Grotesquely happy, murderous singing cowboy Tim Blake Nelson explains that he’s not a misanthrope in the Coens’ most self-referential piece yet, before he’s killed by a Hail Caesar singer.

James Franco gets hanged for his comically failed bank robbery, then again after escaping on account of Indians killing the guys hanging him, the point of the episode seeming to be the joke where he turns to another guy getting hanged and says “first time?”

(Nearly?) mute Liam Neeson wheels a monologuing human torso (Harry Melling) from town to town until tastes change and Neeson finds new entertainment that’s cheaper to feed. A haunting and cynical segment – wonderful looking, with rich storybook color, as are they all.

Tom Waits as an ol’ prospector, the role he was born to play, just searching for gold in a gorgeous river valley amongst deer and owls. The lead character has died at the end of every segment so far, so I was afraid for Tom, but he turns the tables on would-be thief Sam Dillon.

Finally it’s a woman’s turn to meet a sorry end: nervous Zoe Kazan, a wagon train widow who is very nearly protected from Indians by Bill Heck and Grainger Hines.

Then five mismatched people in a coach, like a Stagecoach parody, ending up like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors with all of them already dead.

Watched at the Landmark, and reserving further comment until I either rewatch and get some sweet screenshots, or order that Adam Nayman book.

Oh no, it’s a bunch of right proper British people. Just looking at them in their identical suits, I can tell they’re going to tell the most tame unscary ghost stories and the others will act like it’s just so horrible they might spill their tea.

Mr. Craig (Mervyn Johns, 1951’s Bob Cratchit) arrives at a hotel, says he’s never been there and doesn’t know anyone but he has dreamt this and knows what will happen. Series of stories/flashbacks ensue, while a doubting psychologist with an overdone accent (German Frederick Valk) observes.

Cratchit and the German:

First we’ve got auto racer Hugh (Anthony Baird), who had a premonition of a creepy hearse driver that reminded me of the first story of The King in Yellow, skips riding a bus that ends up crashing. Not a terribly spooky way to start the movie, if you haven’t just read The King in Yellow, directed by Basil Dearden of The League of Gentlemen fame.

Next, Sally (Sally Ann Howes) recalls a party, and the only thing worse than uptight proper British adults is British youngsters. She meets a ghost boy who lives in the walls, and either this segment was quite short and nothing much happens, or I’m just blocking it from my mind due to all the youngsters.

A good one next, by Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets), in which a wife (Googie Withers of One of Our Aircraft is Missing) gives her new husband (Ralph Michael) a haunted mirror, which shows him an alternate reality that entrances him for hours at a time.

Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob) directs the weirdest segment, a love triangle between two sportsmen who propose a golf game to win the hand of Mary (Peggy Bryan), who is delighted by the idea instead of appalled, because it was the 1940’s. The older Michael Caine-looking guy wins by cheating, so the other guy suicides into the water hazard, then returns as a ghost to torment his buddy during golf games. The two guys are Charters and Caldicott of The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich and Crook’s Tour, and I wouldn’t normally welcome a wacky comedy golfing bit in the middle of my ghoul anthology, but they pull it off.

Finally, the obligatory ventriloquist dummy story, directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, who also did the framing story and the youngsters with the ghost in the walls. I’ve seen Cavalcanti’s gonzo silent Nothing But Time, but he has fully adjusted to the sound era, because all the characters talk too often and use too many words. Hartley Power is a balding ventriloquist who crashes the show of Michael Redgrave (also The Lady Vanishes, and The Go-Between), annoyingly creates a rivalry where there didn’t need to be one, while the psychologist has himself a flashback-in-a-flashback. I think one of the dummies is alive, but I was focused on the movie having a Harry Parker and a Larry Potter, and how close they came. Whole bunch of writers, including H.G. Wells, who did the golf story of all things.

There’s a new Puppet Master movie out this year, so I am falling behind – decided to watch the last of the “classic” series. It’s the Puppet Master clip show, featuring scenes from the other movies in roughly chronological order, with a framing story of an anti-Toulon woman reading a giant book, presumably the official novelization of Puppet Masters 1-7, then trying to get the secret of eternal puppet life out of some vaguely Toulon-looking guy (Jacob Witkin of the Evil Bong trilogy). She’s an assassin, who conveniently claims to have killed the survivors of previous movies, so no more sequels I guess.

