Halloween Countdown: horror mini-reviews (part 2)

I watched a few of these earlier in the year. Have been saving the reviews for October. As always, my ratings are what I think the films should be rated on IMDb.

The Wicker Man (1973)
Rewatch. Often cited as a cult horror film, controversial at the time. I remember thinking it was a bit overrated, when I first saw it as a teenager. This time, I appreciated the layers of the film a bit more, and was surprised that it was almost like a musical, especially the first half of the film. The final scene is iconic, and I got the eerie feeling that this island scenario could actually take place for real(at least in those days when there were no mobile phones). It has a narrative that rewards a rewatch(events seem pre-planned), and as with many cult films, it exists in several versions.
You could say the film was partly aimed at the counter culture of the 1960s, wanting to rebel from the norm, with its depiction of a group taking law and order into their own hands. Also about religion and the dangers of brainwashing.
Cristi B at To The Movies and Back, shared one of the most haunting songs from the soundtrack, Willow’s Song by Rachel Verney & Paul Giovanni
Rating 7.7

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
The ending, performances, and the bizarre dream sequences are what stayed with me. A bit overlong, yet the sense of unease throughout the film keeps you on edge. Pretty spooky to watch, if you live in an apartment. Every horror fan should see it.
Rating 7.8

Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Rewatch. Was a big deal when it premiered that year, not least because the Anne Rice books the film is based on are popular, and Tom Cruise, the world’s biggest movie star, played against type as a vampire.
I hadn’t seen it since the 90s, so my memory of it had faded. It’s not a film that is talked much about anymore.
It looks great, recapturing the past, especially the sets, the scene burning the mansion down was impressive. Surprisingly tongue-in-cheek, I didn’t remember it was campy.
The only complaint is the story could do with bit more variation, does repeat itself a bit, going from one kill to the next, and from one fire to another.
The interesting thing about vampires is the guilt issue of having to kill to survive, which encourages a selfish lifestyle, and this story is about that. Killing animals as the second option might be pointing a finger at the meat industry, how animals are killed for our consumption.
You could also look at the meat industry not just as food, but as the pursuit of aimless sexual conquests in the movie. But if it goes on forever, what is the point of living? There has to be meaning beyond these physical needs. Should you follow your nature, if it causes suffering to others? That is the big question for Louis (Brad Pitt).
Rating 7.9

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Rewatch. A highly quotable horror/comedy, with violent moments. Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, who also has a supporting role. Considered by many to be among Robert Rodriguez’s best films.
Salma Hayek as the dancer might just be the scene stealer. She was never more attractive than in that bikini outfit. Best to go in to this movie knowing as little as possible.
Rating 7.5

Rebecca (1940)
Based on the classic Daphne du Maurier novel. I liked the film, didn’t love it. It’s a bit of a stretch to call it horror, a different kind of horror I suppose. A film of its time in regards to the acting style and music score. I haven’t read the book, but the blossoming romance didn’t feel particularly romantic. From my perspective, Maxim de Winter is not especially likeable, yet due to circumstance Rebecca is naively drawn to him. Perhaps she is in love with being in love.
Favorite quote: “Beauty wit and intelligence, all the things that are so important in a woman. You have qualities that are just as important, more important if I may say so, kindness, sincerity, and if you forgive me, modesty. Mean more to a husband than all the wit and beauty in the world.”
Rating 7.3

Village of the damned (1960)
Feels like a long version of a twilight zone episode. I liked it, and the children sure are creepy.
Considering it was 1960, the special effects to make their eyes glow was impressive.
Rating 7.7

The Phantom Carriage (1921)
Early Swedish horror silent. Intent on telling its story through visuals and flash backs. It took a second viewing of several scenes, and a look at Wikipedia, to better understand the narrative whole. Maybe due to I’m not used to watching silent films, or maybe because I sometimes have trouble telling faces apart.
Deserves respect for the special effects, which are amazing for a movie of its time.
I suppose the message is the good old, don’t be a drunkard.
Rating 7.5

