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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 21: Halloweentown

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 21: Halloweentown

As popular as Halloween is, and as much as many people associate it with horror films and scary monsters, there aren’t many films that pertain to the holiday in particular. John Carpenter’s classic started a trend in which horror films took on the moniker of other beloved festive days, including St. Valentines Day (My Bloody Valentine), Christmas (Black Christmas), even April Fool’s Day (April Fool’s Day).

When I hear of a film that takes place on the day for tricking (no, not William Friedkin’s Cruising. I mean a different kind of tricking) and treating, I instantly will add it to my queue for viewing on a brisk autumn evening.

When I came across today’s film and it’s myriad of sequels in the local video store, I decided to set aside the original intended film (that will come tomorrow), and give the first in the series a spin (or an insert, as it were. Although that has a different connotation entirely).

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 21: Halloweentown


Director: Duwayne Dunham
Year: 1988
Cast: Debbie Reynolds, Judith Hoag, Kimberly J. Brown, Joey Zimmerman, Emily Roeske
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 84 mins. / Color / OAR 1.37.1 / MPAA Rating: G
Rating: ★★★ / C

A group of siblings, who come from a long line of witches/warlocks, stowaway on their grandmothers magic bus in order to travel to the mysterious Halloweentown, where all the creatures of lore reside. Once they arrive, they discover that evil forces are at work, and they must band together in an effort to return Halloweentown to normal.

The Disney Channel original certainly is perfectly suited for Halloween. Goblins, witches, ghosts, and zombies are only a fraction of the denizens of the holiday themed town in which the film is set. It features some impressive costuming and effects, particularly the skeletal cab driver.


However, the film is hardly bound to be enjoyable to any viewer over the age of 13, whereas another film focusing on the notion of there being a mysterious other dimensional town for each of the US holidays is timeless and appeals to all ages. I found the jokes to be juvenile, the acting to be hokey, and the storyline to be formulaic. While I always find it enjoyable to see modern films with actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood, I’d rather it be in roles that I certainly could enjoy.

Reynolds, playing the matriarchal role, is perfect, even in her over-the-top performance. The rest of the cast, however, appears to be trying, resulting in a stilted performance.

Other elements of the story were simply tired, mere rehashes of other films, like Mary Poppins or Bedknobs and Broomsticks. However, newer viewers may not be entirely familiar with those more beloved classics, hence my assessment that the prepubescent crowd my be more entertained.

Given a choice, and looking for a timeless fantastical story of magic, I’d rather settle for the aforementioned Nightmare Before Christmas, or either of other Disney classics mentioned above.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 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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