We start with the Greg Sestero movie, go through the nazi era to parts one and two, then the laser tag sequels. With all these craptastic movies crammed into one hour, the few decent performances stand out: Guy Rolfe, and surprisingly Cameron, the asshole computer rival in part four. I thought the flashbacks would be a “best of Puppet Master,” so a montage of murder scenes, but the writer/directors (ashamed, working under pseudonyms) assume we watch these movies because we care about the fleshed-out history of original puppetmaster Andre Toulon, so it’s all the mythology stuff (with some good murders mixed in). As a result, this is probably the best Puppet Master movie – but if you’re some kind of idiot who watched the previous seven of these, then there’s no need for it, unless we’re gonna need all this recapping in order to follow Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys.

I’ve been rewatching Reichart’s films and checking out the ones I missed (River of Grass and Night Moves) in prep for this – not only a new Reichardt film but an in-person visit and Q&A in little ol’ Lincoln. Katy liked Certain Women more than she expected to, and between the build-up, the Q&A and after-film discussions, I’ve put much offline energy into this movie, so will keep this post relatively short, leaning on quotes.

Three episodes, based on stories by Colin Meloy’s older sister. Laura Dern is a lawyer representing Jared Harris (I Shot Andy Warhol) who accepted a worker’s comp settlement and now won’t accept that he can’t sue. When he storms a city building and takes a hostage in order to review his file, Laura is sent in to talk him down. Next, Michelle Williams is trying to buy sandstone from elderly Rene Auberjonois (Deep Space Nine), but she and husband James Le Gros are having trouble forming a unified strategy. And third, lonesome rancher Lily Gladstone finds Kristen Stewart teaching night classes and starts attending in order to get closer to her.

Paula Bernstein: “Though the three segments of the film are only peripherally connected, they share the same pensive tone and convey a palpable sense of loneliness.” I thought they were just barely connected (Dern is glimpsed at the end of part three) until Katy pointed out that Dern is sleeping with Williams’s husband in the opening scene.

Alice Gregory:

While a lone man can be a hero — readily and right from the start — a lone woman is cause for concern. Despite their painterly settings and near-silent soundscapes, Reichardt’s films are animated by a sustained unease. The viewer anticipates a threat that could but never quite does progress to a state of emergency … It’s the low-grade but unrelenting sense of hazard that is a woman’s experience of merely moving through the world, an anxiety so quiet and constant it can be confused for nothing more than atmosphere.

D. Kasman:

With the exception of Gladstone’s lone rancher, these certain women are actually doing much better in their lives than Reichardt’s Oregonian outcasts she has so movingly introduced us to in the past, yet they each are united in a common feeling, emotional and existential, of just being on the outside, of being held on the cusp of what would make them happy and fulfilled.

Anthology movies are a SHOCKtober tradition – a tradition of uneven movies with at least one entirely bad segment and a hodgepodge of acting. This one’s pretty consistent in tone and instead of a framing story, the episodes transition into each other and even loop back-to-front. Doomed sketches set in a Twilight Zone-ish small-towns-and-wasteland universe, the sort of place a latter-day Hellraiser sequel would be set (the title perhaps a play on Hellbound). It’s also the second movie I’ve seen this month to feature David Yow, so that’s something special.

The Way Out and The Way In (Radio Silence)

The segments get named in the credits. Radio Silence = guys who made one of my favorite V/H/S segments. Blood-spattered Mitch and Jack are fleeing from floating grim-reaper demons, but caught in a time loop. Finally Jack is tired of running and a (really well-designed) monster just tears him apart. Mitch ends up in a hotel…

Siren (Roxanne Benjamin)

Three girls in a rock band leave the hotel and break down, are rescued by a family who turn out to be in a demonic cult. Reference to a fourth band member who died, which seems to be an artificial time-filler, discord-spreader. No need, since Ava and Kim eat the mystery meat at dinner and become possessed by the devil, while Sadie escapes, only to be hit by a car. The director was a producer on the three V/H/S movies, and survivor Fabianne Therese was in John Dies at the End.

The White Tights:

Kensington Twins:

The Accident (David Bruckner)

Bruckner made the V/H/S segment where two dudes bring a large-eyed hellbeast girl home from the bar. I’m starting to sense a connection between this movie and the V/H/S series. This one was my favorite. The guy Lucas who hit Sadie with his car calls 911 and follows their advice, to load her into his car and drive into town looking for help. Panicky Lucas (Mather Zickel, Jon’s bodyguard on Delocated season 2) finds the town abandoned, loads the girl into the local hospital and continues to follow phone instructions to save her life. He ends up killing her and the voices on the phone laugh at him.