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
A ghost with a sense-of-humor, he is like an imaginary friend for a grown-up. The film was later turned into a tv-series (1968-1970).
I really enjoyed it, and cared about what would happen to the characters. Thanks for the recommendation, Delving Eye.
Favorite quote: “If you insist on haunting me, you might at least be more agreeable about it!”
“Hard to imagine you being an ordinary anything”
Rating 7.8

The Mummy (1932)
The story is a bit far-fetched and tough to take seriously, about a man laughing himself crazy, a mummy rising from the dead, people becoming cursed, and the like. Boris Karloff’s performance is the stand-out, but it’s not a particularly memorable film.
Rating 7.0

Zombie (1979)
Also known as Zombi, a cult horror film by Italian director Lucio Fulci. Set on an island, the zombies are presumed to have been infected by voodoo and witch doctors. For me, most impressive is the underwater scene. Not as gory as I expected. Brilliant main theme
Rating 7.5

City of the Living Dead (1980)
Gore horror, the first installment of Lucio Fulci’s atmospheric Gates of Hell trilogy. (the sequel The Beyond (1981), I watched last October).
The woman waking up in the coffin, and the other woman who pukes her own guts, were the stand-out scenes. Don’t know how they did that drill scene, looks very realistic. The storm of maggots was also creepy.
The special effects during the ending looked a bit cheap, though.
Favorite quote: “I don’t see why people hate him so? His mother is what you would call a woman of easy virtue. No husband, no morals. Here in Dunwich anyone like that is also branded a witch”
Rating 7.3

The House by the Cemetery (1981)
Third installement of Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy. For me the weakest of the three films. There’s a scene with a bat, which is quite scary. However it bothered me the characters behave in a stupid way by continuously venturing down into the basement.
A particular scene where Lucy walks in on the babysitter cleaning a load of blood off the floor, and doesn’t comment on it, makes no sense. But most of the time does a fine job of concealing the unknown entity in the house, though a little silly towards the end, once the evil is revealed.
I recommend watching The Beyond (1981) instead, which is regarded as the best of the trilogy.
Rating 6.2

Agree or disagree? Have you watched any of the above? Which horror films do you plan to watch this October?
Next week, I’ll blog about horror again, Sisters (1973), Child’s Play (1988), Tremors (1990), The Fog (1980), and others, stay tuned!

38 thoughts on “Halloween Countdown: horror mini-reviews (part 2)

  1. Good post! I've only seen Interview with the Vampire but then again, I also cannot stand horror. It's interesting to read about them, though, and I'm kinda impatient now – you made me very interested in From Dusk Till Dawn 😀


  2. Great mini reviews Chris! I'm not a big horror fan but I did enjoy Interview with the Vampire when I saw it a long time ago on the big screen. I remember being impressed w/ Tom Cruise as L'estat, definitely against type and I think he pulls it off. Kristen Dunst was impressive too at such a young age. It's perhaps one of the best vampire films to date, sexy and terrifying at the same time, and real vampires DON'T sparkle, darn it!


  3. I think The Wicker Man is so powerful because it is a musical comedy for the majority of the running time. Then it hits you with the ending. I really like Rebecca, and The Ghost and Mrs Muir sounds interesting.

    As for the Fulci films. Zombie is a B-movie classic. It looks absolutely gorgeous on blu-ray. And yeah, the underwater scene is very impressive. For the drill scene in City of the Living Dead (spoiler ahead) they used two drills spinning at the same rate at both sides of his head (plus shots of a fake head when it pops out). The gut sick scene is one of the most gip inducing scenes in cinema. As for The House by the Cemetery, you're right that it doesn't make much sense, but for me that's part of its charm. It all adds to a sense of uneasiness and wonder about just what is going on in that creepy house. (Bob's voice is just irritating though.) You're quite right to recommend The Beyond. Again it doesn't make too much sense but that's all part of the surreal atmosphere.

