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10/01 Direct Link
Uninvited (1988)
Greydon Clark

SCARINESS: *
FUN: *****
80s: ****

(A mutant cat, the result of a genetic experiment, terrorizes the crew of a yacht.)

Is the killer cat evil? No. It has a large puppet lodged in its throat, which would make anyone irritable.

This film saves time that might have been wasted in character development by using stock 80s characters (ambitious financial whiz kid, dorky best friend, sleazy gangster, etc...), and wisely invests the time saved into leering shots of the lead actresses in bikinis.

Favorite line: "I assume it pried through the sheet metal by itself with its own paws."

10/02 Direct Link
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
James Whale

SCARINESS: *
FUN: **
ROMANCE:

(Dr. Frankenstein and his former mentor attempt to create a companion for the monster.)

It isn't enough that, within seconds of seeing (and subsequently being rejected by) the female monster (and I refuse to call him her 'bride' since we got no indication of even her capacity to consent to that relationship) he decides to blow up the building in which he's standing, killing himself, but he also chooses that fate for her.

I was hoping to compile some "Halloween Tips for the Lovelorn" here, but I'll have to look elsewhere.

10/03 Direct Link
Fury of the Wolfman (1972)
José María Zabalza

SCARINESS: *
FUN: *
HUH: *

(A werewolf kills his unfaithful wife and her lover, then dies, then a scientist brings him back to life and whips him?)

I confess, I couldn't finish this movie. About 30 minutes in I realized the director had lost interest in the audience, so I got up to do some laundry. When I got back this hot scientist lady was whipping the werewolf and I watched another half hour before giving up. Apparently it is surrealism and I am too dumb to understand this masterpiece. So be it.

10/04 Direct Link
Prior to yesterday I would have told you that the most painfully unwatchable movie I had ever seen was Colman Francis' Red Zone Cuba. (And I was watching the MST3K version!)

Fury of the Wolfman was much worse. I could not physically bear to be in the same room with it, and I like bad movies.

HALLOWEEN TIP: If you're having a party and you want to make sure you have a polite way to get rid of guests, have a copy of FotW handy and put it on around midnight. The house will be yours again by half past.

10/05 Direct Link
My friend Ian went through a surrealist phase for a while back when I lived in Albany. I think he was depressed.

From him I learned how people who are into surrealism respond when a non-surrealist claims he or she doesn't "get" a surrealist piece of art. I will teach you:

Act as if this person has come into your house uninvited and does a poop on your expensive new white carpet that was only just put in.

If you would like to respond that way to my review of Fury of the Wolfman, you may be my guest.

10/06 Direct Link
From Beyond (1986)
Stuart Gordon

SCARINESS: **
FUN: ***
HORROR: ***

(A machine that activates the pineal glad allows users to see and interact with the terrifying creatures of the fourth dimension.)

The first half of this movie is really good, classic 80s horror, and the second half is good unconventional, slightly weird and gory and tasteless 80s horror. If that sounds good, you should watch this movie.

It doesn't have anything like the disturbing disembodied head rape scene of Re-Animator, either, although Barbara Crampton does still get groped repeatedly by a horny old fourth-dimensional monster man. You have been warned.

10/07 Direct Link
I was sad to learn that IMDB shut down its message boards early this year. After watching a movie you could get onto them and join discussions to talk about performances or plot questions or "did you see that guy?!" The boards partially fulfilled the internet's promise of bringing distant people together over shared interests for the common good.

Apparently racist trolls had overrun the boards and ruined them for everyone, and the only solution was for IMDB to burn the whole system to the ground.

Hey, good thing that's the only nice thing racist trolls ruined recently, though, right?

10/08 Direct Link
"Don't get involved in internet fights" is one of my guiding principles, and it has served me well. I know people who carry the torch of truth and justice into dark online places and nightly do battle with trolls, and all it gets them is headaches, heartburn, and high blood pressure.

Internet fights are a source of the intoxicating righteous anger that seems to give energy to so many people these days. They see themselves as heroically bringing truth to the benighted, but I think they might really be like sad mice running on wheels who think they're making progress.

10/09 Direct Link
Spider Baby (1967)
Jack Hill

SCARINESS: **
FUN: ***
ORIGINALITY: ****

(The last descendants of a family with a rare genetic condition struggle to contain their impulses when visitors arrive.)

I think black comedy must be one of most difficult tones to pull off in a film. Comedy is hard enough, but trying to do it with a semi-serious dark undertone is a real balancing act, and this one pulls it off. For being so full of murder, it also has a weird kind of goofy and gentle heart, depending on how generous you're willing to be with the definition of 'gentle'.

10/10 Direct Link
I don't like to leave bad online reviews for restaurants. A restaurant is a small local business that lives or dies by its reputation.

Last night I tried a different Chinese place, and it was probably the worst I've ever had in my life. I looked online and some people left four- and five-star reviews, saying "I LOVE this place -- I've been coming here for years!" I don't want to diminish their enjoyment with my brutal honesty. Taste is subjective.

Meanwhile I fear this dinner has permanently damaged my DNA and will confuse my organs for years to come.

10/11 Direct Link
Taste of Blood (1967)
Herschell Gordon Lewis

SCARINESS: 0
FUN: 0
FUCK THIS MOVIE: one million

(a deep-voiced asshole becomes a vampire)

Fifty minutes into this nightmare I realized I had more than another hour to go and I turned it off. Life is short and precious, and I couldn't bear the thought of carrying on when I could have spent my time doing something else.

What this movie has in common with Fury of the Wolfman is that the script seems to have been written by someone who has never actually heard human beings interacting with each other.

10/12 Direct Link
What if you came from a completely different culture from mine, huh, one that prized unity and togetherness and family warmth, say, and obedience to legitimate authority and a wholesome and healthy view of the human condition?

And what if I invited you in and offered you a beer and a burrito and sat you down on my couch and offered to show you one of these movies?

I want to read something written by that imaginary person about his or her views on our society, and the review of the film, and whether he or she liked the burrito.

10/13 Direct Link
Our Chaotic Evil president is never far from my thoughts these days. The way he wants credit for throwing paper towels to hurricane victims while he blames them for their condition, the casual way he threatens war, the way he so gleefully fucks over absolutely everyone... it's hard to believe.

I predicted that my capacity for outrage would have been burned out by this point, but he keeps surprising me with his depravity.

Reviewing horror movies is a fun escape from the bleak hellscape that is our daily news, but I want you to know that I am still outraged.

10/14 Direct Link
Watching horror movies is helping me to tamp down and distract myself from the increasingly loud and horrible voice in my head that asks what I'm doing with my life.

I don't have a good answer to this voice, and the question is appropriate. What I know is that I am not moving forward in any meaningful way. I am getting a lot done at work, but I don't want to look back on my life and say "my colleagues valued my work" as the big story of my existence. Surely I should be putting my energy into something else.

10/15 Direct Link
It is impolite to ask about someone's ethnic background, so unfortunately I cannot tell you which culture's autumn festival I participated in today. A new co-worker invited me and a few other people from the office to celebrate with her parents, grandparents, and extended family.

The day's highlight was the Skvaeshroosta (approximate spelling), the festive roasting of an enormous, thick-skinned squash stuffed with dark bread, spices, nuts, and candied fruit. Glasses of a bracing amber cordial were passed around, and traditional songs in a euphonious language were sung. I need to find out which country these people are from.

10/16 Direct Link
Mutant (1984)
John "Bud" Cardos

SCARINESS: ***
FUN: **
ENVIRONMENTALISM: ***

(Two brothers on vacation discover a town full of zombies.)

For me this movie was about the danger of misplaced optimism. People are always inappropriately reassuring each other that everything will be alright.

