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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Kuroneko

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Kuroneko

I dislike cats.  I’m aware that many filmmakers have the same lack of appreciation for the beasts with 9 lives. Cat’s Eye, Pet Sematary, The Black Cat, The Cat People, even A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 all feature these ferocious felines.

It was with much trepidation (not really) that I sat to watch today’s film.  I knew that I would likely have an experience of shock simply from the subject matter alone.  I braved my fears, however, and happily accessed my Hulu+ account to view this classic of Japanese horror.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Yabu No Naka No Kuroneko “Kuroneko”

Kuroneko posterDirector: Kaneto Shindou
Year: 1968
Cast: Kichiemon Nakamura, Nobuko Otowa, Kei Satou
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 99 mins. / Black and White / OAR 2.35:1 / MPAA Rating: NR
Rating: ★★★ / C

After being brutally raped and murdered by a gang of wandering samurai, a woman and her daughter return from the grave to haunt and kill them.

What odd choices of filmmaking, such as random jump cuts, unmotivated images of a black cat, disjointed jumping of the plane, cuts of ghosts and fallen samurai bodies out of nowhere, and the continual bamboo forest immersed in a dense fog imagery.

Some of the visuals were haunting, however.  The women with their painted on eyebrows, floating in their white kimono, amidst the secluded cabin in the woods, certainly ought to be enough to hold the interest of many aficionado’s of horror.  Sadly, I found the aforementioned problems too problematic to be saved by the later interesting elements.

It simply didn’t rise above anything other than average.  Certainly not after watching the superior Onibaba.  Thankfully, however, it’s not as bewildering as House.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba

I’ve long been a fan of Japanese cinema. Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Kon Ichikawa, and my favorite, Yasujiro Ozu, are masters of cinema few western audiences have seen. Amazingly, other than the run of horror movies that came from the land of the rising sun a few years back, such as Ringu and Ju On, I wasn’t familiar with any other in that genre.

Thankfully, a recent trip to the video store, and my viewing of their Criterion collection they have near the back of the store, I came across a few films considered to be classics in the J-horror genre.

With this new knowledge, I followed up my visit by searching both Hulu and Netflix for other films originating from the land famous for samurai, geisha, and ninja.

Happily, today’s film was one of the films featured on Hulu+ Criterion Collection. Without hesitation, I pressed play on my tiny appleTV remote, and took in the surprise that was today’s entry.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba


Director: Kaneto Shindou
Year: 1965
Cast: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Satou
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 103 mins. / Black and White / OAR 2.35:1 / MPAA Rating: NR
Rating: ★★★★★ / A

I wasn’t sure how this film was considered a horror film for most of the film. I felt more like a revenge picture, and an excellently crafted one at that. However, [SPOILER]…

I was completely blown away by the twist near the end of the film that confirmed this to indeed be a horror film. The mastery that Shindou displayed on bringing together this morality tale was superb, and worthy of all the praise I’ve since read up on for this film.

It was shocking to see such graphic sensuality, given the year the film was made. Certainly not a film I’d be able to show in my film appreciation class without a major disclaimer.


The cinematography is simply amazing. The waves in the grass, the use of shadows, and the framing of each scene is a marvel to see. The acting is equally as impressive. This is not your over-the-top theatrics found in many other films of that same era. Instead we are witness to the depravity of war, and the loneliness of seclusion, in a manner that is completely engrossing.

I will never feel the same way when I am faced with the choice of the shortcut through the grassy field or the long dirt path around it. I certainly will be needing a proper foot cleansing after such a proposition presents itself.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 18: Silent Night, Deadly Night

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 18: Silent Night, Deadly Night

It was a swealtering summer night in the suburbs of my hometown.  My brother and I were spending another night with my cousin, looking forward to the traditional night of watching a double feature in the living room of his tiny downstair apartment.  We loved to stay the night, as my aunt seemed to have no qualms about the type of films we would be allowed to view.  Compared to my mothers restrictions on something as seemingly innocent as Strawberry Shortcake or The Care Bears, a film that featured any worldly vice or plot was like a trip to Fantasy Island.

