Archive for the ‘The Horror’ Category

Around 3 a.m. last night, I couldn’t break free from my bed. I tried to, multiple times, each effort feeling increasingly impossible. I was beneath mounds of quicksand, essentially; the comforter and sheets smothering me like tar. The only way the whole experience could’ve have been more terrifying would have been if Freddy Krueger showed his face and revealed that the ordeal was of his doing. But, of course, it wasn’t. Instead, I was stuck in authentic nightmare territory, a direct result of a film I watched only three hours prior. The movie was an old Italian giallo from 1976, The House with the Laughing Windows, a minor cult favorite from director and co-writer Pupi Avati. While the film was playing, I was certainly into it, but far from enamored. There are these murky church organs that dominate the soundtrack, and are quite effective. Before this nightmare, those keys were the scariest thing about Avati’s picture; the denouement, a disturbed GOTCHA moment, punctuated by a slight cross-gender twist, for the film’s hero  Stefano (Lino Capilicchio, a James McAvoy lookalike), is more haunting than full-on scary. But as those organs play over the enigmatic final shot, The House with the Laughing Windows settled into my head, something awful. The nightmare was inevitable.

I swear on the names of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci that this bad dream was one of the worst I’ve ever had. It all felt so damn real; I heard the organs, lifted straight out of Avati’s work, and I saw the film’s two endgame antagonists, the Legnani sisters, an embodiment of the two peripheral figures commonly seen in paintings of St. Sebastian’s final moments. My bedroom, lit only in the shadows peeking in through the windows, became a tomb; my attempts to simply rise out of bed turned into a broken record spinning devil music. Up and down, up and down; “I can do it” into “Don’t kill me,” “I can do it” into “Don’t kill me.” 

The House with the Laughing Windows takes the St. Sebastian imagery into its own fictional world, envisioning the traditional picture as an impetus for supernatural hub-bub. Stefano is hired to restore the unfinished work of Legnani, a deceased painter cloaked in mystery; he was dubbed the “painter of agony,” due to his penchant for drawing those near- and in-death. As Stefano gets to work, the townsfolk get more ominous by the second, and bodies start dropping. This all commences with patience. The film’s pacing is slow; it’s one of those creepy-crawly horror stories that zaps you early on, lets the dread marinate and then pulverizes you with third-act devastation. Not all of Avati’s film works; clocking in at 110 minutes, the flick would benefit from a solid 15-minutes-off edit. Yet, the bookends are powerful enough to salvage the entire thing. Consult Netflix immediately for this, if only to check what is easily one of the most Satanic opening credits sequences out there. All-red screen, those organs-from-Hell, a slow-motion reenactment of St. Sebastian’s encounter with razor-sharp knives, sprinkled with blood-curdling screams and yelps, all before an eerie voiceover that’s up there with “Simon” from Brad Anderson’s awesome Session 9. Even if the entirety of The House with the Laughing Windows had sucked, the beginning credits would justify its cult status.

Hell, the opening credits, paired with the film’s final five minutes, did me in more than any other horror movie in recent memory; the closest parallel I can draw is the sleepless effects that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining had on me as a little kid watching it for the first time. In no way am I saying that Avati’s film is on par with hat Kubrick masterpiece; there’s merely an inexplicably common force between the two, in terms of their unsettling tones. 

I may have to buy The House with the Laughing Windows on DVD just to come to grips with this nightmare. Dissect the pic until I uncover the direct cause of a truly horrific nighttime experience. Or, just to swoon over Francesca Mariano, the film’s beautiful female lead. Face-wise, she’s remarkable. 

Scenes from the film—- specifically the opening credits, footage of sexy-ass Mariano and the spoiler-heavy final minutes—-after the jump: (more…)


Read Full Post »

Distance absolutely makes the heart grow fonder. Having left the once-highly-active Theater of Mine a dust-filled cesspool of lost dreams forfar too long, I’m back in effect, hungrier than ever. The balance of dollar-free passion here and pays-the-bill, necessary passion there is a tight rope stroll, but it’s time I regain some traction. More than before. Work a good amount of literature coverage into the pot; show the world what I’m gassed about in the 2-0-1-0. It’s like that.

And what better to stick a needle in inspiration proverbial ass than a trashy zombie film from the early 1970s. Last night, I finally caught up with the late Bob Clark‘s schlock pseudo-classic Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972), an early no-budget gem from the man who’d go on to direct the great Black Christmas (1974), Porky’s (1982), Porky’s II: The Next Day (1983) and the interminable A Christmas Story (1983)—–yes, the one with Ralphie and those damn Bumpus hounds.

