the website cursed? Or is it just a guy pretending to be a woman and stalking gullible prey?

Subplot: A Thai hotel manager ignores the mounting bills and failing economy by sleeping 23/7 on a chair in his office. To make the hour he’s awake bearable he breaks into the apartments and feels up the guests.

Note: Make sure you’ve seen the film before you read this, because I will talk about pretty much everything.

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Is the internet scary?

It can be. After all, you never know who’s really hiding behind that Hugh Jackman avatar.

Are the people behind the Hugh Jackman avatars scary?

No, not really, because they’re human.

I’ve said this before and I still believe it’s true. Take the mask or the anonymity away from the killer and you’re cutting the legs off your horror film.

Cam 2 Cam does this in the first fifteen minutes – a woman [alone in a Bangkok apartment] talks to what she thinks is a woman online. She is goaded into turning on her cam, does so, but doesn’t do anything else. The other woman starts stripping to get her in the mood, never showing her face, and continues typing even though she’s apparently stripping. Suspicious, the woman shuts down the conversation and pulls the screen of her laptop down, as if that will make a difference. Then there’s a knock at the door and…it’s the friendly, sweaty pervert from upstairs, who turns out to be the stripper, and further turns out to be out of his fucking tree. Continue reading