Daniel Kaluuya (my favorite Black Mirror actor) is dating Allison Williams (my fourth-favorite Girls actress), comes to visit her parents Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford and brother Caleb Landry Jones (Antiviral) in an aggressively white suburb. At first there’s the socially-awkward but not overtly threatening kind of racial tension: dad brags about his Obama support and all the white family’s employees are black. But things get weirder after the mom hypnotizes Kaluuya and now he can’t tell if he’s being paranoid or if there’s a conspiracy, until it’s too late and he’s tied to a chair in the basement being prepped for brain surgery, so the highest bidder (blind Stephen Root) can flee his aging white body and live fifty more years inside Kaluuya’s.

A finely crafted thriller, and I’d never in a million years guess it was from the writer of Keanu. I could tell that Peele had made a super-effective movie when the white Nebraska audience at my crowded screening erupted in cheers when Allison Williams got shot (or maybe she’s just their least-favorite Girls actress as well). Betty Gabriel (The Purge 3) and Marcus Henderson (Insidious 4) play the grandparents play-acting as servants (she’s especially good – coldly suspicious then briefly vulnerable). Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12 and Atlanta, Snoop in Straight Outta Compton) is the party guest who yells the title line at Kaluuya when a camera flash wakes him from “the sunken place.” And comedian Lil Rel Howery is Kaluuya’s buddy in the TSA who gets all the best lines.

Some of the reception has focused on whether it’s a scary/effective horror movie, which is the same kind of horror-purist bickering that lowered appreciation for Cabin in the Woods and The Witch. Come on everyone, break out of your genre holes. Peele more accurately calls it a “social thriller,” and says he’s working on four more.

Alan:

One minute in, this movie that will play every mall in America makes it viscerally clear that it’s not black guys who are scary — it’s neighborhoods packed with sheltered dopes who quake at the very thought of black guys … Get Out is searing satire, with scary/comic riffs on slavery and assimilation, but it’s also a smashing crowd-pleaser of a horror film, complete with mad science, cult-like crazies and a creep-out homage to Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin … But even as Peele brings the house down, we see the serious toll of all this horror on Chris’ face and body. Neither the movie nor anybody watching can take it all as a joke.

Reviews of the long, long-awaited new Phantasm sequel are in, and they’re all negative. The digital effects are so bad, you guys. The spheres have no sense of physical reality and move in perfect straight lines. The plot is bizarre, the sets and cameras are cheap, the trailer was better, and so on. These things are true, but I’ll gladly take this Phantasm sequel over no Phantasm sequel.

New characters: Dawn Cody is the hottie who gives Reggie a ride to her house then gets killed, showing up later under a different name. Chuck is an anti-sphere militant short enough to masquerade as one of the robed beastie creatures. Old characters: they bring back the Lady In Lavender from the graveyard in part one, of all the crazy things, and also nunchuck-totin’ Rocky from part three in a cameo. Speaking of cameos, that’s all Jody’s role amounts to – a couple minutes driving the digitally-souped-up Barracuda before it recedes into the sphere-dominated wastelands.

The movie has its fan-service showdowns, apocalyptic hellscapes and bloody sphere-killings, but it’s a proper Phantasm movie, which means it is properly unusual. I don’t think fans were clamoring to see Reggie losing his marbles in a rest home or dying peacefully in a hospital bed. At the end of part one Mike is told that there were no spheres or tall man, that Jody died naturally, and this one doubles up on the reality-questioning, with Reggie flashing between the rest home and different horror/adventure scenarios (along with The Tall Man, Reggie’s rival and/or roommate). The ball implanted in Mike’s head is referenced, Reggie and the others warp between dimensions through the usual portals, plus via mini torture-chamber mind-control portal, plus unwillingly by insanity or chance. None of this gets quite explained in a way that privileges one reality over another, and the parts are shuffled just enough to leave the series on unsteady ground, letting us write our own version of the ending. That’s all you can ask of a series as strange as this one – to take the characters on one more ride, and leave things just as mysterious as they began.

“I can still get a fair way into a film and not know when the fear will come, or where from.”

One last SHOCKtober entry. The one-two punch of 31 and Neon Demon almost murdered the season prematurely, but I decided not to give in to despair. This was a supercut of horror films – including some interesting less-horror choices like Code Unknown and Post Tenebras Lux and Gravity – with a moving voiceover essay about fear and death in both film and real life.

Uzumaki:

What a disappointment after the great Lords of Salem. All I can think is that Zombie was contractually obligated to deliver another full-length movie by the end of 2016, and after touring his band nonstop he ran out of time, so threw some actors and makeup artists in an abandoned factory and said “go nuts, we’ll film it and add some Malcolm McDowell scenes later to explain what’s happening.”

