2021 Halloween Challenge

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28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
So, have you seen Naked Lunch?
Yes I have. Could due with a revisit, that's another odd one.
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Suspect's Reviews





Us, 2019

As a child, Addy (Lupita Nyong'o) wandered away from her parents and saw something horrific at an amusement park. Now all grown up, Addy is on vacation with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and her children Jason (Evan Alex) and Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph). But things take a sinister turn when a family shows up in their driveway. A family that looks very familiar.

The great peril of making a film that is obviously about something is that you run the risk of an end product that isn't very scary and with an allegory that falls flat. I thought that, for the most part, Us avoided this pitfall, with both its scares and its commentary landing pretty well.

On the scares front, the film delivers on performances and set-pieces that are genuinely frightening. Amusement parks and home invasion and doppelgangers are all horror staples, and they are used effectively. The performances all land, anchored by Nyong'o in the lead role. The movie also showcases Peele's comedic sensibilities, and it very much has his handprints all over it.

The subtext of the film works out pretty well. I did feel at times that it was stuck in an awkward place between the general and the specific. The idea of an
WARNING: spoilers below
oppressed, literally underground group of people finally rising up to take their share of the world is an interesting one. The "others" all bear signs of a harder life---scars, mental illness, perpetually startled expressions. The film is taking on not only the idea of the plight of the invisible underclass who suffer while at the same time having their faces rubbed in the lives of those more privileged, but also the notion that successful people are "born better". The entire film is taking aim at the idea of moral superiority of the middle and upper class, and at times this even means implicit criticism of its protagonists.


Overall I thought that the film looked great and generated a good deal of tension. While the last 15 or so minutes lean a little exposition heavy and raise a lot of questions about the film's statement on class and privilege, I found it to be a satisfying watch.






Separation, 2020

Mark (Justin Benson) and Liz (Austin Highsmith Garces) are on the eve of filing for divorce when first he and then she come down with some sort of illness. Deciding to spend one last night in bed together--purely in the interest of getting a good night's sleep--turns out to be a grave mistake.

This is a very short short, coming in at just about 6 minutes. And here's something I almost never say about shorts: I wish it had been longer! Don't get me wrong: the final payoff sequence in the last minute or so is disgustingly gory, as is a makeup effect on one of the actors (stay away from this film if you have trypophobia!). But I wish that we had been given more of the couple. Why are they splitting up? Is it mutual, or being driven much more by one party? Having a little more background would have added a bit more heft to the final moments.

I mean, check it out! Just 6 minutes long and worth it for the effects alone.






The Wolf Man, 1941

Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) returns to the village where he grew up to be with his father, John (Claude Rains). But soon after arriving--and catching feelings for local shopwoman Gwen (Evelyn Ankers)--Larry is attacked by what he believes to be a wolf. Soon, Larry finds himself experiencing strange events that seem to fit with local legends about werewolves.

The Wolf Man is a rather compact little horror, coming in at just about 70 minutes. And yet it is chock full of classic sequences so that even things that are overly familiar move along at a good little pace.

To begin with, the film is packed with talent, including Bela Lugosi as a local fortune teller and Ralph Bellamy as a local colonel who takes an interest in the seeming appearance of a dangerous wolf.

Many of the conversations in the film involve a distraught Larry trying to understand what is happening to him via consultation with his father, the colonel, and other men. Discussing the legend of the werewolf, the men assert that it is possible for someone to be crazy and believe himself to be a wolf, but not for someone to actually transform. It's a undertone of horror---the idea that something can be happening to you, and yet science says it is impossible. Only a local Romani woman (Maria Ouspenskaya) understands what is happening to Larry and offers him comfort, though she knows he is doomed.

The scenes out in the moor, all swirling mist and different figures popping in and out of the fog, are great looking and atmospheric.

My only complaints were that Larry sometimes felt a bit bland. At times, Chaney really seemed to convey a quiet desperation, but Larry lacked in personality at other times. And it doesn't help that a painfully dated element is our introduction to him: he uses a telescope to spy on a woman in her bedroom, then flirts with her by letting her know that he's seen into her bedroom. Charming! The whole romance feels like it exists mainly to introduce a conflict--ie Larry doesn't want to accidentally eat Gwen--and their scenes lack the intensity of the conversations about werewolves, or the genuine emotion of the scenes with the local woman.

