Wooley's Halfway To Halloween III

Tools    





Victim of The Night

I tried this movie out 3 or 4 weeks ago. It looked like, despite The Strangeness (and excluding my beloved Forbidden Zone), it might be the lowest budget movie I might ever intentionally watch. I made it about 8 minutes in before I gave up. It just looked below a threshold I could enjoy.
But I tried again the next day because I have been loving going to the bottom of the barrel, budget-wise, and finding what value I could. This time I made it only 6 minutes and 17 seconds.
This afternoon, I put it on in the background while I did other things, maybe just to be able to claim that I'd watched it. Put it on in the background until I can't take it anymore. And getting a little further in, it put everything else in the background and took me all the way to the end.
For a brief synopsis, the Norris Family applies for jobs at a carnival, where they are given the tour on a bright sunny day by the carnival's co-proprietor, Mr. Blood. Meanwhile, another family gets in the little boats for the tunnel-ride. The boats come out empty. That night, a young man takes a ride on the roller-coaster. He comes back without his head. His friend runs for help but gets a spike through the forehead for his efforts. Meanwhile, Mr. Blood has dinner with the Norrises. He doesn't eat much. Strict diet, apparently. Keeps him alive. After he leaves. The Norrises conversation turns to Johnny, who they will find or take their revenge on Mr. Blood. And so starts a cat and mouse game so absurdly one sided that the mice don't even realize they're mice. While the underground denizens of the carnival feast on the body of the young man, cheered on by Mr. Blood's partner, and Master, Malatesta, who gets to keep young Vena Norris' blood has already become the reward for the winner of the game. And it doesn't look like it's going to be Vena Norris.

(my apologies for the image-quality, best I could find)

Anyway, this movie turned out to be another bizarre treat for me. It's a weird story, with a weird setting, weird direction, and it's made even weirder (as is often the case) by the budget. The movie actually turns its low-budget into a sort of positive by making the most of the carnival setting where everything is fake and cheap anyway and this gives it a very real and very fantasy quality at the same time.


There is, to my utter surprise, an actual vision here, steeped in bizarre Euro-horror, that I did not see coming at all. That, nightmarish, dream-like quality that you see in so many of those films is part of the fabric of this one. There is a great sequence in the middle of the film that appears to be a nightmare, and a wonderful one at that, ...that suddenly turns out to be reality. With no warning. One minute you think you're in Vena's nightmare and the next Vena is running for her life in real-life. It's really nice.
Another thing I really enjoyed here is that part of the menace of the story is the way these fiends act seemingly with zero concern for anything stopping them. Mr. Blood and his monsters are utterly confident that everything is going to happen the way they plan, as it always does. They are going to kill who they want, they are going to eat who they want, they are going to live and devour in their bizarre cult, and there is nothing any victim can possibly do about it. They are not the least bit afraid of anything. They do not give a f*ck. And thatís a little more frightening.
My only gripe would be in casting. And one appreciates that casting can be tricky on this budget. But, while Mr. Blood's performance is very fitting, he's an odd looking man for the part, bald and doughy. And the ultimate villain of the piece, Malatesta himself, is wrong, which is a shame because a scarier Big Bad might really have pushed this film over the top. Especially in his Texas Chainsaw-like final scene. Wrong actor I think. Just wasnít able to be menacing when he was supposed to be. Maybe itís the time, the idea that in 1973, you could appear frightening despite a big bushy mustache. You canít.
The negatives of this film, though, are really all budgetary. The movie has a nice vision, a clear narrative, and some legitimate artistry that elevates it. You wouldnít believe, in the first five minutes, that this movie was even going to be watchable. But you will. And you'll be glad you let it take you to the end.


PS- This movie loves bubble-wrap. Sorry, that's a non-sequitur, but it's hilariously true. You'll see what I mean if you watch it.



Victim of The Night
Malatesta's Carnival of Blood is great.
I think I agree.
Did you like the bubble-wrap?