Sheri Moon and beardy Jeff Phillips and Meg Foster return from Salem, minus Ken Foree and Dee Wallace, plus two new black guys to be killed first (to be fair, Lawrence lasts quite a while). Malcolm in foppish powdered wig gambles on annual deathmatch with Jane Carr and Judy Geeson, sending waves of killers into the factory after our abducted carnival gang until only Sheri and “Doom-Head” (Richard Brake of Halloween II, whose makeup keeps changing in the opening scene) remain. Dialogue is mostly “fuck, fuuuuck” and camerawork is handheld garbage. Insultingly, the movie only got a single showtime and was billed as a “special event” with higher ticket fees, but joke’s on the theater since only six people showed up.

AV Club:

31 is set almost entirely within a smoky, leaky, dimly lit factory, like something out of a bad hair-metal video, and it has the structure of an especially half-assed video game, as the survivors creep from one boss battle to the next, confronted by assassins of escalating formidability: a little person done up like Hitler, slinging insults in unsubtitled Spanish; two clowns with chainsaws, cackling about “fucking all your holes”; a flirtatious Harley Quinn clone with a giant European partner … a messy mishmash of shit he’s done better before.

Sometimes I get it wrong. I remembered this from 25 years ago as a pretty good movie with a great creature and cool lighting, so I bought it cheap on blu-ray, and it’s a very bad movie with a great creature and mostly poor lighting (screenshots below only represent the highlights).

P’head is unimpressed by crosses:

City folk vacationing in a cabin in the sticks accidentally kill some kid with their motorbike, so the kid’s dad Lance Henriksen asks local witch Haggis to summon a pumpkinhead demon and slaughter the motherfuckers, but when Lance realizes the death and horrors he has caused he tries to stop the thing, eventually shooting himself (cuz their souls are linked, or something). There are no police in this town – if your son dies, you just bury him in the yard.

Lance swears revenge:

I think Jeff East (young Huck Finn in the 1970’s) and local Beyond Thunderdome-looking kid Bunt (Brian Bremer of Society) survive at the end. Slaughtered are leather-jacketed tough guy John D’Aquino (That’s My Bush!) and his indistinguishable friends Kimberly Ross (Death Street USA), Cynthia Bain (Spontaneous Combustion), Joel Hoffman (Slumber Party Massacre II) and Kerry Remsen (Ghoulies 2), in no particular order. This got a 1990’s sequel with Soleil Moon Frye, and a couple more in the mid-2000’s with Lance (and Doug Bradley).

Baby P’head awakens:

Cabin Witch Haggis:

On the heels of A Bay of Blood, here’s another godfather of slasher films. I’d heard and heard that this was good but still wasn’t anxious to watch it because sometimes the most highly recommended movies turn out to be losers (ahem, The Changeling), but surprise, it was good. Sorority house is gradually emptying due to holidays and also because the remaining girls are being murdered and stashed in the attic, the bodies never found so the survivors don’t know to be afraid. And unusually, no crazed killer backstory – we never find out who’s murdering people, or why. So, suspense is generally higher than in most of these kinds of things.

Argento covets this shot:

Kidder ain’t kiddin’:

I was surprised when Margot Kidder was killed, but I guess Sisters wasn’t a mainstream hit and the Superman movies wouldn’t start for a few years. Instead, Olivia Hussey (of 1968 Romeo & Juliet) makes the last stand with her semi-crazed boyfriend Keir Dullea. Victims Ms. Mack (Marian Waldman of Phobia) and Phyl (Andrea Martin, who’d play Ms. Mack in the remake) and Claire (Lynne Griffin of Dream House) are dead in the attic while Detective John Saxon (between appearing in Enter The Dragon and Mitchell – the man had a strange career), his moron assistant Doug McGrath (Ghosts of Mars) and Claire’s guy Art Hindle (his third 1970’s horror I’ve watched in two months, after Body Snatchers and The Brood) uselessly look around campus not realizing the calls are coming from inside the house.

Saxon spends most of his time on the phone:

Those calls feature some of the dirtiest dialogue I’ve heard in a non-porno 1970’s movie. Also surprised by the abortion debates between Olivia and Keir, and the amount of comedy in the movie. Director Bob Clark is better known for his other holiday movie A Christmas Story but he did a couple other 1970’s horrors I might check out.

There are some things you’ve gotta do in SHOCKtober, and one thing is you’ve gotta watch something Italian. As the saying goes, if you haven’t got Argento, a Fulci will do. If you haven’t got a Fulci, woe unto you.