Not sure this is one that I'd revisit often, but I'm glad I finally checked it out.




My only complaints were that Larry sometimes felt a bit bland. At times, Chaney really seemed to convey a quiet desperation, but Larry lacked in personality at other times.
Chaney Jr is the blandest of the classic horror stars. I've been watching some pre-Wolfman serials over the past year and he occasionally shows up in minor roles as a henchman/gangster and he was pretty well suited for that sort of thing. He couldn't help but pale in comparison to Lorre, Lugosi or Karloff, three of the most distinctive voices in Hollywood history.
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Chaney Jr is the blandest of the classic horror stars. I've been watching some pre-Wolfman serials over the past year and he occasionally shows up in minor roles as a henchman/gangster and he was pretty well suited for that sort of thing. He couldn't help but pale in comparison to Lorre, Lugosi or Karloff, three of the most distinctive voices in Hollywood history.

He's great in Spider Baby. But that might be my affinity for watching classic era actors genre-slumming and looking perpetually hungover at the end of their career





The Raven, 1935

Brilliant--but disturbed--surgeon Dr. Vollin (Bela Lugosi) is called on to save the life of his friend's daughter, Jean (Irene Ware). But after the surgery, Vollin becomes obsessed with Jean, a dancer. When Jean's father tries to put a stop to Vollin's interest in Jean, Vollin hires criminal Bateman (Boris Karloff) to help him kidnap Jean, disfiguring Bateman and promising to fix him only once he has Jean for his own.

At barely over an hour, this one feels like it's over almost before it begins. This was actually a lot more engaging and fun than I expected and was a very pleasant surprise.

The tie in with the title--and its allusion to Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem--is that Vollin is actually obsessed with Poe. When we later get a glimpse of Vollin's basement, we discover a whole slew of torture implements, including the infamous bladed pendulum. There's also a sequence in which Jean performs a dance based on The Raven, as a thank you to Vollin for saving her life.

The second half of the film--involving Vollin's blackmail of Bateman--is certainly the most interesting. Despite enjoying Karloff's performance, the character of Bateman is written with some inconsistency. In some scenes he is very articulate and normal sounding, in other scenes he speaks in a clipped, borderline caveman way. But this aside, Bateman provides the most interesting dynamic of the film. He is obsessed with Vollin fixing his face--wondering if his ugliness is the reason he behaves the way that he does. When Vollin instead deforms him, it sends him into a mild crisis. And once he meets Jean, and is charmed by her, he begins to wonder if harming Jean (and her father and fiance) is worth getting his face fixed.

Again, this film just flies by. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it.




Chaney Jr is the blandest of the classic horror stars. I've been watching some pre-Wolfman serials over the past year and he occasionally shows up in minor roles as a henchman/gangster and he was pretty well suited for that sort of thing. He couldn't help but pale in comparison to Lorre, Lugosi or Karloff, three of the most distinctive voices in Hollywood history.
I think that his physicality is decent, but he doesn't really seem to "click" with the other actors.



He's great in Spider Baby. But that might be my affinity for watching classic era actors genre-slumming and looking perpetually hungover at the end of their career
He's also pretty great in Alligator People believe it or not. Then again his character is perpetually drunk...





Us, 2019

As a child, Addy (Lupita Nyong'o) wandered away from her parents and saw something horrific at an amusement park. Now all grown up, Addy is on vacation with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and her children Jason (Evan Alex) and Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph). But things take a sinister turn when a family shows up in their driveway. A family that looks very familiar.

The great peril of making a film that is obviously about something is that you run the risk of an end product that isn't very scary and with an allegory that falls flat. I thought that, for the most part, Us avoided this pitfall, with both its scares and its commentary landing pretty well.

On the scares front, the film delivers on performances and set-pieces that are genuinely frightening. Amusement parks and home invasion and doppelgangers are all horror staples, and they are used effectively. The performances all land, anchored by Nyong'o in the lead role. The movie also showcases Peele's comedic sensibilities, and it very much has his handprints all over it.

