Monday, November 1, 2010

Hallowe'en movies

I watched three movies on Hallowe'en.

Fellini Satyricon (1969)

Oh dear. This movie was very lavish. I'm sure it was also very artful. It certainly was bugfuck insane. It consistently kept me off-balance, did things I didn't expect, and everything about it was very inventive and bold.

So why was it so terribly dull?

It certainly looks striking

The story involves two students in ancient Rome who have picaresque adventures while fighting over the favours of a svelte young slave boy. These largely involve people going on & on & on at great length against extremely elaborate backgrounds and on extremely elaborate sets. It felt like an extremely wordy stage play that was barelay adapted to an extremely expensive movie, and then filmed by people who were very stoned.

As Michael pointed out, it felt a lot like an Alejandro Jodorowsky movie in terms of how completely weird it is. But for me, it had little of the intelelctual and spiritual charge of Jodorowsky's movies, and almost none of the interest.

I hope that Fellini's earlier movies turn out to be more interesting. This one was just self-indulgent wank. His fellow countryman Mario Bava, who worked in much more low-brow fields, was able to accomplish a lot more with a lot less many times. (And he seemed to know it; Fellini was a huge champion of Bava and was known to give his movies standing ovations - as well as the ultimate compliment of ripping him off; Fellini's Toby Dammit draws extensively from Bava's Kill Baby Kill.)

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

My favourite Hammer horror movie pits an imperious authoritarian figure (Christopher Lee) against a free-thinking mystic (Charles Gray). It feels like the establishment railing against some goddamned hippies, but I liked it anyway. Gray is superb as Mocata, the black magician inspired by Aleister Crowley (Dennis Wheately, who wrote the source novel, met Crowley once and seemed to take a lot of influence from him).

That guy really gets my goat

The best scene involves Mocata having a conversation with Marie Eaton (well played by Sarah Lawson) in which he methodically lulls her into submission and takes over her mind. If you watch the movie, pay attention to the editing of this scene; it's brilliantly put together.

Trick 'r Treat (2007)

Probably the best horror anthology movie I've ever seen, edging out the George Romero/Stephen King collaboration Creepshow (which it resembles in some ways), Trick 'r' Treat was a complete delight. It tells four stories that take place on the same Hallowe'en and in the same neighbourhood, which is being watched over by a creepy little urchin who seems to embody the spirit of Hallowe'en. The only cast members I recognised were Brian Cox (made up to resemble John Carpenter) and Anna Paquin (pre-True Blood). (I guess first-time director Michael Dougherty must have brought them over from X-Men 2, which he co-wrote.)

I am Sam. Sam I am.

All of the stories in Trick 'r' Treat were smarter than I expected, and the EC comics-style twists were perfectly realised. The Hallowe'en atmosphere was perfect, and the stories overlap in a fun way that reminded me of Pulp Fiction. More horror movies should be this well made and this much fun.

Maybe you'll see things my way before we get to Grandma's place...


  1. Anna Paquin always showed up in interestingly disparate films. I hope being inveigled in Yet Another Vampire Outing doesn't prohibit this.

  2. I've read The Devil Rides Out. I recall it being rather silly in precisely an establishment railing against hippies kind of a way, but the edition it was in was fabulous. It was a cheap paperback, and the back cover was an advertisement for Bovril (or something similar) which ran "After this [i.e. the scary novel], you need Bovril." That's the only book I've seen with tie in advertising like that.

  3. I fell asleep at various points in Satyricon, if I didn't say. :)

  4. Katie: judging from imdb, True Blood hasn't slowed down her theatrical output any.

    Sonia: that is truly brilliant. It must be twenty years since I read the book, but the movie at least cuts out the interminable descriptions of lavish dinners.

    Michael: so did I, ahem...