Jailbreak (Patrick Horvath)

Transition via one of the “911 operators” at a pay phone to a forsaken town full of cult symbols where Danny (David Yow!) busts into a bar (named The Trap, ugh) with a gun to rescue his sister Jesse (Omaha’s Tipper Newton), for whom he’s searched for over a decade. But Jesse doesn’t want to leave, and despite his gun everyone here seems more dangerous than Danny. Horvath made no V/H/S episodes, but wrote/directed The Pact 2.

The movie kinda peters out from this segment into the next one, a generic home-invasion scene by masked intruders avenging something or other, killing the parents and tenacious, bat-wielding daughter. As demon-creatures rise from the corpses, the masked killers turn out to be the dudes from the first episode.

I guess I’m starting to get Pasolini’s style, thanks not to this confusing movie but to the blu-ray extras, which say he combines his knowledge of art and iconography with deliberately naive framing and ignorance of film history and style, influenced by Gramsci (“the revolutionary potential of the arts”) and the neorealists (who insisted on a “high level of political and cultural engagement on the part of directors and writers”). In retrospect I can see how these ideas work, but in my experience of watching the movie, it seemed like a silly bunch of populist, amoral comedic sex stories, lightly enjoyable.

First, someone is murdered in a cave, but it’s dark and I’m not sure what’s happening or if it’s important.

Then Andreuccio (Ninetto Davoli) is scammed by a princess who claims to be his long-lost sister before ejecting him into a toilet and stealing his money. He finds fortune with grave robbers later that night, stealing a gemstone ring from a bishop’s crypt.

Masetto pretends to be stupid and mute in order to gain favor with the nuns and eventually have sex with all of them.

A husband returns home to his cheating wife Peronella where she has stashed her lover in a huge vase, pretending that he’s interesting in buying it. This is when I realized that none of these episodes are related in any way.

Legendary liar/forger Ciappelletto (Franco Citti, title star of Accattone – aha, learned that he’s the murderer in the prologue) is dying, gives a final fake confession to a very impressed priest.

A multi-part episode framed by the story of a painter (Pasolini himself) working on a mural… also featuring young lovers Caterina and Ricardo caught nude on a balcony and forced to marry… Lorenzo is killed by his lover’s brothers and she finds his grave and keeps his head… and a sex fiend returns from the dead to tell his buddy that the afterlife has “nothing against screwing around”

Back to the painter: “Why complete a work, when it’s so beautiful just to dream it?”

Won a prize in Berlin (despite featuring some of the laziest dubbing work I’ve ever seen) where Vittorio De Sica took the Golden Bear. “It also quite infamously started a trend of pornographic films based on Boccaccio’s Decameron, something Pasolini actually found very upsetting,” per Patrick Rumble’s vital video essay.

Five stories of People Driven To The Brink: a great opening segment set on a plane, then four mediocre, pointless segments. Kinda fun to watch for a while, but I can’t believe the acclaim this thing got. Went up against Leviathan, Timbuktu and the winner Ida for the foreign oscar. I guess its defenders hoped the artistically-serious vote would cancel itself out and the goofball candidate would take the prize.

First episode has a flight full of people who gradually realize that they all know the same guy – and they’ve each wronged him in some way – and he’s the pilot. Then comes the best part of the movie: the opening titles.

Part 2: a diner waitress realizes the sole customer one night is the gangster who drove her father to suicide. The chef poisons the guy’s son then stabs the gangster. Part 3: rich guy vs. normal guy road rage incident goes out of control, ends with explosive deaths. Fourth: an explosives expert’s car keeps getting towed, ruining his family life. Guess what he does? Next, rich family’s son drunkenly kills pregnant woman, family pays their gardener to take the blame, bribes are negotiated then gardener is murdered by dead woman’s husband. Finally, a bride discovers at wedding that her husband has been cheating, makes a scene.

Editing to music: something more movies should do. It’s fun and easy.

After portraying the producers as wolves, vultures and lions:

A massive hit in Argentina. “Every story in Wild Tales has to do with the clash between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the dispossessed” – Quintín writes about how the movie cautiously addresses the problems facing Argentina, convincingly calls it an important film despite its light-violent-entertainment appearance to outsiders like myself.

