#353- Black Sunday

Quick recap: A witch is executed back in the 1500s and comes back to life two centuries later to wreak havoc. She also brings to life her boyfriend/servant/ fellow vampire and/or witch who is also out to cause mayhem.

He’s a looker, that’s for sure

Fun (?) fact: The plot is loosely based on Nikolay Gogol’s story Viy. The movie is set in Russia, but played by an Italian cast who spoke English. The English was so heavily accented, however, that it was redubbed for an American release.

I too enjoy walking my dogs in abandoned cemeteries on stormy nights, dressed all in black.

My thoughts: Before I get into this review, I need to provide some context about my current relationship with horror films. I used to love discovering something scary as a kid and that extended to high school when I saw The Ring in theaters and it terrified me. And then at some point, my ability to be scared just sort of faded away, although I kind of missed the adrenaline. The last couple of years have brought some stellar horror films, including Hereditary, which I saw several months ago and I STILL have nightmares about sometimes. I won’t go too deep into the movie right now, except to say that elements of this movie are really similar to that one and thus explains why Black Sunday frightened me more than it would have had I watched it a couple of years ago.

Black Sunday isn’t scary enough to give me nightmares but it definitely gave me a sense of dread throughout the movie and I did make sure all my doors were locked before falling asleep. For one thing, it’s gory but not in a blood and guts kind of way. The first scene shows Asa the witch as she is about to be executed. The executioner brings a creepy mask of satan and then hammers it on to her face. And then they burn her alive just to be safe. When she is found a few hundred years later a man takes the mask off of her corpse. I was surprised by how realistic the skeleton was.The absolute creepiest scene for me was seeing Asa come back to life. The man who removed her mask also accidentally dripped blood on her dead body and it started the process of her returning to life. Seeing her growing her eyes back and having them return to their sockets was so, so disturbing. I really am surprised a movie made so long ago would have these sorts of details.

One thing that confused me the entire time was whether Asa was also a vampire and also her boyfriend/servant/ whatever. Several victims had distinct bite marks on their necks and it is referenced that the only way to stay safe is to have a cross nearby. Asa was definitely a witch but also worshipped satan, which makes sense. But the vampire angle just threw me off completely. This movie goes over and above to be as creepy as possible. Pretty much everything happens in the dead of night or during a storm and each setting is dark and foreboding. Adding in vampires just seems like overkill at this point.

Final review: 4/5. I was pleasantly surprised!

Up next: horrorfest continues

 

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#352- The Hills Have Eyes

Quick recap: A loving family spends all of their time together hunting, cooking food and cracking jokes. Their world is turned upside down when a family full of jerks breaks down in their territory. Can this close-knit group fight to save what is rightfully theirs?

I don’t think you can find a closer relationship than these two. Whatever they are.

Fun (?) fact: Yup. That was a real dead dog director Wes Craven used.

happier times

 

My thoughts: Welcome back to Horrorfest, a month long celebration of (usually not) scary movies! This year I decided to kick off with a couple of classics. First up is The Hills Have Eyes, directed by horror legend Wes Craven. I reviewed Both Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street during previous Horrorfests and both movies were sufficiently scary for me. This one, however, was not.

I’ve never been big on gore but I hoped for at least a little inbred creepiness. There was a little of that as I wondered how all the clan was related but,except for the necklace teeth and pelts everywhere, they weren’t all that terrifying. If anything, the patriarch of the stranded family scared me more than the murderous cannibals did. He talked of being a recently retired cop, which I think is the best possible solution because this guy was awful. He verbally abused his wife, made sure that every sentence had an expletive and carelessly handled firearms. I guess I was a little bummed out that the clan burned him alive but only because it made his wife and children sad.

Mostly, I was confused by the clan more than any other emotion. They are described as inbred, low intelligent beings yet they refer to each other using the names of the planets. And their speech is at times prehistoric and other times eloquent as they made puns and talked.  And yes, what they did was horrific BUT if they were so hungry as Ruby claimed than what better find than a fat, juicy, baby? I’m not saying I would ever eat babies but I can’t judge an inbred family who lives out in the desert, which is housed in a nuclear testing site. Sometimes you do what you have to do.

 

Final review: 1/5. Not scary and I don’t know where to draw the line between ‘cult classic’ and ‘b-movie’

Up next: more Horrorfest

 

 

#351- Irreversible

Quick recap: A tragic night is told in reverse chronological order

just about the only screenshot I can show

Fun (?) fact: As if the film wasn’t gruesome enough, a low frequency sound was added to the first 30 minutes which causes nausea and dizziness. 3 people fainted during the Cannes showing and it’s claimed that 200 others walked out.

