The Friday Night Horror Movie: They Live (1988)

they live poster

John Carpenter is one of my favorite filmmakers. Not every film he’s made is an all-time classic. Let’s be honest here and say he’s made a few outright stinkers, especially in his twilight years. But his best films (Halloween, The Thing, Assault On Precinct 12, Christine) are pretty darn fantastic. During his height, even the films that didn’t quite achieve ultimate excellence (Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog) are still renewably rewatchable.

For tonight’s Friday Night Horror Movie I chose They Live which is perhaps more science fiction than horror, but I’m rolling with it anyways. If you are a stickler for this sort of thing then please note I did watch Carpenter’s remake of Village of the Damned earlier tonight and you can count that one for me.

It has been a really long time since I’ve watched They Live so I’m pretty excited to give it another go.

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

house by the cemetery poster

It is almost October which means it is almost Halloween which means I’ll be watching a lot of horror movies. I should be creating a list for my #31DaysofHorror and #Hooptober hashtags (more on that later) but for today I just watched an old Italian horror. Lucio Fulci was an Italian director who made lots of films in lots of genres but is mostly known today for a series of Giallo and Horror films, most of which included high levels of graphic violence (he is sometimes called the “Godfather of Gore”.)

The House by the Cemetery is not his best work, nor his worst, but it is a pretty good example of what he is about. The story is hard to follow and mostly nonsense. The screenwriter, Dardano Sacchetti, says he was inspired by Henry James and Fulci says he wanted to make a Lovercraftian story. I’ve not read anything by any of those authors so I can’t comment on that, but I can say little of what’s on the screen makes much sense.

The story involves an intellectual, Norman Boyle (Paolo Malco) who moves from New York City to a small town in New England. He takes his wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl) and young son Bob (Giovanni Frezza) with him. He’s there to continue the research of his mentor Dr. Peterson, who previously went a little crazy and killed his mistress and then offed himself. All of this was done in the titular house by the cemetery, the house Norman and his family are moving into.

It is a creepy old horror movie house – big and dilapidated, filled with shadowy corners and a scary basement. It is not only located next to a cemetery but also on top of one. Or at least when they pull back a rug they find a tombstone in the middle of one of the rooms. Norman says that lots of homes bury their loved ones inside their houses because it gets cold up there in the winter and the ground is too hard. Sure Norman, whatever you say. There are lots of cold places in this world and I don’t think any of them keep grandma’s corpse in the basement.

People keep telling Norman that they’ve seen him before, that he must have been up in that town a few months prior. Norman keeps denying this. The librarian is a creepy dude who seems to know more than he lets on. A babysitter (Ania Pieroni) shows up and is found trying to get into the locked basement. Then she gets brutally murdered down there. Bob befriends a young girl who no one else can see and who may actually be a ghost.

None of these things are connected very well. It feels like several scenes are missing. Or the screenwriter got drunk and forgot to write a few pages. But it doesn’t really matter. Nobody watches a Fulci film for a great story. They watch it for the gore and this film gives you plenty.

It is the type of film that not only includes a dungeon filled with bodies chopped into pieces but that quick zooms into the viscera and lingers on the gore. In the very first scene a woman gets a knife stabbed through her skull. If you enjoy handcrafted gore effects, and I certainly do, then Lucio Fulci is your man, and The House by the Cemetery is not a bad place to start.

It isn’t just blood and guts though, that make this worth watching. The story is a bit bewildering but Fulcio does a nice job of creating an eerie atmosphere and keeping things just enough off balance that your left feeling on edge for most of the film’s runtime.

The Friday Night Horror Movie: Cure (1997)

cure movie poster

Unlike previous Friday nights, I’ve actually sat through tonight’s entire Horror Movie before writing this post. Theoretically, this means I can actually write a review of it now, instead of making vague promises to tell you what I think of it tomorrow (and then forgetting to actually do so). In reality, it is late, and I am tired, and my brain cannot think of anything to say about it.

Briefly, the plot involves a series of grisly murders being committed by seemingly ordinary people. There is a detective (Kôji Yakusho) trying to understand why this is happening, and an amnesiac (Masato Hagiwara) who may be hypnotizing them into doing it.

The plot is, at times, a bit silly and it is a whole lot enigmatic, but the director Kiyoshi Kurosawa fills it with atmosphere and mood. It is all about the vibe of the film more than the actual plot. I really quite loved it.

Two from Sergei Eisenstein: October (1928) & Alexander Nevsky (1938)

two from eisenstein

Sergei Eisenstein was one of the most important of the early directors. He’s someone I’ve heard about many times but until I watched and reviewed these two films back in November of last year I’d never actually set down and watched anything from him. I’m glad I finally did. You can read my reviews here.

Counterpoint (1968)

counterpoint blu-ray

There are a lot of boutique labels putting out all sorts of movies on Blu-ray these days. All the recent blockbusters get releases, of course, and the certified classics. Companies like Arrow Video and Severin and releasing cult films and old schlock horror movies. Kino Lorber continues to do a magnificent job of releasing what I like to call Almost Classics. These were mainstream movies with A-list directors or actors that were aiming for greatness and somehow fell short. They usually aren’t bad, sometimes they’re even quite good, but for one reason or another they never quite attained classic status.

I’ve reviewed quite a few of these over the years and Counterpoint is one such example. It stars Charlton Heston and Maximillian Schell and has an interesting WWII era plot. But it has largely been forgotten and with good reason, as it isn’t really very good. Anyway, you can read my full review here.

Show of the Day: Grateful Dead – New York, NY (09/19/70)

There is an app called Relisten which takes all the shows in the Live Music Archive and lets you stream them on your phone. It does a nice job of organizing them so you can browse by artist and search through each year, etc. One of my favorite things it does is when you click on an artist it will show you all the shows they played on that particular day.

On my drive to work, I often listen to a Grateful Dead show they played on whatever day it happens to be and this has been a really fun way of catching up with shows I might have missed.

I love the idea of having a show of the day on this site, so that’s one of the many ideas I have percolating through my little brain. I’m not sure if I’d like to talk about shows that happened to be performed on the day I happen to be writing about it, or maybe I could just choose one show to talk about each day.

Trouble would be being able to have the time to listen to an entire show and have something to say about it each day. I have no idea if I’ll actually regularly do something like that, but today I have something.

I meant to talk about it yesterday and forgot. In fact, I don’t have much to say about it except that you should listen to it.

On September 19, 1970 the Grateful Dead played a monster shows in New York City’s Fillmore East auditorium. They started with Sugar Magnolia and then launched into one of the all-time great jam-filled medleys: Dark Star>Not Fade Away>Darkness Jam>China Cat Jam>Not Fade Away>Turn On Your Lovelight.

It is about 70 minutes of the best music you’ll hear today. You can download it from me here, or stream it on the Archive here.