More consistently great than part one, with higher high points (Robert Morgan!). I’m tempted to make a playlist of ABCs highlights and edit myself a super-anthology but I’ll wait until part three comes out next year.


Amateur
Imagined scenario of cool, efficient sniper in the air vents taking out his target, then reality of tight insect-infested ducts full of nails. Great ending. Director EL Katz also made Cheap Thrills.


Badger
Directed by and starring Julian “Howard Moon” Barratt. Asshole nature-doc spokesman (Barratt) is abusive to his crew, gets eaten by badgers.


Capital Punishment
Local gang of vigilantes take a dude suspected of killing a girl out to the woods and clumsily behead him. Meanwhile the girl turns out to have run away, is fine. Director Julian Gilbey made A Lonely Place To Die, which is probably better than Wingard’s A Horrible Way To Die.


Deloused
I probably would’ve skipped ABCs of Death 2 had I not heard that Robert Morgan was involved. This was… inexplicable… and amazing, and ultimately makes the entire anthology worthwhile. Involves insects and beheadings and knife-arms.

Equilibrium
Funny and well put-together, with single long takes simulating time passing. Couple of idiots stranded on a beach are unexpectedly joined by a pretty girl. Jealousy ensues, then they return to bliss by killing the girl. Alejandro Brugués made the Cuban Juan of the Dead.

Falling
Israel/Palestine, woman whose parachute is stuck in a tree convinces a rifle-toting kid to cut her down, he accidentally shoots himself in the head. Nicely shot, anyway. Directors Keshales and Papushado made Israeli horrors Rabies and Big Bad Wolves (a Tarantino fave).


Grandad
Grandad is tired of his disrespectful grandson living with him. Jim Hosking is working on something called The Greasy Strangler next. Grandad Nicholas Amer has been around, worked with Peter Greenaway, Jacques Demy and Terence Davies.


Head Games
During a makeout session, a couple’s facial features go to war with each other in classic Plympton style. One of two Bill Plympton anthology segments from this year – we missed The Prophet.


Invincible
Old woman will not die, siblings want her inheritance and try everything to kill her. Stylishly shot (as are most of these, so it’s maybe not worth writing that anymore). Erik Matti (Philippines) got awards for crime flick On The Job last year.


Jesus
I think it’s supposed to be payback on a couple of dudes who torture and murder homosexuals, but when the kidnapped gay guy displays his demonic powers I’m not sure what’s going on anymore. Dennison Ramalho wrote latter-day Coffin Joe sequel Embodiment of Evil and actor Francisco Barreiro is showing up everywhere this month.


Knell
Initial scene where girl witnesses supernatural globe over the building across the street followed by people in every apartment turning violent was like Rear Window meets The Screwfly Solution, then it continues in the direction of total doom. Directors Buozyte and Samper are apparently Lithuanian, also made a surreal sci-fi thing called Vanishing Waves.


Legacy
Guy to be sacrificed is being set free and is arguing with this decision, and I lose the plot after that, but there are groovy, cheap Metalocalypse-looking gore effects. Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen is Nigerian, has made a million movies so far since 2003.


Masticate
Drugged-out flesh-eating fat man goes on rampage before he’s killed by cop, all in slow-motion and set to a jangly pop song. Robert Boocheck made a short that apparently played in an anthology called Seven Hells.


Nexus
Cleverly timed and editing, goes for tension instead of twist ending since we figure out early on that the distracted cabbie is gonna hit the guy dressed as Frankenstein. Larry Fessenden made Habit and Wendigo and The Last Winter, all of which have been on my to-watch list forever and just came out on blu-ray.


Ohlocracy (mob rule)
After the cure for zombiesm is found, human zombie-killers are sentenced to death by a kangaroo court. Hajime Ohata made the non-Kafka movie called Metamorphosis.


P-P-P-P Scary!
Poppy, Kirby and Bart look like escaped convicts, have big noses, meet a face-morphing guy who does a jig, blows out their candles and murders them inexplicably. Todd Rohal made The Catechism Cataclysm, and I might’ve guessed this was him.


Questionnaire
While a guy correctly answers questions on an intelligence test, we see flash-forwards to the “career opportunities” the interviewer has in mind for him (brain transplant with gorilla). I watched Rodney Ascher’s The Nightmare just last week.


