#354- Peeping Tom

Quick recap: Can a creepy guy go creepier? Oh, yes he can. Very much so.

Fun (?) fact: Peeping Tom is considered one of the first slasher films. It was so edgy it apparently destroyed the career of its director, Michael Powell.

You really don’t see much slashing until the end of the movie

My thoughts: Although none of the scenes in Peeping Tom scared me, most of them weirded me out and I found the whole concept of a killer photographer very unsettling. After finishing the movie, I found myself disappointed for once at the lack of gore, but after thinking about it some I really don’t think it would’ve changed the movie all that much. Based on the description of the corpses (terrified look on their faces and slashed to bits), I’m not sure any visual would’ve matched what I imagined.

Karlheinz Böhm as Mark the serial killer was the most perfect casting. He reminded me of the kind of person Thomas Harris might dream up, like the murderer in Red Dragon. I loved that he was both sympathetic and also just really freaking nuts. His hobby of watching and rewatching the final moments of his victims was disturbing but I was even more weirded out by his home movies. Talk about dysfunction, with Mark’s father basically grooming him to be the ‘peeping tom’ he later turned into. I was a little disappointed that the father was doing experiments on him because he was a scientist because it would’ve been all the more disturbing had there been no reason at all.

I think my favorite part of the film was watching Mark and Vivian’s relationship. I fully expected him to murder her when she first came over to bring him some cake. The entire time she was in his apartment I wanted to shout at her to get out of there but then he showed her his creepy movies and I loved the humanity from both of them. For Mark, you could see a direct line between his childhood trauma and current serial killer status and for Vivian, I absolutely loved that even though she was disturbed, it wasn’t out of fear of Mark. I didn’t like the ending when he couldn’t hold back any more and tried to kill her but after following him around for the entire film, it was completely in his character to do so.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Horrorfest

 

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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

 

 

#338-Heat

Quick recap: A group of robbers feel the HEAT from the police, while the police feel the HEAT from the robbers. Bystanders feel the HEAT from the massive shootout. I felt the HEAT from Val Kilmer’s long luxurious locks.

It’s possible to be underdressed but never overdressed. Even to a shootout.

Fun (?)fact: Actor Kevin Gage, who plays Waingro in the film was imprisoned in real life for a couple of years. Naturally, all the inmates referred to him as ‘Waingro’.

Honestly, the best part of the movie.

My thoughts: I was told by a friend that I had to be in the ‘right mood’ to enjoy this film, so I waited until a Saturday night when I was in the mood for lots of murder. Unfortunately, maybe I misread my own signals because I just didn’t fall in love with Heat like I thought I would.

All the ingredients are there: a stellar cast, top notch directing, a fast moving plot. Really, I can’t think of anything else I would want more in a movie. And yet, I just didn’t really care for it. At a basic level, I failed to care about any of the characters, so when one of them evaded police or when the police got closer to catching the bad guys, I remained meh. I thoroughly enjoyed Al Pacino’s performance as Vincent Hanna but just couldn’t bring myself to really care about his character. I felt like Robert De Niro as Neil had much more depth, but if we are being honest here, the goatee really bothered me. Something about it just screamed ,’this is the 90s and don’t you forget it!’ and I didn’t. Even the music was so 90s- a cross between every heist movie from that time period and the kind of music you would find on Showtime at 2 in the morning back then.

To take a bit of the blame here, I spent way more time trying to figure out what the con was, rather than focus on the relationships. At its heart, this is what makes Heat so powerful. Not just the symbiotic relationship between Neil and Vincent, but all the relationships between the characters. One scene in particular really drove this home. All of the gang got together at a swanky restaurant and brought their significant others as well as a few children. Neil sat at the head of the table, looking around and feeling sorry for himself that he didn’t have someone special to share the night with. But to go to a deeper point, all of these men were in a dangerous profession and in fact, cops were watching their every move as they dined together. There was this impact point when I realized that every single person at that table was about to have their life ruined in some way. It brought to mind the whole idea of choices and at what point our choices become another person’s destiny. So, to that effect, I totally get this movie and it’s importance. But I still don’t like the goatee.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Taste of Cherry

#335- High Noon

Quick recap: A bad guy is on the noon train to get revenge on a marshal who sent him up north to be hung. The marshal, against almost all advice, chooses to fight him and his gang rather than run away.

I’d gladly watch two hours of Lloyd Bridges smirking

Fun (?) fact: Considering a book has been written about the filming of High Noon, there is a ton of trivia to choose from. I’ll go with the most salacious though because I don’t do that enough- Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly carried on an affair throughout the duration of filming. Is this what it feels like to be Perez Hilton? Is Perez Hilton even a thing anymore?

I will not mention Gary Cooper’s age. I will not mention Gary Cooper’s age. I will not-

My thoughts: Right before starting High Noon, I realized I’m just about burned out on the Western genre. I started out with dread and that quickly turned into head over heels love. There are a few stinkers, to be sure, but it’s been a good run so far. Thankfully, this film is one of the better ones on the list and knowing that John Wayne despised it until the day he died is the cherry on top. Maybe I’m not done yet. Westerns, I wish I could quit you.

One of the most unique aspects of High Noon is that it is almost entirely shot in ‘real time’, as Marshal Kane waits for the noon train. The anticipation is palatable, not just because I wanted to see who would arrive but also because it’s a race against the clock. Had this been a montage, I don’t think I would’ve been as empathetic to Kane as he tried to drum up support as well as attempted to keep his bride from leaving him. Whoever wrote this 1001 movies list must be a sucker for the technique like I am because there are several movies that play out like this one did. Two that come to mind are Cleo from 5 to 7 and Run Lola Run.

As a whole, High Noon isn’t better or worse than other Westerns I have watched lately. I was a little ‘meh’ when it was over, and then I learned that the whole movie is an allegory for the Red scare. Shortly after High Noon was released, screenwriter Carl Foreman was blacklisted from Hollywood due to alleged communist ties. In this light, the film takes on a much more important role to me. At the time, most people were terrified of these meetings and knew that they didn’t have much choice with what might happen. Most actors and directors chose to distance themselves from anything that might label them ‘unpatriotic’ but there were a few that stood up to McCarthy and ultimately it finally faded away. Marshal Kane knew that he could run and hide and probably go on to live a normal life, but that would be wrong. It’s so satisfying to see one person fight for what is right, whether it is a showdown in the Wild West or a bunch of teens in high school. High Noon is the happy ending we all need.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: A Philadelphia Story