To make up for my lack of reviewing in October I thought I'd celebrate getting back to my regularly scheduled programming by honoring my neglected tradition of doing monthly top 10 reviews. Back in 2006 I started writing down every movie I watch. Separated by monthly columns I number them and mark them with an asterisk if it's a first-time-view. Out of those first-times-views, I compose a top 10. I list them as best as I can in order of enjoyment, obviously number 1 would be my favorite. This doesn't necessarily mean it's traditionally "the best". I'm an unconventional critic and opinions are relative. So without further adieu, here is my Top 10 for October 2009.
1. Hausu (1977)
If movies had souls, this movie would be my soul mate. This movie brings a new meaning to the phrase "now I've seen EVERYTHING!". When you watch as much as I do you sometimes wonder if you've reached the epitome of weirdness. This movie convinced me that there will always be something else, something that goes above and beyond. Simply put, this is a haunted house movie, but so so much more! The story revolves around seven girls who go to one of their Aunt's house for vacation. The plot is relatively insignificant, immediately bizarre things start to happen and the girl are killed in more and more insane ways. It was made by experimental Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi who got his start directing television commercials (if you want to see a really funny example of this, do a youtube search for "Charles Bronson Mandom"). You can really see the influence as the movie itself is one giant, flashy, quick-edited, commercial for total BEDLAM! I read a review where someone said it's as if Beetlejuice were directed by Dario Argento, only it's SO MUCH BETTER! I would sooner compare it to the bastard child of Holy Mountain and the Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters. This is the kind of movie that makes you wonder why the film industry didn't come to a complete halt because it just doesn't get any better. Describing the movie is nearly impossible, reviewing it is just my tripping over endless compliments. So if you trust me and want to have a visually maddening mind fuck of an experience, find yourself a copy of this life changing movie.
2. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
I'm ashamed to say how long I went without seeing this. I'm a big fan of both Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. The movie revolves around two sisters who were formerly in show business. One, a crazed washed up child star (Davis), the other handicapped ex-movie star (Crawford) who's tormented and completely at the mercy of her insane sibling. Victor Buono gave a truly outstanding performance as well. I'm only used to him as King Tut from the Batman series from 1966. Robert Aldrich directed it, he later direct Davis and Buono again in Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte.
3. Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
Finally, my first encounter with the diabolical Dr. Mabuse. Often cited as the first super villain, Mabuse uses his powers of hypnosis and mind control to wreak havoc and destruction from behind padded walls and even beyond the grave. This Fritz Lang classic was the second out of three, but was later followed by many semi-sequels directed by other people. This is considered the last hurrah from German Expressionism.
4. Frenzy (1972)
I always liked him, but lately I've really been diving into Alfred Hitchcock's vast body of work. I recently got a set of his early movies, I also received the Hitchcock/Truffaut book for my birthday. After having seen Family Plot earlier this year (which I quite enjoyed despite it's reputation), I wasn't sure what to expect from this one. A guy is running around raping and strangling women with neckties in London. The guy being framed is down on his luck having just lost his job, apartment and is in an over-all shitty mood. When his ex-wife becomes one of the victims he becomes the prime suspect. It's filled with Hitchcock's quirky sense of humor. I particularly loved the banter between the inspector and his wife as she's serving him these elaborate meals that he hates. Great stuff!
5. the Unknown (1927)
the world silent film is almost completely untouched by me. I'm slowly trying to work my way through the history of film. Silent pictures have always seemed like a big hurdle for me, mainly because I didn't know where to start. In my research I started to become fascinated with Lon Chaney Senior. He was really an amazing person, both of his parents were deaf so he was a natural at acting in a silent film. The Unknown is about an armless knife thrower at a circus who's in love with his lovely assisstant (a very young Joan Crawford), who is afraid of the touch of a man. Naturally they'd be a perfect couple right? Well, as it turns out he really does have arms, he conceals them in a girdle because he's a wanted man and has a strange deformity , two thumbs on one hand! This horror classic just gets weirder and weirder!
6. the Invisible Man (1933)
Not sure why I put off watch this for so long. I probably didn't take into account how much fun it would be to see an invisible person do all sorts of things. Smoking a cigarette, throwing things, acting like a ghost. Claude Rains really made this role his own, considering you never actually see him act! This has easily earned him the title of my favorite Universal Monster!
7. Tales from the Crypt (1972)/ Vault of Horror (1973)
Ok, so they're two different movies. They're based from basically the same comic, they're both Amicus Anthologies, they were made back to back, and they just go together! Plus, I don't think I could choose between them! Tales from the Crypt stars Joan Collins, Ralph Richardson, Roy Dotrice and Peter Cushing. Five people enter a tomb for seemingly unknown reasons and one by one are told their stories by the Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson). In Vault of Horror (aka "Further Tales from the Crypt") five men enter an elevator that takes them to the basement where imbibements are ready for them, they get comfortable, eat , drink and slowly begin to tell of their "nightmares", horrible things they've done, or have been done to them. The Terry Thomas episode was really fun and brought some comic relief in. Buy the double disc! See them both!
8. Sisters (1973)
Brian DePalma's homage to Alfred Hitchcock. After a pair of siamese twins are separated, strange things begin to happen. Before the film's release DePalma was using different themes from different Hitchcock movies. Marnie, Rear Window, etc... Until it was suggested to him that he should just get Bernard Hermann to score the film! So he did and it works beautifully. I was really impressed with William Finley in this movie. After seeing him in the Phantom of the Paradise I almost didn't recognize him. In a lot of ways, he steals the show.
9. This Night I Will Possess your Corpse (1967)
Zé do Caixão is up to his old shenanigans again! Still trying to find a woman to bare his evil spawn. I actually liked this second instalment of the Coffin Joe series even more than the first, At Midnight I'll Steal you Soul. With essentially the same plot it's clear that José Mojica Marins had a bigger budget to work with. I enjoyed watching him scare girls with spiders in their beds and ravish the toughest girl amidst the screams of the other girls being bitten by snakes. I felt like the character had more depth in this movie and showed borderline human emotions. The Jigoku-esque nightmare sequence depicting a colorized version of Hell is worth seeing the movie for alone!
10. You'll Find Out (1940)
I've been highly anticipating the release of this Universal horror comedy of the "Spooks Run Wild" variety. The story revolves around Kay Kyser's band, who are playing at a young heiress' birthday party. Several creeps are out to kill the young lady so they can have her inheritance. The villains are played by Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre. This is one of the funniest movies of this genre that I have yet to see. Kyser was a surprisingly silly and charming leading man. The gags were great, the music was great, and Peter Lorre was on top of his game! What more could you want? How about a SONOVOX?! Yes, this movie is super cool.
the Wolf Man (1941), the Devil Doll (1936), the Raven (1963), Calling Dr. Death (1943), the Dark Backward (1991), the Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) [this would have made the top 10 but I bumped it down since it doesn't really fall into the horror genre, just to keep a theme going]
Lon Chaney Jr. (1906-1973)
Though none of his movies made the top 10, I feel that he deserves a
special acknowledgement for being so charismatic in all eight movies I saw him in this month.