Friday, October 5, 2012

31 Days of Halloween: Hammer Horror

I was a guest on Earth Station One last night because the subject is near and dear to my heart – Hammer Horror.
My grandmother introduced me to horror. Not just movies, but books but the likes of Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, and Robert R. McCammon. Phantom Granny had this basket of paperbacks she kept by her recliner, and every time we went to visit she had new ones in there. Big, thick novels with lurid covers featuring demonic faces and desolate landscapes. The short stories of Night Shift were the first things I read, but long before I was old enough to dare to crack open one of those portable tomes I was watching the movies.
            During the day Phantom Papaw would load me into his El Camino and we would drive all over the coastal town of Wilmington, North Carolina looking for the newest toys. GI Joe, LEGOs, Star Wars, Centurions, and who knows what else. These were my very first toy hunting excursions. My grandfather would drive me all over that town looking for whatever the hot new thing is. Toys would always hit Wilmington before they did Atlanta, so it was a big deal to get to visit and hunt. We’d go to Roses, Service Merchandise, and my personal favorite – Best. Best was probably sort of the equivalent of Target now. It was a little bit nicer but had a whole room of toys rather than just an aisle.
And then at night, after my parents and my grandfather had gone to bed, Granny and I would watch scary movies.
I don’t know what channel we watched, but at least one night every visit there were horror movies on from 8 PM until the wee hours of the morning. And many of those moves were from Hammer Studios. Granted, I didn’t know that at the time and wouldn’t actually even be aware of it until years later when I worked for Suncoast; but I did recognize that many of the movies we watched had a certain similarity. British accents, vivid colors, lots of fog.
I am by no means a Hammer aficionado. I love the movies I’ve seen and they were definitely an influence on my tastes. Christopher Lee is my Dracula, for instance. Bela Lugosi gives a fine performance, but Christopher Lee is a fucking monster. Not only that, if you dig Lee’s portrayal as the legendary vampire, he does it for nine movies. And they’re all worth seeing to one degree or another.
Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb was one of the first Hammer movies I saw, which is kind of messed up because that movie is pretty gruesome. I remember the disembodied hand pictured in the movie poster, but also this weird “Mummy Vision” effect they used. The whole thing creeped me out and fascinated me at the same time. I probably wasn’t any older than seven when I saw it. Another thing that made it memorable was that it was set in the present day. Well, the present day of the 1970s.
Hammer had their own interpretations of most of the classic Universal Monsters – Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, Phantom of the Opera, and more. And in most cases I prefer the Hammer versions. I think the sole exception is with Frankenstein’s monster. James Whale’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s story is one of the greatest films ever made. Boris Karloff’s performance is unequaled and the entire movie stands the test of time as an epic, tragic adventure. I can’t imagine any other telling of the tale living up to the standard that was set eighty-one years ago.
However.
Hammer’s adaptation starring Peter Cushing as Doctor Frankenstein is very, very good and has follow-ups that are, in my opinion, far superior to what Universal produced. We get amazing characterizations of both Frankenstein and his monster. As a matter of fact, Frankenstein Created Woman features my favorite characterization of the amoral, driven Doctor Frankenstein. But I hear Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is even better.

 

Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires was a collaboration that could have yielded something spectacular. It was Hammer Studios working with the Shaw Brothers Studio out of Hong Kong. The idea was to combine gothic horror with kung-fu, and idea that should have yielded fantastic results. Not so much. Don’t get me wrong – this one is worth a look. It’s very interesting to see how the material is handled and the fight scenes are fantastic. But there are an awful lot of lulls. Times where you’re left wondering why more isn’t happening. Also, I refer to it as Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, but be sure the one you watch is actually titled The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula even though that title isn’t as awesome. The latter is the foreign version. The US release has a huge amount of footage excised and is an even lesser experience.
Curse of the Werewolf is pretty crazy and bears no similarity to Universal’s The Wolf Man. It is based on a novel called the Werewolf of Paris and is actually an entirely different, though still effective, take on lycanthropy. Oliver Reed’s character, Leon, is very relatable and sympathetic. I think this one might be a very good introduction to the style of Hammer, as it is very accessible while still being a unique and different take on familiar material.
Finally – and I’m being a bit brief since I have SyFy’s entire weekend of programming to cover – we come to my favorite Hammer film and one of my favorite films of all time: Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter


The movie was intended to be the pilot for a television series and it set up so many interesting conceits that it kills me to think about the potential there. Kronos introduced the idea that there were many different species of vampires, one that would obviously sustain an ongoing narrative quite well. It also brought swashbuckling adventure to Hammer’s moody, gothic settings. Horst Janson played the title character with a confidence that bordered on arrogance, but he was still a very likable protagonist. Accompanied by his hunchbacked assistant and Caroline “Sweaty Titties” Munro, Kronos rids a village of a family of youth-stealing vampires. It’s an absolutely fantastic movie that I can’t recommend highly enough. As a matter of fact, I just ordered the issue of a magazine called “Little Shoppe of Horrors” that covers Captain Kronos on the recommendation of Award-Winning Mark Maddox and author Anthony Taylor; who were also guests on the podcast last night.
I’m not gonna lie – those guys know their Hammer and I was quite proud of myself for being able to hang with them.

Phantom Troublemaker vs. 31 Days of Halloween

If you’re new here or haven’t been keeping up, this is where I give my thoughts on SyFy’s “31 days of Halloween” programming. Obviously I haven’t seen everything I’ll be talking about, but that’s kind of what the internet is all about – talking out of your ass.
Each day I will cover the schedule from the time my post goes live (usually 11 AM) through the following 24 hours. On Fridays I will cover the whole weekend, which is a huge pain in the ass but also kind of fun.

Enjoy!

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM – Infestation – This sounds like it might almost be sort of acceptable. From Wikipedia:
An underachiever named Cooper (Chris Marquette) awakes to find himself nauseous, weak and covered in webbing in the office where he works as an office clerk. As Cooper struggles out of the building, he comes face to face with a grotesque, powerful, angry bug—the first in an infestation of monstrous proportions.
As Cooper discovers what is happening, he befriends a ragtag group of survivors including Sara, a feisty and attractive brunette female, a smart Asian, a dumb blond, and a strong black man. Although the situation is dire, Cooper cannot help trying to solve his dating problems while also saving his life.
I’ll watch that. If I remember.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3 (I’m being optimistic)
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM – Ice Spiders – I had several members of the ESO Network over to the house the other night to watch Doctor Who – “The Power of Three” (I didn’t care for it despite the presence of the Brigadier’s daughter). We recorded for a bit after it was over and then watched the tail end of the SyFy Original Movie Camel Spiders. Ice Spiders came on after it and I can tell you that it does, indeed, feature spiders and ice.
Halloween score – 2
Quality score – 2
4:00 PM – 6:00 PM – Camel Spiders – I would much rather see a movie called Spider Camels. Imagine giant, eight-legged camels with multi-faceted eyes just swarming over the dunes. Maybe that’ll be the sequel…
An American soldier, clad in battle-worn fatigues and an American flag bandanna stands in the middle of thousands of dead camel spiders. A comely young Arabic woman clings to his leg, clearly traumatized. The pair is silhouetted against a bright, hopeful blue sky.
As the pair begin to regain their breath and composure, an ominous sound comes from behind the surrounding dunes.
The soldier drops the flamethrower’s disperser to the ground and shades his eyes with his hands.
Doesn’t look like a storm, baby. Wonder what that is.”
Suddenly, the woman lets out a shout and points at the nightmarish forms cresting the dunes. There are thousands of them – eight-legged dromedaries with poison-dripping pincers jutting forth from their frothy maws. Multi-faceted eyes reflect the sunlight back at the sky, which suddenly seems less hopeful.
My God,” exclaims the ruggedly handsome man, “We got all the camel spiders. But now I guess we have to toast some spider camels.”
