Rae Fitzgerald again, solo this time, and better suited for the Globe venue. No music during the psychic/medium sessions – was there any music at all? Some false leads and wrong guesses during the sessions, some spot-on apparent knowledge of strangers’ lives, and lots of affirmation – it’s posed as a form of counseling/therapy, for the mediums as well as their customers. Present, but uncaptured by DP Stephen Maing (who was down the street introducing Union) were the ghosts of beloved partners, children, a great(x5) grandfather, and a bearded dragon. Some humor but the crowd never laughing at the film’s participants, and breaking scenes to talk to the director/crew is left in, the cameras welcomed to the mystery. An A24 release so hopefully this will play out, and all the Everything Everwhere / Past Lives fans will watch it.

Scott Tobias in The Reveal:

Most admit that they’re improvising through uncertainty, working from an intuition that often betrays them. A cynic might consider them con artists. Wilson’s film frames them as seekers.

The Thirteenth Chair (1929)

After London After Midnight came three more Lon Chaney pictures including West of Zanzibar. Now, Browning’s love for headscarves leads him to India, and his love for Hungary leads him to Bela Lugosi. This is quite good for a 1929 sound film, but it hurts to exchange the long, lingering silent facial expressions for inane upper-class British conversational pleasantries. There’s no transitional period, the movie is crammed wall-to-wall with dialogue as if spectators were paying by the word.

Madame LaGrange is played by an actress named Wycherly, which would’ve been a cooler name for her medium character. Yes, we’re back in Mystic territory, and to prove her authenticity she explains the mechanics of the usual tricks used by mediums, then proceeds to her spiritual work uncovering a murderer. Someone dies during the first of two lights-out seances (during which the movie achieves maximum talkie-ness, becoming a radio play) so Inspector Lugosi arrives, and star Conrad Nagel’s girl Leila Hyams emerges as chief suspect, but it turns out some other blonde lady killed both guys.


Dracula (1931)

Written about this before… watching now with the Philip Glass / Kronos Quartet score, hell yes. The music is mixed higher than the dialogue, as it should be. Now that I’ve seen Thirteenth Chair I have to say this is extremely awesome in comparison, dispensing with the constant dialogue and returning to beautiful image-making with big Lugosi close-ups.


Freaks (1932)

Wrote about this before, too. More movie-worthy characters in this hour-long film than in Browning’s whole pre-Dracula career combined. Over 50 years later Angelo had a plum role in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Before Dracula, Browning made that Outside The Law non-remake, before Freaks came boxing drama Iron Man, and afterwards was Fast Workers… a comedy?


Mark of the Vampire (1935)

John Fordian Dr. Donald Meek busts into an inn just as idiot tourists are getting the talk about why we don’t go out at night (bad idea to watch the same night as Dracula since it’s all the same vampire explanations to incredulous people). Inspector Atwill, a large mustache man, arrives to investigate a mysterious death. Fedor and Irena are survivors, swoop-haired Otto is her guardian. Meanwhile, Dracula himself (played as a wordless zombie monster with no suave dialogue) and his undead daughter Luna lurk in a nearby castle. Professor Barrymore arrives to do some Acting, a welcome diversion, while Irena’s dead dad Sir Karell has become a zombie Drac-follower, and Irena has begun acting vampy herself.

Somehow the plot gets even more convoluted, and Browning and Lugosi’s involvement becomes an in-joke, because the “vampires” have only been performers in Barrymore’s Holmesian plot to make swoop-haired Otto confess to killing his friend, hypnotized into re-committing his crime. Good performances in this, though nothing else really works, and the rubber-bats-on-strings technology hadn’t improved since ’31. I liked how no two people manage to pronounce the character names the same way.

Clanker, the Jump-Scare Cat:


The Devil Doll (1936)

Nobody told me this would be a Bride of Frankenstein ripoff cowritten by Eric von Stroheim. Maybe bitter that another director remade Tod’s Unholy Three with Lon Chaney, he goes ahead and rips that off too. Lionel Barrymore is a banker who got backstabbed by his partners and sent to prison, escapes to get revenge – wrongly(?)-accused man becoming a murderer on the run.

First stop is scientist Marcel (Henry Walthall, the yellow shut-in of Griffith’s House with Closed Shutters) to borrow his shrinking formula. He’s working on miniaturization to alleviate world hunger (isn’t this the plot of Downsizing?) but has a heart attack while shrinking the maid, so his devoted wife Malita (Rafaela Ottiano, who’d worked with Barrymore on Grand Hotel) comes along to continue his research by shrinking some bankers, Lionel hiding in plain sight as an old woman running a doll shop.

First off is nervous mustache banker Arthur Hohl (a cop in The Whole Town’s Talking), then they use a devil-doll to rob the house of Robert Greig (who played butler-typed in Preston Sturges movies). The dolls are mind-controlled by their masters (I missed Marcel’s explanation for this) and this doll-heist setpiece is cool enough to justify the entire movie.. Barrymore wants to see his beloved family members now that he’s out, so he pays disguised visits to his blind mom (Lucy Beaumont, who’d played Lionel’s brother John’s mom in The Beloved Rogue) and his lovely grown daughter (Maureen O’Sullivan started acting at the dawn of sound cinema and died in 1998 in Scottsdale, so she may well have watched Fargo in Arizona like we did).