Victim of The Night


Lake Of The Dead

A 1958 supernatural-thriller from Norway, Lake Of The Dead is a movie very much like when you find an interesting-looking path in the woods and follow it through twists and turns only to find it leads nowhere.
A group of friends head to a Cabin In The Woods to spend a weekend with an old friend, Bjorn. Along the way, his sister, Liljan, has a bad feeling of sorts and when they arrive he is missing. After a tale of murder by drowning and ghostly goings-on involving the cabin and nearby lake, Bjorn's dog is found shot through the head and the mystery takes an ominous turn when Liljan suddenly becomes trance-like and nearly jumps in the lake. Is a hundred year-old ghost possessing the minds of innocent victims to compel them to drown themselves? Is Bjorn to be found at the bottom of the bottomless lake? Is Liljan to be the ghost's next victim? Are they all?


While this all starts off rather swimmingly (ha!), it isn't long before lots and lots and lots of talking commences and, while the talking is periodically interrupted by some possibly supernatural shenanigans, soon there's a lot of talk of ESP and psychic connections between brother and sister and, of course Liljan's a medium and perhaps a very strong one, and a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about dreams, and then hypnosis starts to play into it, and it really gets absurdly convoluted, especially as characters who seem to know what's going on just tell other characters they're not going to tell them, because that would ruin the finale.


There is a lot of interesting stuff along the way with a peg-legged ghost and an unkillable stop-motion Crow Of Doom, and the most fearless (and likable) character in the whole crew turns out is the storyteller's wife who starts the film off serving tea but ends it by pulling the ruse that solves the mystery. But where this story seems like it could go and where it actually ends up - as well as the incredible amount of late exposition required to get the story there - well, it's just kind of a letdown, honestly.
So, lots of good mood and atmosphere a bit wasted on a story that starts strong but peters out by the end. Certainly worth seeing but if you want a moody aquatic movie that delivers on its ghostly promises, I would definitely say watch Strangler Of The Swamp instead.


PS - I thought, as I watched this, that it would benefit from a remake that tightened things up a bit in the third act (less jib-jab about telepathy and hypnotism and shit) and it turns out there was one in 2019. But apparently to no great effect.



Lake of the Dead is included in my Folk Horror box set. It was initially one that I was looking forward to the most, but a couple of lukewarm reviews have caused me to curb my enthusiasm somewhat.
__________________
Captain's Log
My Collection



Victim of The Night
Lake of the Dead is included in my Folk Horror box set. It was initially one that I was looking forward to the most, but a couple of lukewarm reviews have caused me to curb my enthusiasm somewhat.
So is the next one I'm gonna cover, I'll bet.

And look, LoD's no hidden gem, but it's not bad.



And look, LoD's no hidden gem, but it's not bad.
I think it's worth watching and some of the imagery is cool, but it absolutely sings "could have been better!".



Lake of Dead is good. It provides enough atmosphere that I couldn't care less if some elements don't 'pay off'. If two thirds of a movie is good, it's a good movie. Lethargic beginnings, convoluted middles, unsatisfying ends. As long as it avoids two of those three, it gets a recommend. Sometimes it just needs one of them to be worth the time.


I think so far everything I've watched from the folklore box set is good to great. I still have a couple to go though



Lake of Dead is good. It provides enough atmosphere that I couldn't care less if some elements don't 'pay off'.
The vibes are A+, but it really bogs itself down in explaining, and explaining, and explaining.



If two thirds of a movie is good, it's a good movie. Lethargic beginnings, convoluted middles, unsatisfying ends. As long as it avoids two of those three, it gets a recommend. Sometimes it just needs one of them to be worth the time.
Agreed



Victim of The Night
Lake of Dead is good. It provides enough atmosphere that I couldn't care less if some elements don't 'pay off'. If two thirds of a movie is good, it's a good movie. Lethargic beginnings, convoluted middles, unsatisfying ends. As long as it avoids two of those three, it gets a recommend. Sometimes it just needs one of them to be worth the time.