As he retrieves the flamethrower nozzle from the ground, his dusky companion pulls two glittering scimitars from the sheathes at her hips.
Let’s rock.”
I totally want to see that movie. But unfortunately we just have this one.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 1
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM – Mimic 2 – I don’t think I knew there was a second one of these. It’s kind of surprising considering that nobody – including director Guillermo del Toro – was happy with the first one.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 2
8:00 PM – 10:00 PM – WWE SmackDown – I don’t even watch this anymore.
Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 2
10:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Haven – Being that I am a huge Stephen King nerd you’d think I would have watched this show. I haven’t even given it a chance. I guess I should, but I really can’t stand Xander’s best friend.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3 (It’s probably an okay show)
11:00 PM – 12:00 AM – Alphas – This again?
Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 2
SATURDAY
12:00 AM – 1:00 AM – Haven – A repeat of the 10 PM episode.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3
1:00 AM – 2:00 AM – Warehouse 13 – Thanks goodness it isn’t Alphas again. Warehouse 13 isn’t really any more Halloweeny, but at least it’s good.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3
2:00 AM – 4:00 AM – The Messengers – This was actually a pretty good movie and the one I point to – along with Adventureland – as proof that Kristen Stewart can emote and be interesting. John Corbett is also in it. Most folks will know him as wacky DJ Chris from Northern Exposure. Women, gay fellas, and straight guys without penises will know him from Sex and the City.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3
4:00 AM – 6:00 AM – Husk – This one came out last year and was part of that After Dark film series, which started off really good and is still churning out movies now, despite the fact that nobody cares anymore. This does, however, feature killer scarecrows, which are awesome.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 3
6:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Paid Programming – This is hopefully the longest batch of infomercials we’ll see. This one will pay for a sequel to an existing franchise that hasn’t had the misfortune to hit Direct-to-DVD yet. Like, we might get a sequel to Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies here. Except it would be directed by his little brother. Spider Zombie’s Halloween Thr33. Or something.
Halloween score – 1
Quality score – 5
9:00 AM – 11:00 AM – Open GravesJumanji + Final Destination + Eliza Dushku = Open Graves. It’s a win solely for that last factor.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM – The Cursed – I can’t find out much about this one, but the poster is kind of hilarious:
What the fuck is that thing? Is it cursed to juice lemons at Chick-Fil-A with its face? Admittedly, that would suck, but I don’t see how you’re going to get an hour and a half of movie out of it.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 1
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM – Boogeyman – This movie is a piece of shit. Don’t bother.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 1
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM – One Missed Call – You should really watch the original Japanese version of this movie directed by the incredible dynamo known as Takashi Miike. It is waaay better than this one. However, the Miike one does not feature Shannyn Sossamon, who is indescribably hot, so maybe go ahead and watch this one too.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3
Sossamon score - 5
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM – Stigmata – Eeeeeehhhhhhhhhh… Not so Halloweeny. It’s creepy and all, but I dunno. Then again, after the Star Trek marathon earlier this week I guess this one’s downright seasonal.
Also this:

Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Queen of the Damned – I’ve never seen this. Partly because I try to avoid movies with pop stars in starring roles and partly because I find Anne Rice to be terminally fucking boring. Besides, nobody’s going to top Vitamin C in Dracula 2000.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 2
9:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Primal – I’m not sure about this one. It’s about some kids who crash on a desert island. Why wasn’t there ever a sequel to Deep Rising? That ending was so awesome! After our valiant heroes survive the giant sea monster who tore an entire cruise ship apart, they find themselves stranded on the equivalent of Monster Island! Holy shit!
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3 (It’s on at 9, so it might be kind of okay)
11:00 PM – 1:00 AM – Carny – This is actually good. I watched it last year. It stars Lou Diamond Phillips and the Jersey Devil.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3
SUNDAY
1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – The Lost Future – Starring Sean Bean. WIN.
Halloween score – 2
Quality score – 5
3:00 AM – 5:00 AM – Growth – This actually sounds pretty awesome and I think I’m going to have to record it.
From Wikipedia:
Plot
In 1989 on Kuttyhunk island, scientist Mason Lane used microscopic parasites to advance human evolution. The experiment resulted in stronger, smarter, healthier humans, but something went wrong and three quarters of the island's residents die. Twenty years later, Jamie Akerman (Mircea Monroe), who fled the original outbreak, inherits the island to discover a new, more dangerous outbreak has just emerged.
Production
Despite its modest budget, Growth's producers were able to secure over 150 3D CGI shots, underwater shots, aerial shots, and an entire sequence shot in Seoul, South Korea. They also filmed on the RED ONE 4K camera which shoots at four times high definition resolution, and shot the film almost entirely on location on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 4
5:00 AM – 6:00 AM – Scare Tactics – I love Tracy Morgan, but I hate this show. I went off about it enough last year, I don’t feel like doing it again.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 1
6:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Paid Programming – Well, here’s another three hour block of paid programming.
So, there’s this weird guy I work with – we’ll call him Hubert - that used to raise goats. He had this older boy goat that used to fuck every other goat in the yard, including a younger boy goat. So Hubert was out in the goat yard one day and saw the older boy goat buttfucking the younger boy goat. Hubert decided enough was enough and strode over to the engaged creatures, grabbed the older boy goat, and held it down. Now, I don’t know the specifics of how he made the younger boy goat buttfuck the older boy goat, but he did.
These are the sort of people I work with.
Halloween score – 1
Quality score – 5
9:00 AM – 10:30 AM – Paranormal Witness – “The Abduction” again. I guess I’m going to end up seeing this thing at some point.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4
10:30 AM – 12:30 PM – Children of the Corn – This is the SyFy Original Movie, which is funny because it is not original, it is a remake. I don’t particularly care for the first Children of the Corn. They played this one last year and I didn’t watch it. I doubt this year will be any different. Actually, I think Lil’ Troublemaker’s preschool is having their Fall Festival at this time, so I definitely won’t have to think about it. Good.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2
12:30 PM – 2:30 PM – The Hills Have Eyes 2 – I liked this movie a lot. This one and the first one. Well, the first remake. I think Alexandre Aja did a great job on the first remake and this follow-up is interesting as well. They’re both pretty rapey, though, so if fictional portrayals of mutants having sexual relations offend you, you should probably avoid them. There’s tons of murder, too, but people don’t seem to be as put off by that; which I find odd.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3
2:30 PM – 4:30 PM – Queen of the Damned – Again with this. Maybe I’ll watch it if Lil’ Troublemaker takes a nap. But probably not.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 1
4:30 PM – 7:00 PM – Blade II – Absolutely fantastic movie. If you don’t know, Guillermo del Toro directed this one. I love all three Blade movies for different reasons, and this one would be my favorite if Jessica Biel were in it.
Halloween score – 5
Quality score – 4
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Primal – Another repeat. It seems like they don’t ever repeat the good movies, just the ones that I am either ambivalent towards or actively dislike. Jerks.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 2
9:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings – Holy shit, there are four of these now? I think I actually liked the third one. I know I liked the second one. And the first. But I’m just now sure how they could sustain four. I guess since it’s a prequel I need to watch it so I can understand the deeper meaning s of the previous films, right?
I’m just stoked about Wrong Turn 5, which stars Doug Bradley and takes place during a Mountain Men Halloween festival. The family hunts down a bunch of partying college students. No – seriously.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3
11:00 PM – 1:00 AM – Leprechaun – No. No way, SyFy. You can’t play your only fucking St. Patrick’s Day movie for Halloween. There are, like, millions of Halloween-appropriate movies and only four St. Patrick’s Day-appropriate movies. Stop this now.
Side Note: How has nobody remade Leprechaun yet? If it worked like the Friday the 13th remake it would tell the story of all the movies and just end with him flying into space from the ghetto. Uwe Boll – make this happen.
Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 2
MONDAY
1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – Leprechaun 2 – Blah, blah, blah. St. Patrick’s Day. Blah, blah, blah.
Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 2
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM – Goblin – I was really hoping this was a biopic about the Italian prog rock band that scored Dawn of the Dead. It is not. It’s just a SyFy Original Movie. It does, however, star Gill Bellows. So it’s a win. What’s up with all of these awesome movies being on at 3 AM?
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 5
5:00 AM – 6:00 AM – Twilight Zone – It’s Halloweeny enough, but I wish they’d save ‘em for New Year’s.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3
6:00 AM – 8:00 AM – Paid Programming – Only two hours today. I will be asleep.
Halloween score – 1
Quality score – 5
8:00 AM – 10:00 AM – Sea Snakes – I was really hoping this was a biopic about the Atlanta drag rock band The Impotent Sea Snakes. For all I know it is because I cannot find shit about this movie.
Halloween score – ?
Quality score – ?
10:00 AM – 12:00 AM – Mega Snake – I’m sure from the title you can guess what this one is about. A large snake. Probably a large snake that kills people, as opposed to a large snake that, I don’t know, goes shopping for shoes. Why would a snake need shoes? That would be stupid.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 2

Come back Monday for maybe another toy review. Probably a Predator.

-Phantom

No comments:

Post a Comment