Malita and tiny assassin:

The third banker is Pedro de Cordoba (a circus player in Hitchcock’s Saboteur), who surrounds himself with police then sweatily confesses that he railroaded Barrymore right as his doll-sized colleague was about to stab him with paralysis/shrink syrup. Malita helpfully/fatally blows up the lab/shop because Barrymore’s mission is done but she wants to go on shrinking things. Happy-ish ending for Barrymore, who meets his daughter and her beau Toto atop the Eiffel Tower, but after all the murdering he’s got to stay on the run. Browning’s penultimate film – he’d turn in one more comedy before forced retirement.

Bad move to watch an awesome HK movie near the start of Shocktober, because now I’m off-mission listing HK movies I need to see, considering a TsuiHarkTober rebrand. Leslie Cheung, incompetent in his job as a tax collector, is told he can sleep for free in the spooky old temple infested by stop-motion skeletal zombies. Meanwhile White Snake herself, Joey Wong, is a hot ghost girl doomed by a giant tree called Old Evil to lure men into becoming new stop-motion skeletal zombies.

Joey with her evil stepmom:

“The bearded guy killed your sister. Let’s report him.” Wu Ma is in every kung fu movie but gets a rare big role here as the bearded guy. After Leslie meets the hot girl (Hsiao-tsing, aka Siu Sin, which sounds just like “Susan”) he gets the bearded guy invested in rescuing her soul and defeating the spirit so she can be reincarnated. They spend a long time fighting a gigantic tongue in the woods… cool movie.

Typical dumb-youth peer-pressure setup, the idea of grabbing the cursed severed hand and letting random angry ghosts inhabit your body for a couple minutes quickly turns from an unthinkably bad idea to a hilariously fun drinking game. The movie makes summoning demons for social media clout seem like a realistic idea, then after a wild possession party, Mia lets her little brother Riley participate, and while possessed he smashes his face and blinds himself, so party’s over.

Mia and the kid are still somewhat possessed, making a series of bad decisions (he is violently suicidal, she steals the demon-hand and decides to murder her dad). Craziest part was the sound mixing, when watching at home through the soundbar, you turn up the volume to hear the mumbly teens then the sounds of match strikes and knives whistling through the air are loud enough to shake the walls. The directors are famous youtubers who’ve already got Talk 2 Me and Untitled Prequel on their filmographies.

Riley, Mia, Young Jason Momoa from Aquaman, Jade:

Already my second movie of the month where someone stabs themself in the face – I rewatched The Empty Man, which is referenced in Adam Nayman’s Ringer article:

Talk to Me is closer to something like Zach Cregger’s brute-force B-movie, Barbarian, than Peele’s intricately intellectualized “social thrillers.” But whatever their pretensions — or lack thereof — the Philippous are keen observers of a marketplace where it pays to attach some kind of pedigree to terror, and underneath its adroit shock tactics, Talk to Me makes a fairly significant concession to the elevated-horror model by hinging its plot on a case of capital-G Grief. The reason Mia is so susceptible to possession is because she’s heartbroken over the death of her mother, whose overdose may or may not have been an act of self-harm. Where her friends are just chasing a hedonistic thrill, she’s trying, if at first only unconsciously, to reconnect with a loved one — a difference that ends up dooming her above the others and rerouting a story line bristling with unpredictability into a fairly conventional trajectory.

It’s time once again for Locorazo, a home viewing series of films that played the Locarno Festival five years ago. This one played in the “Filmmakers of the Present” section for first and second features – in this case it’s her first solo feature, the previous two being collaborations with her husband Nicolas Pereda (Fauna), who only assists on this one (plus thanks in the credits to Joshua Bonnetta and Matias Pineiro).

Stories about lingering ghosts and missing shadows, a witch, psychic animals and astronomical events, told at night, often via narrator. “We live in a conscious universe, we just do not realize it.”

Dudes hanging out smoking, usually at night. The subjects of the stories are sometimes seen at an indifferent distance from the camera. A few unique visual moments: a text list of animals that can see better at night, a beach shot with an absurdly low horizon line.

The director in Mubi:

The concept of the search and searching was a central idea in the film and in the Faust myth. Much of the time we learn the characters are searching for a shadow, a man, et cetera. The theme of the search was something important for me to use, but also important to continue without a resolution. Faust, after all, wants nothing more than to unlock the keys to the universe and himself—something that, like Faust, we are far from doing. I’m never looking for a particular thing, but I’m always in the process of searching and exploring. I’m consumed by questions, which through the seeking of answer continually opens up new questions.