"You don't have to worry any more," Miss Pierce tells Billy, mere seconds before young Billy's blood is consumed by an entire bathroom full of child zombies.

The zombies were created by the careless dumping of toxic waste, by the way. Let's dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency! Who needs it? Everything will be alright! (One bonus star for SCARINESS.)
10/17 Direct Link
I have learned of a British game show called COUNTDOWN, and it is amazing. Watching the episodes online is my new method of procrastination.

Contestants get a random group of nine letters and try to make the longest word they can, then they get a random group of numbers and try to use the power of MATH to reach a target number.

In the last episode I watched, a guest came on and lectured viewers about the evils of plastic bags.

You might say this show would not fly in the U.S., but the NPR crowd would eat it up.

10/18 Direct Link
Witchcraft (1988)
Rob Spera

SCARINESS: **
FUN: *
WITCHCRAFT: *

(A woman is disturbed by the behavior of her mother-in-law and husband after she gives birth.)

I've seen my share of "mother and baby endangered by Satan-worshiping family members" films before, and this was the worst. I do not plan to seek out any of the twelve (???) sequels.

Wacky 80s best friend Linda is the one bright spot in this film. Sadly she doesn't survive to the end, but by then you won't care who is impaling whom with what, you'll just be ready for the credits to finally roll.
10/19 Direct Link
At work sometimes someone will send me a nice e-mail along the lines of "Thank you so much, you really helped," and these nice messages I put in the "Nice Messages" e-mail folder, which is a sub-folder of the "Saved Messages" folder.

The idea is that some day when I am feeling low or unsure about the whole idea of selling my time and labor for money in order to survive, I will will look in this folder and regain my motivation and zest. It works about as well as gripping my desk and grinding my teeth.

10/20 Direct Link
The Leopard Man (1943)
Jacques Tourneur

SCARINESS: **
FUN: **
CINEMATOGRAPHY: ***

(A nightclub singer and her manager investigate the deaths of several women after a leopard escapes.)

Thoughts:
* That alternate birthday song!
* "The Fortune Teller and the Castanet Player" would make a good Odd Couple-style comedy
* It's OK to have feelings and talk about them
* Cf. Bringing Up Baby
* Midway through the film, the low-charisma leads decide to become detectives. It's fun.
* A+ for atmosphere

If you love movies from this era or if you feel that castanets are given short shrift in modern films, don't miss The Leopard Man.

10/21 Direct Link
Challenge: Can you construct a headcanon that links the cinematic universes of The Leopard Man and Bringing Up Baby?

That's an easy one. After the events of Bringing Up Baby, the "bad cat" dyes his hair black and heads to New Mexico where he hopes to make a fresh start. He succeeds, mostly by sticking with the titular Leopard Man for a while, but when he is rented out he feels abandoned and goes back to his old ways after a castanet scare.

Thinking about it this way, we can see the dangerously thin line that separates comedy from tragedy.

10/22 Direct Link
TerrorVision (1986)
Ted Nicolaou

SCARINESS: *
FUN: ***
DUMBNESS: *****

(A monster from another planet is accidentally beamed to Earth, where it threatens a family.)

If you told me a panel of film experts got together and declared this the dumbest movie ever made, I would say, "That sounds about right." It is almost unbelievably dumb. You sometimes hear people say "I feel dumber for having watched that," but I actually do. Why did I watch the whole thing? Because it was also somewhat fun. But I can't exactly say that I liked it. It may have actually rotted my brain somewhat. Dangerous.

10/23 Direct Link
The Vault of Horror (1973)
Roy Ward Baker

SCARINESS: **
FUN: ***
TOM BAKER'S HAIR: *****

(Five men trapped in a sub-basement share their most frightful dreams.)

I really like these horror anthologies because sometimes you can't squeeze an entire feature out of a horror idea, but you can get 15 minutes out of it.