    It looks like you've watched a good selection of horror films there Chris, with some more good ones to come. I've got the under-rated Halloween 3 lined up to watch on, well, Halloween funnily enough.


  4. @filmsandcoke: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed reading, even though horror is not usually your thing. From Dusk Till Dawn is entertaining and surprising. If you like Tarantino, I would recommend it.


  5. @Ruth: Thank you! Interview With the Vampire was actually better than I remembered, the look of the film, the acting, the layers of the story. Tom Cruise and Kirsten Dunst are indeed quite memorable.
    Not sure what you are referring to with that last quote(I just googled “real vampires don't sparkle”, and there's a new book by Amy Fecteau with that title)


  6. @Keith:

    The Wicker Man is powerful with that shift, I agree.

    The Ghost and Mrs Muir I think still holds up today, because its about characters and the drama that unfolds. Special effects are secondary.

    Thanks for the info about City of the Dead, did not know that.

    You’ve seen Fulci's films a few more times than I have(first viewing for me). I suppose that is part of the charm of House of the Cementary, the uneasiness when it doesn’t make sense.
    For me, The Beyond can better justify the not-making-sense, because of the dream-like/surreal atmosphere. Maybe House of the Cementary is dream-like too(it just wasn’t as obvious to me)

    I'm getting through the horror list of shame, slowly but surely! This year I decided to spread it out a bit over the rest of the year, as last October was too packed with horror 🙂


  7. Out of these, I have only seen From Dusk Till Dawn and Rebecca, both of which I enjoyed immensely. Come to think of it, it has been ages since I last saw FDTD, so a rewatch may be in order. Completely agree with you that it is highly quotable, and Hayek is just, wow.

    I see The Mummy is on Netflix Instant so I may give that a watch this month as well. I have seen few, if any, of the old horror classics.


  8. I'll probably watch The Wicker Man this month. It's about time I gave it a look. So glad that you liked Rosemary's Baby and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Very different films, of course, but I love 'em both.


  9. Great list of movies Chris. The Wicker Man and Rosemary's Baby are indeed classics( That theme of Rosemary's Baby is extremely errie) I would still like to see both versions of Village of the Damned and I am curious about The Fury. From Dusk til Dawn is a fun B -Movie. It could have easily been a Grind House flick. I am curious if you have seen May, Teeth, and The Ginger Snaps Trilogy.


  10. Eric@The Warning Sign: Yeah, From Dusk Till Dawn and Rebecca are pretty good. Especially the first half of Dusk Till Dawn has quite a lot of fun dialogue.

    The Mummy is decent, but of the 1930s horror films, I personally prefer: Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), Freaks (1932), and The Old Dark House (1932).
    From that era, I still haven’t seen: Dracula (1931), Island of Lost Souls (1932), Vampyr (1932), The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), The Black Cat (1934), The Wolf Man (1941), or The Body Snatcher (1945)


  11. @thevoid99: Thanks, hope you enjoy those. The Hunger (1983) I have a vague recollection of having a similar atmosphere to Blade Runner(but I could be mistaken). I’ve not listened to Bauhaus, all I know is Peter Murphy was part of the band.


  12. @Josh: The Wicker Man is a must, if you haven’t watched it yet. Just avoid the remake with Nic Cage at all costs 🙂
    Rosemary’s Baby and The Ghost and Mrs Muir are in my top 5 horror films seen this year.


  13. @TheVern: I need to go back to Rosemary’s Baby soundtrack, thanks for reminding me. Village of the Damned, definitely watch the original from 1960, I heard the remake is unremarkable. Not seen Ginger Snaps trilogy or May.
    I have seen Teeth (2007), which was very memorable, but also very gruesome, I sure hope it’s not based on fact 🙂


  14. Boris Karloff was The Mummy's saving grace. I appreciate the age of the film and how it stacks up now, but … in so many respects, it just doesn't. I did finally see how much the new Mummy film with Brendan Fraser, took from this original. I had no idea!