I think so far everything I've watched from the folklore box set is good to great. I still have a couple to go though
While I don't disagree and I did recommend the film, one can still compare a film to how good it could have been if it didn't have the issues you state above, which is, to some degree, the point of reviewing movies at all. I absolutely think LotD is worth watching but it I also absolutely think it could easily have been a better movie.



Victim of The Night

Leptirica


Well, vampire Sava Savanovic has set up shop at the mill and opens the film by killing the miller. So now we can't, ya know, mill. We have a bunch of whole grain we can't do anything with. This is problematic. And none of the townspeople are brave enough to take over the mill.
Enter Strahinja, a young man of little means but much love the beautiful Radojka, daughter of Zivan, a real ashole who won't let him or anyone else marry her. The solution presents itself: Strahinja can establish himself as a man of means by taking over the mill, the town can get their grain milled, maybe Strahinja can marry Radojka, and things can go back to normal, provided the vampire doesn't kill Strahinja too. Which, of course, he totally attempts to do.


Fortunately, Strahinja survives to (sort of) lead a group of townsmen to seek out the grave of the vampire and rid the area of its reign of terror once and for all.
So, this is a 1970s, made-for-Yugoslavian television movie based on the classic Serbian vampire tale "After Ninety Years". It is, in fact, kind of a Horror-comedy and is, at times, actually pretty funny. The scene where they go and ask the oldest woman in the county for her wisdom on finding Savanovic's grave is particularly amusing and is the point where you realize that the humor in the film is intentional.
I rather enjoyed this and have thought about it fondly since I saw it as it is definitely a Horror movie but also kinda ridiculous but totally on purpose and it's short so it's easy to watch. It is a bit vague in some areas in that it resolves satisfactorily but not all questions are answered.
I suspect this film is found in these folk-horror box-sets and documentaries I keep hearing about.
I need to warn the potential viewer, however, that if you google this film before you watch it, it will be spoiled for you. There is a little bit of a mystery surrounding the vampire and the images that pop up the moment you search for the film give away that mystery and, honestly, knowing how it ends would kinda ruin the fun of this film.
So, seriously, watch it blind, do not read about or look at images for the movie. I chose the image here, partly because it's cool, but also in large part because it was damn-near the only one I could find that didn't give away the ending. Which is a lot of fun.



While I don't disagree and I did recommend the film, one can still compare a film to how good it could have been if it didn't have the issues you state above, which is, to some degree, the point of reviewing movies at all. I absolutely think LotD is worth watching but it I also absolutely think it could easily have been a better movie.

I wasn't saying you shouldn't have wanted more from it. I was speaking from my perspective where, while agreeing in essence with both your and Takoma's assessment that the film as a whole might not entirely work, that my takeaway from the film didn't fret too much about the parts that might not be firing on all cylinders. I got what I wanted.


Basically, this is just all about my issues with 'the point of reviewing movies', nothing that you said in particular. I've grown to really get tired of how we all measure their worth against how much it lives up to our idea of what makes a movie perfect, and when this doesn't happen (as it often doesn't), pointing fingers at the parts that let us down. Like, it's completely reasonable to do this. I do it all the time too. But I think it puts such a damper on the experience of these wonkier, less realized, cheaper, unique or experimental works. And these kinds of movies are just as important to the fabric of movie going experiences as the Kubrickian masterpieces. At least they are for me.



I liken it to going to the fair. And there are all the rides. And the games. And the interesting sounds and all the people watching. But when we return home and we are asked for our assessment of the day, we spend just as much time talking about the drab alleyways we had to walk down to get to the midway. Or how the bun on the hotdog we bought as we left the fair was a little stale, even though the hotdog itself was completely acceptable. It was tubular and was dyed a disgusting color and tasted of pig ass and so what more could we possibly expect.