Roulette
German game of Russian Roulette ends with the sixth-chamber guy shooting his beloved instead of himself, as some unknown evil approaches. Marvin Kren made Rammbock and Blood Glacier.


Split
Like a remake of Suspense but with more baby murdering. Hammer-wielding intruder destroys family of cheating husband(s) during a phone call.
Juan Martinez Moreno made horror-comedy Game of Werewolves.


Torture Porn
Girl in porn audition turns out to be Cthulhu, I guess. Jen and Sylvia Soska are identical twins who made American Mary and Dead Hooker in a Trunk.


Utopia
Self-driving incineration machines deal with non-beautiful people. Vincenzo Natali made Cube and Splice.


Vacation
Dude is on phone with girlfriend when dude’s friend reveals they’ve been doing drugs and prostitutes while on vacation. The friend is disrespectful, and one prostitute stabs him many times with a screwdriver. Jerome Sable made last year’s Meat Loaf-starring Stage Fright.


Wish
Kids go inside their off-brand Masters of the Universe playset, discover it’s horrible in there. Steven Kostanski made Manborg, which looks similarly wonderful.


Xylophone
Kid won’t stop playing her damned toy xylophone while babysitter Beatrice Dalle (of Inside, the first actor I’ve recognized since Julian Barratt in letter B) is trying to listen to opera records. Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo made Inside, of course. Credits say Beatrice is the grandmother not the babysitter, which makes sense since babysitters should leave antique record players alone.


Youth
Miyuki hates her mom and stepdad, imagines them dying in tremendous ways. Soichi Umezawa is a longtime makeup artist who worked on Bright Future and Dr. Akagi.


Zygote
Dad abandons pregnant mom with a 13-year supply of a root that delays labor. Horribleness ensues. Chris Nash has made a bunch of shorts.

Lots of afraid-looking ladies standing in finely arranged rooms with mysterious glowing green light sources, speaking with absolutely appalling lipsync, the worst I’ve seen. This was made a few years after Black Sunday, which is somehow a different movie. Their original Italian titles are something like Mask of Satan and Three Faces of Fear, which are far more descriptive, since Black Sunday is about a mask of satan, and this one is an anthology of three fear-based short stories introduced by Boris Karloff.

The Telephone

Pretty good suspense story, with your usual black-gloved Italian knife murderer. Rosy (Michele Mercier, friendly prostitute in Shoot The Piano Player) is being harassed by telephone, thinks her just-escaped-from-prison ex Frank is returning for revenge, so calls over her former friend Mary. But Mary was making the calls as a fun prank in order to get invited over. As she writes a letter explaining this, Rosy’s just-escaped-from-prison ex Frank arrives and strangles Mary, then he’s killed by a knife-wielding Rosy, who now has no more friends. Fun fact: if you speak into the phone through a folded handkerchief your voice sounds just like Frank’s.

Dead by dawn! Dead by dawn!

Old friends hangin’ out:

The Wurdulak

Count Vladimir arrives at an inn where the locals are holed up in fear of wurdulaks: zombies who “yearn for the blood of those they loved most when they were alive.” When Father returns from hunting wurdulaks, it’s clear to the viewer that he has become one, because he’s Boris Karloff and looks insane. Yup, Boris kills his son Massimo Righi (of Danger!! Death Ray and Planet of the Vampires), steals his grandson and rides into the night. Vlad hangs out through all this because he thinks some girl is pretty (“my lips are dead without your kisses”), so he’s as doomed as they are.

The Drop of Water

Helen (Jacqueline Pierreux, Jean-Pierre Leaud’s mom) is a nurse, I guess. She’s called to the house of a dead recluse by Milly the maid, interrupting Helen’s plans to sit alone and get drunk, so understandably she is annoyed. While dressing the dead woman in funeral clothes, she steals the woman’s ring. This ring was apparently the source of the old woman’s fatal ghostly torment, because when Helen goes home and resumes drinking, after being harassed by flies and not-at-all-scary drops of water, she becomes possessed and strangles herself. Her landlady steals the ring, etc. This would have easily been the worst chapter if not for the dead old lady’s amazing death mask.

After all this, Karloff reappears and Bava reveals the studio artifice, Taste of Cherry-style. Karloff, a few years after Corridors of Blood, looks like he’s having fun.

Segments were written by Tolstoy and Chekhov (really). IMDB says Polanski choking himself in The Tenant was a reference to this, and apparently the mom in The Babadook is seen watching it.