This is one of those giallo things where everyone is knifed to death by unknown black-gloved assailant(s). In this case, I think it’s not a single crazed killer, but everyone killing everyone else in order to gain ownership of the bay that all their houses border. At least it seems that way, but it was really hard to care about any of these generic characters – I barely had their names and/or relationships sorted out when they’d be hastily murdered. Dialogue was in English on my copy, and reasonably well-synced, a nice surprise (though the words themselves, and the actors speaking them, remain quite poor). And of course Bava’s got enough style – lighting and zooms and focus tricks – to keep things watchable.

Laura Betti transcends this stupid movie:

Frank and sexy secretary:

Bug Man:

Let’s see if we can piece together what happened. The movie’s only good story idea is staging the death of an elderly landowner (Isa Miranda of The Late Mathias Pascal and La Ronde) by using her own diary entry reading “I am tired. My life no longer has meaning” as a suicide note. I guess this is done by her husband Filippo, who is immediately killed by squid fisherman Simon (Claudio Camaso of John the Bastard), illegitimate son of the hanged countess. Squid Simon has a rivaly with insect hunter Paolo (Leopoldo Trieste, young husband in The White Sheik), who’s scheming with fortune teller Anna (Laura Betti, the miraculous servant in Teorema). Realty Dude Frank (Chris Avram of Voodoo Sexy) and his girlfriend/secretary are also scheming with various participants somehow. Renata (Claudine Auger of Yoyo and Thunderball) is daughter of the count and countess, I think, arriving late with her husband Albert (Luigi Pistilli of Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) to claim the bay. I think these two succeed, then are shot to death by their own young kids in an epilogue, the movie’s final “fuck you” to its characters and/or viewers.

Our ignoble heroes, Renata and Albert:

Filippo beneath the Squid Thief’s slimy cargo:

Also, with no apparent connection to anything else, four young partying sex-crazed kids (including a skinny-dipping Brigitte Skay, title star of Isabella, Duchess of the Devils) break into a house on the bay and get quickly murdered.

Duchess of the Devils:

The Duchess’s boyfriend catches a machete to the face:

This movie, sometimes known as Twitch of the Death Nerve, was a relatively late film from Bava, arriving some years after his early-to-mid-60’s horror heyday. I guess the others didn’t catch on like this one, since it’s credited as one of the most influential slasher/giallo films (though I’m not sure that’s anything to brag about), with some if its deaths directly ripped off by Friday the 13th sequels.

I was going to watch this right after Southbound then realized they were both anthology horrors, so spaced it out by a few days. My second Corman / Poe / Price movie this month after Pit and the Pendulum


Morella

“It’s Lenora, father.” Maggie Pierce (The Fastest Guitar Alive) hasn’t seen her dad Vincent Price in 26 years, and is visiting now because her marriage has failed and she has a mild cough (and therefore, since this is a movie, only a few months to live). Price still blames her for the death of his beloved wife Morella, is wasting away in his Miss Havisham house. Poor Lenora doesn’t even know how her mom died since she was an infant at the time, so Price explains that she collapsed at a party while yelling “it was the baby.” Hardly seems fair, but apparently Morella (Leona Gage of Scream of the Butterfly) still blames the baby, rises in the night to murder Lenora and burn the place to the ground.


The Black Cat

Montresor Herringbone is a hopeless drunk who steals from his working wife Annabel (Joyce Jameson, who’d costar with Lorre and Price again the following year in Comedy of Terrors) to get enough wine to stop the hallucinations. He’d be a hateful fellow if he wasn’t being played by Peter Lorre in comic mode… and speaking of comic mode, Price plays Fortunato Luchresi, a foppish wine expert whom Lorre challenges to a tasting competition in order to get free wine. Surprised by Lorre’s knowledge and (lack of) technique, Price follows him home and falls for Annabel. When Lorre finds out he chains them in his cellar and walls them in – the perfect crime if not for the black cat he accidentally bricks up, whose howls alert the police.

Loved the acting, the reptile hallucinations and dreams (Fortunato and Annabel playing catch with Lorre’s severed head, the picture smeared and distorted). Each scene ends with a 400 Blows zoom. Price calls the wife “my treasure,” but isn’t that what Lorre’s name “Montresor” means?


The Case of M. Valdemar

Valdemar (Price) is dying of an incurable disease, and mesmerist Carmichael (Basil Rathbone, Sherlock Holmes of the 1930’s and 40’s) agrees to relieve his pain for free in exchange for participation in an experiment – to mesmerise Price at the moment of death to see if they can extend it. Medical Doctor James (David Frankham, who worked with Price in Return of The Fly) is against all this, of course, but Price insists, and also wishes his devoted wife Debra Paget (the dancer in Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic) to marry Dr. James when he dies. But the hypnotist has other plans, and when he successfully has the dead Price’s soul trapped in mesmeric limbo, he holds it hostage until Paget will marry him instead. Price solves this problem himself, rising from his death bed and melting all over the amoral Carmichael.

The Good Doctor and Good Wife:

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.