#397- Frankenstein

Quick recap: The classic story of Dr. Frankenstein, who manages to create a monster that wreaks havoc on the countryside and still lives happier ever after.

The monster even mauls the bride and SHE STILL MARRIES HIM

Fun (?) fact: Boris Karloff, who played The Monster, was such an unknown that he wasn’t even invited to his own film premiere.

I don’t get it either, buddy

Thoughts and Observations:

Welcome to another year of Horrorfest, that wonderful time of year when I only watch Horror movies from the 1001 Movies to See Before You Die list. In years past I have done themes but this year my goal is to watch whatever is streaming.

We start with Frankenstein, which is actually the perfect movie to kick off this celebration. As a monster, its terror factor falls somewhere between witches and werewolves. A bit scary when you think that it’s a dead guy, less scary when you realize his childlike nature. I talked my 11 year-old into watching with me, which was a task in itself because he has vowed to not watch any horror. ‘Space is frightening enough for me!’, he says more often than you’d imagine.

We both agreed that the effects were so good for this era and both regretted a little that we have lived only through the parodies and references. I think had I been around in the 1930s, this definitely would’ve creeped me out some. The first ‘reveal’ as Dr. Frankenstein coaxes The Monster into the light is so masterfully done. It gave me chills in a way I didn’t imagine a movie this old could. The fear was short lived as Karloff does such a wonderful job of playing a frightening monster as well as such a sympathetic man. My son felt the same until the scene where he drowns the little girl, and then he wanted only revenge. I’ll admit that scene of the father carrying his dead child through the wedding celebration was absolutely heartbreaking, but I still just wanted The Monster to be ok and maybe be loved by someone.

But that’s not to be, as we all know. I remember being shocked when I read Frankenstein in high school to find that it doesn’t end the same as the movie because to me at the time, they were one and the same. It says something to the makeup artists and designers that our version of Frankenstein comes directly from the movie and not the novel, even though it paints a much more horrifying picture. Even the beginning credits seem to downplay the novel, referring to Mary Shelley as ‘Mrs. Percy Shelley’. And the scientist seems more situationally mad in this adaptation as well, which I guess helps the audience to forgive him at the end for making something so awful.

Watchability score: 4/5 This made me want to binge watch all of the monster films of this time period

Up next: Only Horrorfest knows!

#379- Nosferatu the Vampyre

Quick recap: One of eight vampire films to come out in 1979, this one is a faithful retelling of the original Nosferatu.

Of course Dracula porn was a thing!

Fun (?) fact: Klaus Kinski, who played the title character, was apparently a big baby on set. His constant tantrums made him extremely difficult to work with, although Warner Herzog learned to use them to his advantage. Klinski wanted a more ‘excitable’ vampire, but Herzog disagreed. When Klinski wouldn’t budge on his opinion, Herzog made sure to goad him into a tantrum right before filming so that he would act subdued later on.

Thoughts and Observations:

Vampires can be creepy, weird, and yes even a little sexy, but they are definitely not scary. Especially with those pointy teeth and untrimmed fingernails. There were times during Nosferatu when I was definitely creeped out, like when the ship arrived at its destination and the villagers were met with a ton of rats and dead bodies. But the uneasiness never morphed into fear for me, though. Nosferatu seems like such an old-fashioned kind of monster, from a time when medicine was basically useless. That’s not to say that this film doesn’t have merit. I really enjoyed the time spent on the build up and the unease at what might be lurking around the corner. The end was especially enjoyable as the whole town came apart and basically just waited on their turn to die. The villagers dancing in the streets surrounded by coffins was wonderfully macabre. I don’t know the real story well enough to judge this adaptation so I was surprised when Dracula had been killed, only to realize a new vampire had risen and Lucy’s sacrifice was for nothing. A bleak ending always gets me into the Halloween spirit.

  • Renfield was my favorite character by far. He was so creepy and unhinged, like when he carried around a box of flies and kept trying to eat them. That was much scarier to me than the vampire because Renfield was so unpredictable.
  • I’m not afraid of rats and mice but a whole army of them disembarking from the ship to spread terror was so creepy. I would love to see a movie about the ship’s journey, as Nosferatu and his band of rats slowly take control of the crew.
  • The ghost boy playing the violin at the castle was anything but scary, however. As Jonathon Harker lays in pain from falling out of the tower window, this jerk kid stands by him and practices the violin. I didn’t realize he was a ghost at the time so the whole thing was just hilarious.