Written and directed by Clark, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is my favorite of his films (that distinction goes to Black Christmas), but it certainly falls above the Red Rider BB gun flick. The characters are awful, a large amount of the dialogue grates like fromage, and the gore effects are a mere step away from using cherry Kool-Aid in the place of authentic life liquid. The first two acts slither along like a finger digging through marshmallow, and the scares are telegraphed. Somehow, though, through all of this ineptitude, Clark emerges as a magical auteur, yanking heaps of entertainment from the lame-brained festivities. That I was never bored throughout the film’s lean 85-minute duration speaks volumes.

The late Bob Clark

Continued after the jump: (more…)

Read Full Post »

I owe it to myself and to my few but loyal readers to scribe a full-on Shutter Island reaction, one that gushes with praise while defending Martin Scorcese’s admirable decision to totally indulge in his lifelong cinema geekery, on some Quentin Tarantino ish. That piece is being written in my head, and will hopefully make its way onto this here blog in the near days to come. Just have to bang through a wall of other stories that need proper attention.

In the meantime, I feel it’s only right that I post a numero dos for Score Settling: Shutter Island, this time singling out my personal favorite musical composition used in the film, the ditty that rose above all the other dynamite stretches of audible boom. It’s called “Root of an Unfocus,” and the composer is one Boris Berman. This creeps into the film during two choice scenes, the first one standing out as a chilling highlight: Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) enters a distorted, nightmarish dream-state, after a migraine attack sends him onto a cot. In this slumber-terror, he’s slowly walking through a walking creepshow, first seeing a dead little girl’s eyes pop open, then pow-wowing with the arsonist responsible for killing his wife, and finally aiding a three-time child killer. Boris Berman’s work, an off-putting series of sonic raindrops, sets the scene to goosebumping degree.

Hear for yourself (if you’ve yet to see the film, or just want to revisit this gem of a score), after the jump: (more…)

Read Full Post »

As the release of Shutter Island rapidly approaches, concluding a marathon of anticipation around these parts, I’ve been working on some related posts for my colleagues over at Reel Loop. The first is today’s feature, ‘Six Book-To-Film Adaptations That Hollywood Needs to Make Happen,’ comprised of novels I love and think would translate well on the big screen. For added measure, I’ve also made some suggestions on how said projects should move forward, if any or all get that chance one day.

Give it a look, and let me know what books YOU’D love to see turned into feature-length flicks.

LINK: REEL LOOP Feature: Six Book-To-Film Adaptations That Hollywood Needs to Make Happen

Read Full Post »

Slowly but surely, I’m jumping back into the film review pool. Time permitting, of course.

Here’s my first leap back, a review of this week’s remake of The Wolfman. Head over to Reel Loop for the words, please. Many, many thanks.

LINK: REEL LOOP: ‘The Wolfman’ Review

Read Full Post »

Over at the fulltime grind, I’ve somehow found a way to merge two passions of mine in a completely random and maybe-too-esoteric way. See, I took my all-week duty of one rap-music-specific blog per day and wrote a Shirley Jackson remix, combining hip-hop’s cherished “battle rap” practice with the iconic author’s brilliant short story “The Lottery.” Music and literature, a treacherous pair. 

I’m not entirely sure if my idea congeals well enough, but I’m, at the least, happy with the execution. Check it out for yourselves and let me know, please?

LINK:  XXLmag.com – The Hip-Hop Witch Project: Don’t Throw Stones in Rap Houses

Read Full Post »

Right before the holidays, I spoke with author Scott Snyder, for a freelance magazine assignment. He’s published a collection of short stories, Voodoo Heart, and he also currently teaches creative writing at NYU, Columbia, and Sarah Lawrence College. None of that was what we talked about, though; in March, a new comic book series that he created and co-wrote, along with the almighty Stephen King, hits shelves, called American Vampire. So, naturally, the bulk of conversation revolved around the vampire lore, everything from Bram Stoker to Max Schreck to Edward Cullen, with some Sookie Stackhouse thrown in for balance. We both agree that Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987) is incredibly badass and under-appreciated, and that vamps shouldn’t sparkle, ever (take that, Stephenie Meyer). Or, just keep counting your dollar stacks and live comfortably. I am a realist, after all.

Something tells me that Snyder will dig the latest entry into the vampire realm, Daybreakers. Why I feel this way can be found over at Critics Notebook, where I’ve reviewed the film (opening today in wide release). Give it a go, would you?:

Critics Notebook: DAYBREAKERS (2010)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »