Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Three Films Make A Post: See the real poor white trash!

Dead of Night (1945): This Ealing studios production is of course a much-lauded classic of the horror anthology movie format; particular since this choice of decidedly supernatural tales was made at a point in film history when horror films actually aiming to creep their audiences out where rather thin on the ground. Being an Ealing production of its time, the anthology is rather on the classy side production-wise, too, with a well-rounded cast of characters and four rather excellent directors.

On the other hand, and looking at the film from today, it starts out a bit too harmless (even though this harmlessness does provide a nice escalation to proceedings), with the short “Hearse Driver” and “Christmas Party” segments feeling rather too harmless and obvious for a post-M.R. James world, and the comedic “Golfing Story” seeming completely misplaced. Fortunately, before the golfing bit, there’s Robert Hamer’s quietly creepy tale of a haunted mirror and after it, well, there’s Alberto Cavalcanti’s perfect and still immensely effective “Ventriloquist Dummy”, a tale to give Thomas Ligotti nightmares (or ideas, one suspects), and the clever wrap-up of the films linking story. So, I don’t think the film’s perfect, but once it gets going, it becomes so good I’d still use that (always dubious) masterpiece term to describe it.

Spooky Town aka Phantom Town (1999): As far as direct-to-DVD kids horror goes, Jeff Burr’s film is actually rather entertaining. Sure, it won’t scare anyone but the little ones (and I’m not sure in their case) but it’s got a bunch of surprisingly effective monsters, buckets of red goo, and a heart for rather weird turns more often than not. In fact, the plot is a lot like a classic Weird Tales story with added family values, so if you can cope with the latter, the former will probably entertain you quite decently.

Deathgasm (2015): Given my personal tendency to absurd earnestness and my distaste for pure gore movies (thanks, my fellow Germans, for the latter), I did not go into Jason Lei Howden’s film expecting much, even though the film adds “New Zealand”  and “Metal” to the gore comedy (which is generally a better sign). So, as I so often am (you really need to try the whole “low expectations” thing, it can work out oh so delightfully) I was very positively surprised by the film, found myself guffawing at a lot of its jokes, appreciating the gore, and the metal, but most of all I found myself delighted at encountering that really uncommon kind of gore comedy that does stuff like actually build (some of its) characters, have a plot, and know about basic narrative techniques like escalation, making the jokes about possessed eyeless people killed with dildos all the funnier.

But seriously, this one’s a true keeper, spirited, dumb in a clever way, and as slickly made as these things go.

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