    From Dusk till Dawn is hilarious. Freaking love it. The vampire bar? Who'd have thought!? CRAZY!


  15. Ahahaha, you never watched Twilight? The silly vampires sparkle in that film, so I was making a jab at them 😀 I had no idea there's a book by that title!


  16. I was surprised to like both The Wicker Man and Rosemary's Baby. I had never read the books so I had no issue with Cruise in Interview with the Vampire. I was put off by Pitt's character's constant whining, so the ending amused me quite a bit – “I believe I need no introduction.”

    From Dusk Till Dawn had some amusing moments, and Hayek is outstanding, but overall it didn't do much for me. Rebecca was a bit of a disappointment. I had been expecting more since it was a Best Picture Winner. I liked The Phantom Carriage.

    The Ghost and Mrs. Muir didn't work for me because I disliked the character of the ghost sea captain. He irritated me. I can say the same thing, though, for the classic My Fair Lady, and for the same reason – Harrison also played a jerk in that one. I'm in the minority on both these films.


  17. @Jaina: The Mummy is not bad, but for me it has some stiff competition from those other iconic 1930s horror movies. I guess if you are a fan of the mummy genre,then the 1932 version is one of the best 🙂
    Yep, From Dusk Till Dawn is surprising!


  18. @Chip Lary: I wasn't bothered by the casting of Cruise either, never read the books. Pitt’s performance was quite restrained, I didn’t mind him whining.
    Rebecca I expected a bit more from as well, it was ok, but didn’t wow me.
    Characters in The Ghost and Mrs Muir I had no issues with.


  19. @LightsCameraReaction: Kirsten Dunst is convincing, I think it was her break-out performance.I see on IMDB she got a Golden Globe nomination for it.


  20. First of all, thank you for the link to my post.
    You watched a lot of good horrors. The Wicker Man is certainly a different kind of horror. I liked your interpretation of the film. It's interesting.
    I've seen Rosemary's Baby a few years ago. It didn't scare me at all. Didn't get chills during the impregnation scene. But it got more interesting towards the end. I need to rewatch it.
    Interview with a Vampire hasn't aged well at all. I though it was just an ok film. Nothing more than that. The actors were great though.
    By the way, do you watch American Horror Story?


  21. Wow you have some great ones lined up for next week! Look forward to reading your thoughts! Wicker Man blew my socks off! From Dusk Till Dawn didnot work for me personally at all. Never quite sure exactly why.


  22. Great to see Interview with the Vampire here, it's still one of my favorite vampire movies. It's actually a very faithful adaptation, they only omitted one chapter. I don't know why Cruise is not getting more praise, he was excellent in the movie.


  23. @Cristi B: You’re welcome!
    I agree Wicker Man is different to other horror films, I think I read it doesn't have any obvious influences. Part of that interpretaion I got from the interesting article in Sight and Sound magazine, the recent issue with Wicker Man on the front cover)
    Rosemary's Baby, it’s more of an eeriness, than outright scary. The ending certainly is the most memorable part.
    Looks like we disagree on Interview With the Vampire.
    I haven’t watched American Horror Story, hope you like it. Not been watching TV-shows this year.


  24. @Alex Withrow: I should really have included a quote from the movie, since I said From Dusk Till Dawn is quotable…
    “you are all in my cool book”


  25. @Pete Turner: Yep, already seen those lined-up for next week, so just need to post the horror reviews
    The Wicker Man, I have a feeling a lot of Brits are fans. Whereas From Dusk till Dawn is American with a capital A.


  26. @Sati: Interview with the Vampire, it held up well for me. Didn’t know that it’s a very faithful adaptation, interesting.
    I know, Tom Cruise is underappreciated for his acting ability.


  27. @Andina: I enjoyed Interview with Vampire on rewatch, I hadn't seen it since the 90s. In fact I think the director (Neil Jordan's) new vampire movie Byzantium (2012) could be your taste, as it goes for emotion, and blood is toned down.


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