Friday, April 13, 2012

Down A Dark Alley: The Best of Horrorfest-70s

Now for some write ups from my favorite decade for the genre: The 1970s.

When it comes down to it, most of the horror movies I watch are creepy at best, never really scary although I suppose there are those that manage to be disturbing or unnerving. However you can easily stick this one in the "Goddamn freaky" category, as the same guy who gave us the rather happy "A Christmas Story" later on made one mean and rather eerie horror movie in the 1970s. Striking first before "Halloween" came out four years later, Clark's contribution to the slasher brand proves that despite the many cash grabs associated with the sub-genre there are also movies that can be considered relatively good or great contributions to movies in general. If this movie doesn't scare you, then the film's tagline is right: "Your skin is on too tight."

Even in the age of cell phones, the movie's use of regular phone lines is very inventive and quite creepy thanks to "Billy's" nasty, frightening phone calls that can be best be described as a mixture of multiple personality disorder and unprintable dialogue. Just like "Halloween" the film's death count is quite low, but rather maximized to great effect, making the movie all the more scary. It also never really reveals the killer either, turning the movie into a mystery as well and only making the viewer wonder who is truly capable of these horrible and gross acts of violence.

Despite discussing the ending already with someone on RT, I'm not completely sold on what the final shot really indicates, and if the movie ever truly gives as any answers. That is rather irrelevant except for the sake of curiosity anyways, and the final moments result in a truly great last act. Sure this movie does have its flaws (John Saxon isn't one of them-he sure appeared in a couple other horror movies), but you can't go wrong with a movie this raw and unflinching. Looking at his filmography, it seems that he made a handful of other horror movies, and I intend to explore them all. 92

Scare Level (out of 10)=9.5

Goddamn that baby is ugly. Very ugly. A bastard child, with looks only a mother could love. Well its mother does love it, and while dad is horrified at first, he grows to love it. In a way this film is a Frankenstein style tale of sorts, with the creature spawned by it parents, its "creators," who at first try to destroy it, only then to change their minds. Just looking at that picture makes me glad that the evil monster baby is only shown a handful of times throughout the movie.

Whoa, those plastic doll things are creepy. The film zooms in closer on them to up the tension. Anyways, this baby is evil because it runs around killing people. You scare this thing, and it will slit your throat or rip your face off. The minute the baby comes out the womb, the little wanker freaks out and kills all of the doctors and nurses assisting with its birth. That's pretty wicked right there. I like how when the thing wanders around, the camera turns blurry, as if to suggest that the baby has a limited and weak vision due to being young. Oh and the milkman kill is down in pure style, and is the best one of the bunch.

Finally, tons of policemen go and hunt the little freak, leading to the eventual showdown which is actually more suspenseful and surprising than I thought I would be. Although this movie is a bit on the cheesy side, I do like that like some horror films there's a theme, and that the movie somewhat explores it. That mankind in screwing around with chemicals and other shit ends up creating a rather horrible and monstrous animal. Sure its fairly simple, but sometimes that's really needed. 79

Scare Level (out of 10): 4.0

Going in, I thought to myself "There's no way this will live up to expectations. Sure its 70s horror, but sooner or later I'm going to find one of those supposed classics that disappoints." Yeah, that didn't happen because this film is vintage 70s horror at its finest. Considered by some to be part of a loosely connected "Satanic Trilogy" also featuring Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, there's really very little flawed or wrong about this film. By the final act, I sat there and said to myself "This is awesome. Wow." The film is built on so many coincidences that seem to link together, but until the last act your not sure if they do or not.

That's the genius of this film, that slowly but surely everything builds up to rather creepy and freaky moments that just stay in your head after they happen. The film's death total isn't high, but the deaths that happen are amazingly crazy, kind of implausible, and yet they work. One left me with my jaw dropped wide, another wondering how the hell that was even possible. But in a movie where a damn sinister, creepy child may be the Anti-Christ come to earth, none of what occurs is far fetched at all. There is a guide realism at work here, so magnificent, chilling, and effective.

Unfortunately I was unable to find a screen cap of the downright eerie ending, and I know I haven't even touched upon the fantastic cast assembled here. The best one of the bunch is Gregory Peck, an esteemed and famous actor at the time who agreed to be in a horror movie. Its him especially that makes all of this work, because man if the guy who played Atticus Finch gets scared and worried, well the audience should (and does) follow suit. That bit of casting is incredibly smart, and its stuff like and the small details plus the film clicking on all cylinders that makes it work. If you have not seen this movie, do so. I guarantee Donner's near masterpiece will be featured in my Top 20 Horror list next year. 98

Scare Level=8.5

After this movie appeared in theaters, some accused Cronenberg of hating women, although I don't really see it here. Nah, the guy just created this rather nasty, mean spirited, and highly disturbing psychology body horror after his divorce-and well splitting up with someone you love sometimes leads to rather less than nice feelings. Regardless of that fact, this is a movie that is hard to write about simply because I have already tried to forget about what the hell I saw. When you witness horrible murders and a scene that despite the FX is beyond gross, focusing on happy things is the usual defense mechanism.

Apparently Oliver Reed, in addition to being one cool dude in real life and a good actor overall, made a couple of horror movies. I haven't seen the other one(s) he's done, but here his charisma and overall strong presence drives home a complex character. On the one hand, his doctor plays God with people's lives, driving home extreme psychological feelings in attempts to pull out something extending past the realm of human understanding. Yet he seems to actually be trying to help some of his patients, in particular the main protagonist's wife, who's fragile psyche masks an incredible rage that in the end actually manifests itself in the form of downright freaky, ugly looking dwarf creatures.

Once again, Cronenberg hammers home not only the idea of the monster within (you can make a strong argument that Reed is the mad scientist, and his patient is really his horrifying creature), but of course body mutation/horror that so readily pops up. What I like so far about his horror movies is that he plays with monster and horror movie conventions, crafting rather intelligent yet terrifying works about things most sane people don't even think about. Oh and once you've seen what happens before the movie's finale, childbirth and motherhood becomes utterly terrifying and graphically nasty. 88

Scare Level=9.0


  1. Why is it you never put the title of the movie in your reviews?

    1. It makes for a fun guessing game, I suppose. Usually I try to mention the title of the film in my reviews, but not always..