This night, my cousin was ecstatic.  He had stated that he was a fan of both films on the bill, and was sure we would equally enjoy them.  We turned down all of the lights, grabbed our individual servings of Jiffy Pop, and sat down to watch the first of our VHS tapes that night.

Sleepaway Camp was the first feature.  The second feature was the film I chose tonight for this series on frightful films during the month of October.  I chose the film not because I remembered it as a classic, but because amazingly, I remembered nothing about either film prior to tonights viewing.  I simply remembered the title of the films, and have wanted to revisit them both since my days as a youth.

As I write this, I wish I could unremember once again.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 18: Silent Night, Deadly Night

Silent Night Deadly NightDirector: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Year: 1984
Cast: Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Robert Brian Wilson
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 85 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★ / F

Years after witnessing the brutal murder of his parents, a young man goes on a murderous rampage, dressed as Santa, choosing those he deems as “Naughty” as his victims.

What the 7734 were they thinking?  My word, what a travesty.  There is nothing about this film that I found enjoyable, frightening, intriguing, or any other emotion other than belwilderment.  While I could remember nothing about the film (I must have blocked it from my memory upon my initial viewing), I was aware that it spawned 4 sequels.  How that happened is beyond me.

The film is a worthless slasher pic that was as painful to watch as Chinese Food by Alison Gold.  I would have enjoyed it more had I miraculously experienced a Stay Tuned moment and found myself one of the victims of Billy’s axe to the stomach.  The dialogue, acting, plot, deaths, costuming, sets, all are about as shallow as my toddlers swimming pool.

I understand that parents boycotted the film upon its initial release due to its subject matter of a killer Santa.  I would rather have picketed the bank that funded this mess for wasting peoples money on such dreck.

Killer SantaIf you are as wanton as the un jovial man in red, by all means, rush out and rent this stinker.  If you are of the same character as the family in the Saturday Night Live skit The Gross-Out Family, then ask for the collector’s DVD box set of this film for your Christmas gift.  Otherwise, save yourself the misery and rent Misery instead.  At least you’ll enjoy the maniac with an ax (or a hammer in the theatrical version) much more.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 16: The Mummy

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 16: The Mummy

I often feel like the Gill- Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon got the shaft. Other than a pair of sequels in 1955 (Revenge of the Creature) and 1956 (The Creature Walks Among Us), the scaly monster from the deep has not been featured in any other films, other than The Monster Squad and Hotel Transylvania, since his initial unveiling.

Perhaps a television show called The Creature Diaries didn’t have quite the same ring as the CW’s sudser about another creature of the night? I’m guessing The Gurgling wouldn’t have appeared as menacing atop a poster hanging in the lobby of the local cineplex as another more lupine film from Joe Dante in 1981 did. Certainly, had Kevin Bacon wanted to team with Paul Verhoeven to give us The Hollow Thing from Deep Down in a Cove Somewhere in The Amazon, the marketing people would have shot it down in favor of their other 2000 film nobody saw (get it?!).

Today’s film, however, features a classic monster that hasn’t suffered the same fate as his green gilled partner in slime.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 16: The Mummy


Director: Terence Fisher
Year: 1959
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: 88 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating:
Rating: ★★★★★ / A

After being woken from years of hibernation within his tomb, mummified Egyptian high priest Karnak seeks out those responsible for his awakening, when they disturb the tomb of his lover and Princess, Ananka, to avenge their desecration.

The opening music is amazing, deep and resonating as the opening credits unfold. Composer Franz Reizenstein helped create an atmosphere of wonder, accompanied by the wonderful sets and wardrobe expected in a Hammer film.

I always appreciated when the classic monster films were period pieces, allowing for a more immersive tale of fantasy and intrigue. This film does not deter, nor does it disappoint.

There were some directorial decisions that I found jarring, such as the numerous fades to the next scene as someone is speaking, and wondered if I were missing some excised scene, or if my stream had hiccuped. Overall, however, the calibre of the story, acting, and scenery overcame any misgivings I may have had.


The action and the suspense are simply top-notch. Special-effects are also superb, bearing in mind the time in which they were made. Many elements of these Hammer films, in part due to its being set in the past, no doubt, are timeless, and hold up against any modern film in the same genre, often surpassing it in originality.

