Hello guys! Once again here I am with your daily dose of horror from me in this incredible month of October. I hope that you had a great day, because I have, and you are all warm in bed this Saturday for another round of films. Who am I kidding, you’re all out there clubbing or whatever, I’m the only one here on bed writing and watching movies. Whatever.
So, today the Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness choice is an odd one. James Rolfe decided to talk about a Tv series, but not a regular one, but a kids Saturday morning TV show from the 70’s, made in Canada, featuring Vincent Price. The show is called ‘Hilarious House of Frightenstein’ (1971), and it features sketches and segments featuring famous monsters from film, like the werewolf, vampires, witches, creepy people in general. It would be a nice event to marathon an entire series for you guys, but there are two issues regarding this: it’s 130 episodes long (45 minutes each) and not all of them are available.
So, what I did was what James himself says in his video (which you can watch here), and I watched just one episode of it, to see how it works, and since I can’t really review an episode of a series as the whole thing (and I do have a tendency as well as an obligation to review things to completion), I moved forward and reviewed something else for today. I did watch the episode, and while I do think that I would’ve loved this as a kid, and it would’ve turned me on to monsters at a younger age, I think that right now it may be just a tad bit dated. I mean, of course it would, but you must understand that the whole thing has some really lame jokes, some awkward characters and overall a bit of a pace problem. I do think that the presence of Price helps this show a lot, as it brings some way of closure and connection between the parts. I can’t really rate it, but if I had, it would be a 7 out of 10, I even learned some stuff!
So, once I got that out of the way, and glad that I didn’t have to see an entire TV series, I decided to continue my way through the list, continuing from the year that we left off yesterday, and that is 1976, and there’s only one more Horror movie from the list that I haven’t seen yet, this classic that I’ve never had the chance to enjoy. So, let’s see what’s in store for us today!
This one isn’t necessarily a complex film, but it is one filled with little nuances that make it deeper and at the same time more fun to analyze and describe, specially when compared to horror fare of the time. This is almost a straightforward drama most of the time, a drama about losing what means to you in the inside, about losing the contact with God, about a society that feels that the end is near and that there’s not much to do here in this world, a movie about losing our family, the fear of the unknown, of how people that you care about aren’t what you think they are, a movie about the fear of death, that fear that we all fear, the fear of fears as some have described it, a movie, in the end, about coping with the fact that maybe God isn’t with us anymore, that it has left us to whatever the other side of the equation would like to do with us.
Shot in Panavision, thus using the large landscapes of houses, places, cemeteries and other places with huge horizons or even with enough detail to warrant a large shot, the movie is a gorgeous piece of cinematography that can only be hindered by the use of constant zooms and closeups, that make the movie lose part of its power in the presence of something greater than what we are dealing with, which I think is the illusion that most of the wide angles manage to have. Let’s look at one classic scene, the death of the priest riddled with cancer, when he is struck by a metallic pole that goes through his neck, we are given many shots from a distance to understand that, maybe, the punishment doesn’t really come from a demonic source, or from an accident, but maybe it’s divine judgement; or even worse, God is not here anymore and now the evil forces can take control of the fate of heaven.
The film’s plot is almost a classic, a topic of sorts, how the son of a powerful couple ends up being what seems to be the Anti Christ. The way that sequels and a remake (and a future Tv show as we speak) move around the same themes and recycle the same plot, we can see that it is an element that returns again and again because, as Zizek said (and as my girlfriend reminded me, I saw this movie with her and was great help in my appreciation of it), it is easier for an audience to feel that the world is ending than that the capitalist way of life could ever end. In a way, the use of power in the movie is intelligent, how the couple is chosen very carefully when it comes to who will be the one responsible of taking care of the kid. In a way it tries to use the demonic system that already has the world in shambles to go further and get done with it.
My favorite sequence (and my girlfriend’s) is the one at the cemetery, as the whole weight of the movie comes together in a fascinating way, just to feel like the world is crumbling, and it is in that pessimism that the film prevails as a great movie, a movie about how everything just goes wrong whatever you do. The presence of the jackal skeleton and how the grave destroys under its own weight is symbolic enough, but not as much as the act that our protagonist does when he finds the skeleton of his original kid: it doesn’t matter if they’re being attacked by dogs, he takes his time and covers the tomb, it’s his only relation left with something real, with something that may belong to God, or that reminds him of the world that he once cared about.