I would wager, out of five stars, we both probably gave it about the same rating. I would think, for me, about a 3/5. But I think with many people, giving something this kind of rating, they get hung up on the two stars it didn't get. Where I focus on the three stars it did get and view it a success in its own way. Because I want there to be 3 star movies. I wouldn't want to live in a world where every movie is a 5 because what a nightmare that would be. Sometimes it's nice to have a film with some drab alleyways that connect the better scenes together, and that finish with the underwhelming flourish of a stale bun. Because I didn't come for the hotdog anyways.


Essentially, I posted that mostly for Capt Terror so he didn't overlook it. And because I couldn't argue with the essential point that it is at times underwhelming and at times doesn't live up to its premise, I wanted to dig in on the fact that it was still very worth while regardless of the issues. And, maybe, even has its own charm because of those issues.



Lepterica would be another example of a film that I feel is littered with clumsy moments that don't necessarily 'work', but that I overall really liked. I guess for some, these wonkier moments will be a little more fun than the pseudo-seroius moments of Lake of the Dead. Cause Lepterica is very goofy. But mostly in a good way.



Basically, this is just all about my issues with 'the point of reviewing movies', nothing that you said in particular. I've grown to really get tired of how we all measure their worth against how much it lives up to our idea of what makes a movie perfect, and when this doesn't happen (as it often doesn't), pointing fingers at the parts that let us down. Like, it's completely reasonable to do this. I do it all the time too. But I think it puts such a damper on the experience of these wonkier, less realized, cheaper, unique or experimental works. And these kinds of movies are just as important to the fabric of movie going experiences as the Kubrickian masterpieces. At least they are for me.
But Lake of the Dead isn't eclectic or doing something out of the box. What lets it down is that it spends too much time with serious men sitting around and lecturing each other about the "science" of psychics and sibling connections and other supernatural stuff. The frustration is that the film feels the need to lay all this foundation so that the audience will believe what we are seeing. It's not necessary! I wish that the filmmakers had just let the weirdness and the atmosphere just be.

I don't think that acknowledging those faults (or, to be very precise, perceived faults) ruins the experience. And I'd argue that acknowledging those elements isn't even necessarily a conscious act.



Victim of The Night
I wasn't saying you shouldn't have wanted more from it. I was speaking from my perspective where, while agreeing in essence with both your and Takoma's assessment that the film as a whole might not entirely work, that my takeaway from the film didn't fret too much about the parts that might not be firing on all cylinders. I got what I wanted.


Basically, this is just all about my issues with 'the point of reviewing movies', nothing that you said in particular. I've grown to really get tired of how we all measure their worth against how much it lives up to our idea of what makes a movie perfect, and when this doesn't happen (as it often doesn't), pointing fingers at the parts that let us down. Like, it's completely reasonable to do this. I do it all the time too. But I think it puts such a damper on the experience of these wonkier, less realized, cheaper, unique or experimental works. And these kinds of movies are just as important to the fabric of movie going experiences as the Kubrickian masterpieces. At least they are for me.



I liken it to going to the fair. And there are all the rides. And the games. And the interesting sounds and all the people watching. But when we return home and we are asked for our assessment of the day, we spend just as much time talking about the drab alleyways we had to walk down to get to the midway. Or how the bun on the hotdog we bought as we left the fair was a little stale, even though the hotdog itself was completely acceptable. It was tubular and was dyed a disgusting color and tasted of pig ass and so what more could we possibly expect.



I would wager, out of five stars, we both probably gave it about the same rating. I would think, for me, about a 3/5. But I think with many people, giving something this kind of rating, they get hung up on the two stars it didn't get. Where I focus on the three stars it did get and view it a success in its own way. Because I want there to be 3 star movies. I wouldn't want to live in a world where every movie is a 5 because what a nightmare that would be. Sometimes it's nice to have a film with some drab alleyways that connect the better scenes together, and that finish with the underwhelming flourish of a stale bun. Because I didn't come for the hotdog anyways.