I especially enjoyed this one. These stories are mildly scary and funny and full of 70s English style. You'll say "Oh, it's that guy!" a lot. You'll see Doctor Who and that woman from Mary Poppins and that guy from the Indiana Jones films and so on.

10/24 Direct Link
My least favorite subject is myself. I have many conversational tricks for deflecting questions about myself and changing the topic to something else. How was my weekend? Weekends go by so quickly, don't they? Have you found a way to make them feel longer? Tell me more!

One such trick is reviewing horror movies. For each day that I watch a movie, I avoid the risk of revealing something about myself and my dreams and fears and hopes, and the dim little spark of humanity within me that connects us all.

In the end, what is there worth saying anyway?

10/25 Direct Link
I don't know why I keep coming back to candy. Candy does not make me happy.

I don't even really have a sweet tooth. I would rather have salt and vinegar chips than any kind of sugary treat. But for some reason, every few months, I buy some candy and eat it, and immediately feel sick and shaky and regretful.

I guess it's some childhood memory of having something colorful and sweet and somewhat forbidden, and the effects of sugar on a young nervous system that keeps me coming back. It's another of many "this is the last time..." situations.

10/26 Direct Link
SPOOKY TRUE CONFESSIONS

This is a pretty old house, and the basement has walls of native fieldstone and a dirt floor. The entrance is through a rusty bulkhead door. Until yesterday, I had never gone into the basement.

My landlord has a dehumidifier set up down there, and it started to beep several days ago. Rather than go into the basement, I decided to live with the beeping. I was slightly scared to go into the basement.

Finally the beeping got to me and I made the descent. It was just a normal basement. I am more than slightly ashamed.

10/27 Direct Link
She was very nice about it. I asked her a basic factual question I could easily have researched in five seconds online because I wanted a chance to talk to her, and possibly start a conversation.

She knew that's what I was doing, right? Women have a magical intuition that more or less equals a mind-reading ability, along with a complete understanding of the complex motivations of everyone around them?

No, they don't. I know that they don't. I have always known that, and I sometimes play dumb about it, but I do know that's not how it works.

10/28 Direct Link
SPOOKY TRUE CONFESSIONS, II

Talk about your frights, talk about your spooks, I just learned about the Japanese spider crab, one of nature's most frightful creatures. If you don't mind a chill down your spine, look up a picture online. It is a long-legged terror from the deep.

My neighbor has a large, long-legged plastic spider in his yard, and it didn't especially bother me until I learned about the JSC. Now I'm worried it will come to life and crab me up as I pass. I don't want to get pinched and dragged into its fearful maw.

10/29 Direct Link
I found a red Members Only jacket at the thrift store. It fit me pretty well, was in good condition, and would have cost about $5.00 if I'd chosen to buy it.

I spent too much time wondering about the former owner. When it put it on, did something happen to him, as the jingle suggested? Something bad?

I was probably five years old or so when this guy bought the jacket. Was it in good shape because he took care of it, or did it sit in his closet as he waited to be invited to a party?

10/30 Direct Link
I'm in Hamburg right now, but when I get home I will upload my horror movie spreadsheet, featuring my horror movie ratings from this and last year and put a link to it up in my 100words profile. You might want to check it out for your 2018 Halloween Horror Movie Marathon.

What's the best one I saw this year? Uninvited was so obnoxiously, stupidly good, but Spider Baby was the better movie. If I were recommending one publicly, I guess it would be Spider Baby. But between you and me, if you miss the 80s, you shouldn't miss Uninvited.

10/31 Direct Link
The last entry of the month is the most difficult because I feel like I should wrap up any themes that have emerged and atone for any harsh or unkind things I may have said, all in the space of one hundred words, and it's TOO MUCH pressure, and as you can see I am taking the easy way out by writing about writing rather than writing.

I utterly refuse to wrap anything up today, and if there are any loose ends I'll let them unravel for now and I'll deal with them later, when they become a bigger mess.