My thoughts: My main draw to Irreversible was the reverse chronological order format. Each scene ends at the moment as the one previous to it. For example, one scene starts as a group of friends walks to a party and ends as the two men talk about their sexuality. The previous scene started as the two men discussed their sexuality and ended as the woman left the party. It’s an interesting concept and made me pay attention more because I didn’t know what would be important later on. The beginning of the movie, which is really the end of the night, wraps up what happened but I didn’t realize it while watching because I didn’t know what would be significant.

The rest of the movie is disturbing on SO many levels. Nudity, graphic violence and a 10 minute full rape scene are just some of what I had to endure. Was it a worthwhile film for the list? Maybe? But probably not. I hesitate to throw full support for the movie because it’s just so dark for no good reason. Director Gaspar Noé began Irreversible as a study of married life and as his plan went on, the idea become more dark. So it’s not that he wants us to learn anything from this; he just wants to throw as many disgusting things as he can for the sake of art. The first 20 minutes are of the main character Marcus in a gay club, searching for a man. Noé was afraid he would come across as homophobic in the scene so he played one of the characters participating and enjoying himself, as if that makes it ok. The rape scene is just as horrible as you would imagine (please don’t) but later on we find out that the woman who was raped was also pregnant. What’s the point of adding that detail other than to shock and bum everyone out?

Final review: 2/5

Up next: La Dolce Vita

#350- Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Quick recap: There’s this ring, you see, that causes trouble and might ultimately bring destruction to Middle Earth. So it’s up to a Hobbit who has never stepped foot out of his village to destroy it and save everyone.

Fun (?) fact:

Fellowship of the Ring

Gimli the Dwarf is played by John Rhys-Davies, who is actually 6 feet tall. This makes him the tallest actor out of the fellowship.

The Two Towers

Gollum was actually biting a fish shaped lollipop instead of nomming on an actual fish.

Return of the King

Director Peter Jackson is arachnophobic and based the spider design on what he is most afraid of.

 

My thoughts: I’ve now spent a hellish semester in 7th grade reading The Hobbit, watching the trilogy when it first came out and then watching it AGAIN for this list. I guess the only real surprise is how come I still don’t love it yet. Are we through, Tolkien? Please release me.

Fellowship of the Ring

I haven’t watched the trilogy more than once for two reasons. 1) it’s long and 2) there are SO MANY CHARACTERS. I was also in high school when this movie came out so I’d like to think my movie tastes have matured since then. Nope. The movie still felt long, mostly because it’s tiring to see Frodo and his pals in constant peril. And speaking of pals, I was following when it was Gandalf and all the Hobbits but then everyone else showed up and I had no clue who anyone was. Fight me if you want, but Aragorn and Boromir look too similar. I won’t say I’m glad Boromir died but it sure made it a lot easier for me. As for everything else: plot, music, scenery, I was into it. I enjoyed it much more this time around, as did my kid, who walked out in protest when Gandalf died.

The Two Towers

This was my favorite of the three although now looking back, they do all sort of meld together seamlessly. I really loved the huge fighting sequence and I liked that there weren’t too many sappy moments (more on that later). Everyone is still in peril, of course, but the talking trees made everything seem like they would be alright in the end.

Return of the King

Peter Jackson went all out for this one so it’s no surprise it won so many Oscars. I enjoyed it as much as the others, but the neverending sap fest at the end got a little old. The movie would’ve been great had it ended with Frodo waking up and seeing that his friends are ok. But then the next scene was of Frodo finishing the book ‘Lord of the Rings’ which would’ve been an even better ending but NO, Peter Jackson’s reign of terror was far from over because then I had to sit through a gut wrenching scene between Sam and Frodo as he leaves them forever. Still not done yet, I’m subjected to seeing Sam head back to his impossibly cute family and live happily ever after. That being said, it really resonated with me how Frodo still carried the scars of his journey. Everything was back to normal but it was also completely different and would always be so.

So in the end, I think I can finally say that I’ve made peace with these movies. I found them boring back when I first saw them and the characters were overwhelming. I still feel that way a bit but this time around I really enjoyed the story and the little details that make the story timeless.

My thoughts: 5/5 for all three

Up next: La Dolce Vita