The subtext of the film works out pretty well. I did feel at times that it was stuck in an awkward place between the general and the specific. The idea of an
WARNING: spoilers below
oppressed, literally underground group of people finally rising up to take their share of the world is an interesting one. The "others" all bear signs of a harder life---scars, mental illness, perpetually startled expressions. The film is taking on not only the idea of the plight of the invisible underclass who suffer while at the same time having their faces rubbed in the lives of those more privileged, but also the notion that successful people are "born better". The entire film is taking aim at the idea of moral superiority of the middle and upper class, and at times this even means implicit criticism of its protagonists.


Overall I thought that the film looked great and generated a good deal of tension. While the last 15 or so minutes lean a little exposition heavy and raise a lot of questions about the film's statement on class and privilege, I found it to be a satisfying watch.

That last 15 minutes really tanked this film for me. It was like Peele knew what he wanted to say but got to the end and just didn't know how to say it so he fell back on a vomitus of exposition in a way that was so jarring to me and so disappointing, I just couldn't really appreciate the good things that led up to it, since they don't really matter if the place they go isn't worth going to.





The Wolf Man, 1941

My only complaints were that Larry sometimes felt a bit bland. At times, Chaney really seemed to convey a quiet desperation, but Larry lacked in personality at other times. And it doesn't help that a painfully dated element is our introduction to him: he uses a telescope to spy on a woman in her bedroom, then flirts with her by letting her know that he's seen into her bedroom. Charming! The whole romance feels like it exists mainly to introduce a conflict--ie Larry doesn't want to accidentally eat Gwen--and their scenes lack the intensity of the conversations about werewolves, or the genuine emotion of the scenes with the local woman.

Not sure this is one that I'd revisit often, but I'm glad I finally checked it out.

Chaney is so bland.
I am a werewolf fanatic and yet I strongly prefer Werewolf Of London over this film basically because of Chaney, which is funny because this is his most famous role. The Wolf Man may be, overall, a better film than WoL, but Chaney is actually a less compelling actor, regardless of his stage presence (or more likely, his father's name) than Henry Hull.
Chaney is what holds this film back for me cause give me a gypsy curse and a werewolf any freakin' day.



That last 15 minutes really tanked this film for me. It was like Peele knew what he wanted to say but got to the end and just didn't know how to say it so he fell back on a vomitus of exposition in a way that was so jarring to me and so disappointing, I just couldn't really appreciate the good things that led up to it, since they don't really matter if the place they go isn't worth going to.
I largely felt that what he was saying was clear enough (especially after a certain character gives a little speech in the first act) and he just didn't need that last big hit of exposition.

But there were enough elements of interest in the last little bit that I was still with the film.



The Wolf Man is the one Universal classic monster movie I definitely don't like.



Are there moments? Sure. But they add up to about three minutes of the entire runtime.


I can do without it.



I watched Wolf Man. Challenge of watching one film is over!
You've inspired me, raul. I'm going to make a concerted effort to watch a horror film this month. I started watching The Devil Rides Out last week, but something else came on so I turned it over after about 40 minutes. Maybe I'll try and watch something I've not seen before?

It seems the battle is now over, but just to make absolutely clear that Friday 13th Part 4, 6 and X are the best Friday 13th films. Yes, Jason X. Such fun.
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You've inspired me, raul. I'm going to make a concerted effort to watch a horror film this month. I started watching The Devil Rides Out last week, but something else came on so I turned it over after about 40 minutes. Maybe I'll try and watch something I've not seen before?

It seems the battle is now over, but just to make absolutely clear that Friday 13th Part 4, 6 and X are the best Friday 13th films. Yes, Jason X. Such fun.
I'm actually hoping for like 2 more. 3 would be an epic October!



The trick is not minding
Personally, of the original Universal Horror films, (Dracula, The Mummy, Wolf Man, Invisible Man, Frankenstein), Iíve always felt The Mummy was the weakest one. The Wolf Man manages to slide in just ahead of it.



Personally, of the original Universal Horror films, (Dracula, The Mummy, Wolf Man, Invisible Man, Frankenstein), Iíve always felt The Mummy was the weakest one. The Wolf Man manages to slide in just ahead of it.
I agree.