Essentially, I posted that mostly for Capt Terror so he didn't overlook it. And because I couldn't argue with the essential point that it is at times underwhelming and at times doesn't live up to its premise, I wanted to dig in on the fact that it was still very worth while regardless of the issues. And, maybe, even has its own charm because of those issues.
I think you know that I mostly agree with you on this. At least with regard to the wonkier, less realized, cheaper, unique or experimental works. My friends think I'm crazy for the stuff I watch but, like The Strangeness and The Being, even less so than something like Malatesta (which, despite its flaws inherent to the budget, pretty much pulls it off), there's gold in them there hills.
But I also believe in the Uncanny Valley, as applied to art. That the closer one gets to complete success, the more glaring the things that prevent it from reaching that become. Malatesta is a movie that could totally be forgiven if all it had was the dream sequence in the middle, because, on that budget, honestly, that should be enough. But, instead, the movie just fully succeeds (if you can look past the budgetary constraints). Messiah Of Evil even more so. But a movie like Lake Of The Dead comes up short, not because they didn't have the budget or whatever to pull off their vision, but for no other reason than that the writer and director just didn't have a complete vision and/or the ability to execute it. He knew how to put some cool stuff in the movie but he didn't know how to get from "I have this great idea" to "And here's the satisfying conclusion to it" so he just installed a quagmire of expository mumbo-jumbo, hand-waved some, and then dumped the conclusion on the audience. And that's a far cry from something like The Unnameable, where, yeah, they had like $40,000 to make a cleverish Lovecraft movie and, if you've got the vision to see it, they actually did.
And that's all we're really doing here is parsing that territory. I can say with confidence that I would rather recommend, to people like us, Malatesta or The Unnameable or certainly MoE or Lemora over Lake Of The Dead, because those movies are finishers and Lake Of The Dead isn't. Absolutely does NOT mean it's not worth watching. But the point of critiquing in our case is really to share our reactions and also to recommend. And to recommend you have to tell people, "Hey, this obscure movie may have no budget but it knocks it out of the park, this obscure movie has no budget but has pluck and spirit, and this other obscure movie has a suitable budget and some good ideas and technique, but honestly comes up a little short."
I just don't see any harm in saying, yeah, this movie is obscure and wonky and has charms but falls a little flat compared to what it could have been and to some of the other obscure and wonky films we love.



I just don't see any harm

Everyone who watches movies criticizes them. Everyone who watches movies have ideas of how they'd want to make a movie better. I'm not saying that should end. I'm not saying you shouldn't do that. I'm not saying I don't.



But, there is also a fall out from these kinds of things. I don't think there is anything more poisonous to enthusiasm than a lukewarm recommendation. And that's the only reason I got into the conversation, specifically because I saw Captain Terror talking about his diminishing interest in the movie. I was only trying to re-route the criticisms towards the point about it still having a lot to offer when it does work. And that if we don't worry about the padded scenes full of conversation, or not entirely satisfying revelations, that there are still things here to be excited about. Because there is and its easier to articulate this to someone else without attaching a big fat 'but....' to qualify appreciation.



But Lake of the Dead isn't eclectic or doing something out of the box. What lets it down is that it spends too much time with serious men sitting around and lecturing each other about the "science" of psychics and sibling connections and other supernatural stuff.

The lecturing stuff doesn't always work, but it's also very much those elements that I find make it feel like it is something different. No, not entirely 'unique', but they give it a lilt, an accent, that feels like its own thing.



And I wasn't saying acknowledging the faults diminishes the experience. I acknowledge the very same faults about the very same movie. But as a person who had the exact same disappointments, I had a much more positive experience watching it. Because those issues don't define the experience of watching it for me. And, I was putting that out there for anyone who gets enjoyment out of films in a similar way to me, that these critical problems don't infringe all that much on its pleasures.