Romancing in Thin Air / Blind Detective star Sammi Cheng was married to a rich guy for only a week when he died suddenly. Now she’s living in his giant house, to the chagrin of his surviving family and his loyal ex. Sammi can also see ghosts, specifically Mad Detective Ken, who keeps hanging around. Sammi’s sister-in-law (Tina the Throw Down girl) tries hooking her up with Lok from Election, and Sammi’s dad Lam Suet tries buying the ghost a wife to make him go away. A bit of zaniness, also the most emotional movie I’ve seen this year.

It’s taking a while to get through SHOCKtober writeups, ain’t it?
Here’s the rest of the Guillermo del Toro series.


Pickman’s Model (Keith Thomas)

Handsome Christian-Bale-ish lead guy Ben Barnes (of a Dorian Gray movie) is intrigued when older Crispin Glover joins his art class, drawing unspeakable horrors in cemeteries and saying stuff like “suffering is living.” Years later, Ben is still hanging around drawing rooms boring people about the values of modern art, visits the insistent Crispin’s studio, discovers the guy didn’t have a wild imagination but was realistically drawing the beasties emerging from the well-to-hell in his basement.

Keith Thomas? Hardly a master of horror, he made this year’s Firestarter remake (Filipe review: “very uninspired product… cheap and ugly looking.”) Here he makes every actor look foolish, and overdoes the sound design, though the subtle motion in the drawings was neat.


The Viewing (Panos Cosmatos)

I knew who directed this one as soon as the Oneohtrix music kicked in. Four TV talk-show guests are invited to rich Peter Weller’s new age bunker: music producer Eric Andre, alien astrophysicist Charlyne Yi, novelist Steve Agee, and ESP expert Michael Therriault (of a recent Chucky movie). Sofia Boutella is there somehow, and a henchman from Books of Blood. They enjoy their host’s special whiskey, magic joint, cocaine and fairy dust, and sinister alien meteorite… then some of them melt or explode, and the rest fight for their lives to escape. Fuckin’ cool.


Dreams in the Witch-House (Catherine Hardwicke)

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that I’m tagging these posts “Masters of Horror,” because really, what’s the difference between the two series? This is a special crossover episode, since we saw Stuart Gordon’s version of the same Lovecraft story in 2006. That was the end of practical effects creativity, and though the 2006 rat-person wasn’t brilliant work, it’s miles better than the lazy bullshit computer-rat in this version.

But I get ahead of myself – first Rupert Weasley grows up caring about ghosts after seeing his sister die, works at a brokedown spiritualist society, checks into a house where a woman who claimed dimensional travel once lived. There he has sleep paralysis and is visited by a cool witch and the aforementioned bullshit rat. Second episode this week about otherworldly paintings, as Rupert is warned the witch will kill him by sunrise, and this proves to be true, but I think he manages to resurrect his sister in exchange. Some good cursing, at least.

I was not hoping to be reminded of The Blazing World:


The Murmuring (Jennifer Kent)

As someone who rarely goes a day without singing “Murmuration Song” to my birds, a story about a bird-watching couple would be right up my alley. The pair (Essie “Babadook” Davis and Andrew “Walking Dead” Lincoln) are haunted by the ghost of their past (their kid died) and also by literal mother/son ghosts, with increasingly intense visits (not Jennifer Kent with a parental trauma movie). They’ve brought portable recording equipment to an island (reminiscent of Fire of Love) to study sandpipers when Essie starts sidetracking into ghost drama. It’s my first shocktober in our new old house, and all the stories seem determined to tell us that old houses are full of harmful vibes.

A great movie to watch in the covid era. Friends and strangers are quarantined on a Greek island, told no touching, no gathering in groups, and each person stands up in turn saying “oh but I am the special exception and I simply must leave the island.”

Brutal General Boris Karloff puts himself in charge of law and order. Ellen Drew (halfway between Christmas in July and Baron of Arizona) cares for Katherine Emery (The Maze), while a boring white guy (Marc Cramer of The Canterville Ghost) pines for Ellen. Not pining for Ellen are Karloff and the Lady In Black (Helene Thimig of Cloak & Dagger), who believe Ellen is an evil spirit who brought the plague. This belief is explained by the amazing opening titles: “under conquest and oppression the people of Greece allowed their legends to degenerate into superstition.”

Conspirators:

Confronting Ellen:

Dry run for Prince of Darkness, both movies kicking off with a priest finding a hidden book. It’s said that when the fog returns, ghost sailors will rise up in revenge for some lighthouse-related incident that sunk them. This is of particular concern for Adrienne Barbeau, a radio DJ who broadcasts from the old lighthouse, and for drunk priest Hal Holbrook whose grandfather stole the dead sailors’ gold.

DJ Barbeau:

It’s all nice looking, but feels almost British in gathering a gaggle of actors for a pretty okay ghost story, or like a “John Carpenter for Kids” TV movie since its framing device is ol’ ship captain John Houseman telling stories around a campfire. Who else we got: Jamie Lee Curtis, typecast as a hitchhiker, picked up by good guy Tom Atkins. Janet Leigh is celebrating the town’s anniversary with Halloween regular Nancy Kyes organizing. The weatherman is named Dan O’Bannon, heh.

Curtis and Atkins:

Leigh and Holbrook: