21 October 2010

Fright Fest: Now in Black & White

What makes something a classic? Does it have to be old? How old? Is is just insanely popular? What about cult classics then? I choose to define a classic movie as one that has stood the test of time (so, probably at least 10 years old), that I can watch over and over (no easy task), and that is popular with more people than just myself. What makes a classic for you?

"Rosemary's Baby" - A young couple move into a new apartment (The Dakota, lucky bastards!) where they are surrounded by odd neighbors. Mia Farrow (Rosemary) begins to get paranoid (as women are want to do in a Polanski film) and it turns out she may very well have right to be.

The big argument now is: Is there ever a time when a celebrities personal life will influence their professional? I'm sure there are people who won't watch a Polanski film because of who he is. That's their prerogative. Me, I'm not sure I care. It certainly doesn't mean the movie is suddenly going to be bad. Polanski is certainly one of the most prolific auteur's working in film today. So, does it matter? "Rosemary's Baby" is a well crafted movie and adaptation of Ira Levin's book. It's creepy and well shot and acted. It's a great film!

"Them!" - New Mexico was home to early atomic testing. They thought they had taken every precaution, but they forgot one thing- ants. Now 1,000 times their usual size, these man-eating ants threaten to take over the world. Can they be stopped?

This has been one of my favorite movies since I was a kid. My Dad sat me down to watch it once when it came on TV and I was mesmerized. Growing up in Texas, I had a healthy fear of ants. Ants kill people here. At the very least, they can bite you a million time and you'll wish for death. The idea that these very same ants could become giant-sized and terrorize the city is terrifying!

"Five Million Years to Earth" - When the crew working on expanding London's subway system uncover a secret room complete with alien spaceship, Professor Quartermass and his team to investigate. Where did the ship come from? What happened to the aliens? What of the prehistoric humanoid skeleton found with the wreckage? This movie will have you guessing to the end.

AKA "Quartermass and the Pit", you have to be careful when looking for this movie that you get the 1967 film version and not one of the others made for TV. I stumbled across this movie one day on TV (god bless TCM and AMC). It's a great mix of what Hammer Film's was most famous for (slightly schlocky B-movies) and "legitimate" movie making. I heart Hammer and his American counterpart Roger Corman so much!

"The Exorcist" - William Friedkin direct's Willaim Blatty's adaptation of his own work in this stunning film from 1973. Regan (Linda Blair) is your typical teenager until the day she becomes possessed by a demon. Her mother (the always stunning Ellen Burstyn) calls on the help of Father Merrin (equally amazing Max von Sydow) to perform the exorcism.

Duh. Of course "The Exorcist" is on my list. It's still scary, period. Don't watch it on TV. For the longest time that was the only way I had seen it and I didn't understand some of the controversy. Of course TBS isn't going to show Blair's painful masturbatory scene, or say the "C" word, or much of anything else interesting. I later wrote a paper about this movie for a film class in college. Any movie that can cause the audience to vomit, pass out, or have a heart attack (that may not have been the movie, just unlucky) is a-okay in my book. Love. LOVE!

"Poltergeist" - Hip parents Craig T. Nelson and Jo Beth Williams move their clan into a brand new home in the subdivision Nelson helped design. Little do they know it's haunted and the ghosts only have one thing on their minds- Carol Anne, the youngest child. In come a group of paranormal investigators (and the wonderful Zelda Rubinstein) to try and get Carol Anne back once she has been sucked into another dimension.

I've mentioned seeing many of these movies when I was a kid. I assure you I had good (yet awesome) parents, they just based their treatment of such things based on our maturity not our age. My mother's only concern was gratuitous violence (doesn't count war movies. Thanks "Glory"). Sex, drugs, rock and roll were all fine by her book. Made for some uncomfortable family movie nights, but I'm grateful for it now. Of course, she worked and had no idea what we watched during the day. Sorry mom! She certainly knew how much I loved this film and it was probably my favorite scary movie growing up. I used to quote it incessantly and still do. "Walk into the light children! All are welcome in the light!"

"Poltergeist" is also famous for it's curse- 6 cast members have died since making this movie. Dominique Dunne (the sister) was strangled by a jealous boyfriend, Julian Beck (Kane in the 2nd film) died of cancer, Will Sampson (medicine man in the 2nd film) died of post-op kidney failure, and Heather O'Rourke (the star of the films) died from septic shock.

"White Zombie" - Though not as famous as the man who named his band after it, it is still famous for being the first zombie movie. Starring Bela Lugosi as an evil witch doctor who transforms a young woman into a zombie in order to lure her away from her boyfriend. Symbolism abounds in this classic Universal film.

I'd heard of this movie but hadn't seen it until fairly recently when it was given to me at a company white elephant party. Anything with Lugosi is going to be good and Madge Bellamy (vegetarian Texan!!) was an "aging" silent movie star trying to get back into pictures. Not scary, but amazing to see how far the zombie genre has come. It's also a great movie to debate!

"The Innocents" - A young governess (Deborah Kerr- "The King and I") becomes convinced the house she works at is haunted, and what's worse; the ghosts are after her two young charges.

It drives me crazy. I saw this movie on TV when I was home sick once in junior high, though it was called "Turn of the Screw" (after the Henry James book it is based upon). When I went looking for it later this version was all I could find that look remotely like the movie I had seen. Of course, it had been many years and I remember the book much more than the movie. It is after all, my favorite book of all time. Anyway, it's a great ghost story and psychological story. More debating over the hysterical woman archetype is sure to result from repeat viewings.

"Evil Dead 2" - Sam Raimi's remake of his own film 6 years later benefits from more money and slightly more experience. A group of friends head out to the woods to relax and do whatever it is young people do in a cabin; when they are attacked by demons. More funny than scary, it knows just how ridiculous it is and revels in it.

I don't care if this makes me unpopular, I liked #2 better than the original "Evil Dead". I mean come on! A tree rapes a woman for christ sake. How is that not creative and awesome? You should just watch the whole trilogy (includes "Evil Dead" and "Army of Darkness") and call it a day.

See Also: Bell, Book, and Candle; Psycho, Dracula (1931), Repulsion, any Hammer Studio's anthology,  The Wasp Woman, Earth vs The Flying Saucer, Forbidden Planet, Nightmare on Elm Street, Last House on the Left, Halloween,

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