I recommend this film to any fan of the classic Universal monster films. I suggest this film to any fan of the other entries in Hammers stable of features. Lastly, I urge any fan of the more recent outings from Universal and Stephen Sommers to view this film immediately, lest the curse of Ananka fall on you.

By the way, for those keeping score, the films/tv shows mentioned in the exordium were The Vampire Diaries, The Howling, and The Hollow Man, natch.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 3: Frankenstein Created Woman

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 3: Frankenstein Created Woman

I fondly remember Saturday afternoons, seated on the floor of my bedroom in front of my 15″ black and white RCA television, the click of the dial filling the air as I prepared to watch the weekly television program, Creature Features. Often, I’d take in a Godzilla film, a masterpiece written by Richard Matheson, a mesmerizing horror anthology featuring Vincent Price, or a bloody spectacle from a studio located across the pond, Hammer Film Productions (or as I erroneously knew it, Hammer Studios).

I love the old Universal Monster films. When I think of Dracula, the hypnotic image of Bela Lugosi, outstretched hand commanding devotion, instantly comes to mind. When I think of The Wolf Man, I’d be stretching the truth if I didn’t say Lon Chaney, Jr. was the only person I imagine in that titular role. The same can be said for Boris Karloff in regards to The Mummy and Frankenstein. When I think of Hammer Films and their catalogue of monster movies, there is none other than Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

As I prepared my list of films to watch for this month long series, I knew that I had to include a film or two from the massive back catalogue I had missed as a youth. For my first film, I chose a candidate I knew would likely be absent from many casual horror movie viewers queue (having spent the past decade as a film professor proved this to be true).

31 Days of Frights and Films – Day 3: Frankenstein Created Woman


Director: Terence Fisher
Year: 1967
Cast: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorly Walters
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: 86mins. / Color / OAR 1.66.1 / MPAA Rating: N/A
Rating: ★★ / D

Dr. Frankenstein, having learned how to capture the soul of a recently deceased person, experiments transferring said soul into the body of another individual suffering from an untimely fate. Unfortunately, the woman whom he revives in said manner turns into a mindless killing machine, recking havoc on all in her path.

This film, while I appreciate the effort of the filmmakers to divert from the formula that made up the previous films in this series, is a film I likely will never visit again.

Sadly, the film lacks any suspense, thrills, creatures, or supernatural elements, all elements even the youngest of horror film neophytes would expect. Instead, the filmmakers rely solely on the premise of a persons brain being surgically implanted into another’s body. Were the acting not dialed in by Cushing, or were there anything resembling acting from the supporting cast, perhaps it could have been more enjoyable. Even Cushing, for reasons unknown to me, sounds dubbed over.


The film also lacks any F/X, which was another baffling instance, beings that this is a feature from a studio famous for it’s abundance of blood, guts, and other macabre imagery. With the exception of a decapitated head making an appearance at the end of the film, the lack of any lurid effects implies it were made on the cheap by an amateur without a budget.

True to a Hammer Films production, it thankfully does feature excellent costuming and sets, but even then they are barren, compared to what we’ve beheld before.


Disappointingly, the ending doesn’t bring finality, nor leave the viewer on a cliffhanger. It simply is abrupt, having the impression it were written by a screenwriter not knowing where to take it or how to properly resolve it themselves. Perhaps this is an unfortunate result of writer Anthony Hinds having run out of ideas.

In the end, I simply wish Frankenstein had created a better film.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 29 – Night of the Demons

As I had watched “Night of the Comet”, I knew that I would have to also watch today’s film.  I’d heard what a cult classic today’s film was, having numerous sequels and a recent remake (starring Shannon Elizabeth and Edward Furlong) to take credit for.  It also starred one of the famous “scream queens”, as Fangoria Magazine has called her, and hadn’t ever seen one of her films for which she acquired the illustrious moniker.

In addition, I wanted to try to include at least a couple films in this 31 Days of 31 Horror Films blog, and there are very limited amounts of films that involve trick-or-treat festivities, other than the famous series of films titled “Halloween”.

I wasn’t sure if I should view the remake, as it’s very recent and likely to be a film movie fans haven’t see yet.  When it came down to the wire, however, I decided the original that started it all was the only way to go.

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 29

Film #29


~ Night of the Demons ~

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2010 in Movies

 

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