Final review: 4/5. Mysterious yes, scary no.

Up next: HorrorFest continues!

#356- Diabolique

Quick recap: A wife and the mistress team up to kill the husband, who’s really a jerk. After murdering him and dumping his body in a pool, things start to get weird. Even weirder than a wife and mistress teaming up!

My partner teacher and I when we are supposed to be watching the kids at recess

 

Fun (?) fact: Director Henri-Georges Clouzot beat Alfred Hitchcock to the rights to the film within a few hours. Don’t feel bad for ‘ol Hitchcock though: he later bought the film rights to another novel by the same author and called that film Vertigo.

Just a couple of teachers unwinding after a long semester

My thoughts: Before I start my review, let me just point out that two teachers having time to pull off a murder such as this one is ridiculous. Real teachers are so tired at the end of term that all we do is drink and sleep, not carry out heavily detailed plots to murder loved ones.

You’d think I’d also point out the absurdity of a mistress and wife teaming up but that’s where you are wrong because I loved it. If you take out the murder this becomes a buddy movie that writes itself. The wife, Christina, got on my nerves with her ‘delicate heart condition’ and wearing pigtails even though she’s like 30. But Nicole, the mistress, balances her out perfectly. The movie can be slow at times but the acting is so good that I didn’t really notice the lull. I’d love to add more about Nicole and Christina’s relationship but I can’t because there is a crazy twist that I just don’t have the heart to spoil right now.

seriously, the movie made me promise not to tell anyone

The entire movie is a slow build to something wonderful and actually terrifying so the pay off is worth it. After Michel’s murder, he keeps popping up everywhere, even though the women dumped him into a pool. The creepiest part for me was when the clothes he wore when he died were brought back to the school via a dry cleaners errand boy. It was such a tiny detail but all the possibilities as to how it happened made everything all the more spookier. That’s all I can say for now, except to go search this movie out for yourself and DON’T SPOIL IT!

Final review: 4/5

Up next: back to normal with La Dolce Vita

#355- Jacob’s Ladder

Quick recap: A Vietnam vet’s life starts to get really weird and creepy when he starts having visions of demons and nightmares of torture.

I finally realized that Tim Robbins reminds me of John Green and now I can’t unsee it

Fun(?) fact: Much of the imagery for the film comes from photographs taken by Joel-Peter Witkin. I won’t post on here because it is super creepy and gruesome but you should Google it if that’s your thing. Or just scroll through the Subreddit Creepypasta because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen most of his pictures there at some point.

Macaulay Culkin! Tim Robbins! Jason Alexander! This movie is peak 90s

My thoughts: SPOILERS APLENTY!!

I’d heard this movie was terrifying but I tend to take those warnings with a grain of salt. Basically, all I knew was that it had something to do with Vietnam and seeing as how I never fought in the war, I considered myself safe. What I did not realize is that Jacob’s Ladder is about visions and nightmares, of which I have PLENTY (nightmares, not visions).

One of my favorite things about this movie is how minor details seem so creepy and can add up to something terrifying. In the beginning of the movie, Jacob heads to his local VA to talk with a doctor about his flashbacks, only to find out there is no record of him in the system. It’s unnerving but seeing how this was Pre-Computer age, not entirely illogical. But as the movie progresses, more and more of Jacob’s life starts to fade. He realizes something awful happened to him in Vietnam but when he goes to see a lawyer, the lawyer tells him that he never actually fought and was dishonorably discharged. Combine that with the super creepy demons and this movie kept me up for hours after it was over.

And here’s the spoiler: The entire film takes place in the moments before Jacob dies. Turns out, he was mortally wounded in Vietnam after all and all these nightmares and visions are just his mind’s way of coming to terms with his mortality. I was a little annoyed by how hokey the scene was when Jacob is reunited with his dead son Gabe and they walked upstairs to a white light, but then the next scene was the medics crowded around his body and that stark contrast really threw me off. It reminded me of one of my favorite scenes in All that Jazz, when he does that huge musical number about saying good bye and then the very next scene is of him being put into a body bag. It’s such a sobering thought to realize that I just sat through a man’s final, horrifying moments on earth but I’m also grateful that Jacob finally got some peace.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Possibly more Horrorfest?