I keep getting Eli Roth (Cabin Fever) and Ti West (Cabin Fever 2) confused. I suppose the closest I’ve ever come to liking a Ti West movie was House of the Devil, and if I’d looked him up first I might’ve skipped this one, but a well-regarded horror about a bootstrap porno movie filming on the property of elderly murderers was too good to pass up. The camerawork is on point, and when changing scenes the editing will flip back and forth between the old and the new, a certain sense of the avant-garde like they’re doin’ in France.

Mia Goth is our entry point character, and also plays the old woman, loves to play in movies where the lead actress plays multiple roles from different generations. Cameraman Owen Campbell (paranoid main kid from Super Dark Times) dies first, stabbed in the throat for refusing the old woman’s advances, and the cowboy in charge (Martin Henderson of The Ring Remake) comes next, unwisely putting his eye up to a suspicious hole. The old man just shoots porn actor Kid Cudi (recently great in Bill & Ted Face the Music) in the swamp, actress Brittany Snow (Prom Night Remake) is pushed into the gator pond, and soundgirl Jenna Ortega (Scream Reboot) is shot escaping. The movie-in-the-movie is called Farmer’s Daughter, and they sing “Landslide” after shooting, it’s all very Fleetwood-inspired. Oh no, they’re making a prequel.

Enid is a film censor (Niamh Algar, also of a Barry Keoghan drug dealer drama) with a set of strict rules, applying an even-handed scientific process to the banning of video nasties, then finding her life becoming one. It gets there gradually – the first death is almost an hour into the 83-minute movie. Hazy slow-mo traumatic flashbacks are not so good, the rest is fine, especially when a sleazy Michael Smiley shows up (she impales him on one of his own film awards). She ends up on a film set which is all a dream conspiracy. Didn’t totally work for me, but I appreciate postmodern takes on the schlocky horror movies more than people who revere the originals seem to.

“You know what this is, Mike?”
“I think it’s a pen.”
“It’s an opportunity!”

Besides inventing Wolf of Wall Street, this movie has good cartoony Hudsucker cinematography and plays an impressive balancing act. Michael’s parents Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt are aggressively ordinary, but he’s suspicious of all their behavior and conversations and the food they prepare. They might be murderous cannibals or Michael might be at an age where he’s becoming more interested and confused by the adult world, and 15 minutes before the end we find out it’s both.

Happy family at dinner:

Michael through the looking glass:

Dad works at Toxico making chemicals to destroy plants. Michael gets caught in the freezer with the neighbor girl. The school psychologist (Sandy Dennis of 976-EVIL) takes an interest, comes over to help and becomes dinner. Balaban isn’t content with simple setups, keeps adding inventive visuals (there’s an insane shot traveling though the vents when Sandy’s in the basement). The kid is my age, and never appeared in another movie. Felipe writes “As a send off of Reagan era 50s fetishism this isn’t quite as good as The Stepfather,” I’ll have to watch that one next year.

Dennis discusses adult behavior:

Michael haunted by sausages:

I saw James Wan’s Saw and a few sequels, then slept on his sequel-spawning follow-ups for whatever reason, maybe the same sense of “anything popular can’t be good” that made me skip the Final Destination series. This one is inventive and completely loopy – and seems to invite sequels, though our hero is gonna get hella locked up after slaughtering an entire police station.

A research hospital in 1993 has a patient who drinks electricity and broadcasts its thoughts over radio. Then present-day Maddie has an abusive husband who conks her head against the wall and is later killed by unseen forces – the same forces that start hunting down the scientists from the opening scene, and tie up some random tour guide in an attic, all of which Maddie sees happening in a psychic daze. Maddie’s sister (of God Bless America) investigates dark family secrets while detective Shaw (of A Bread Factory) tries to help and detective Sasstalk (of She Hate Me) doesn’t help at all.

L-R: Shaw, Sasstalk, Sister, Maddie:

If you hadn’t used the movie title to piece it all together (I hadn’t), Maddie’s half-absorbed conjoined twin was awakened by the head injury and is taking over her body to do murders (and that’s their mom in the attic). I guess the twin’s radio-control mind-power gives it incredible fighting skills in her body (this is an upgrade to Upgrade).

The names in this movie’s cast are more upsetting than the horror creature. Maddie’s real name is Annabelle, and starred in Annabelle (but not as Annabelle) while Maddie’s sister’s real name is Maddie, and the dead husband played Mike Love in Love & Mercy.

Maybe not horror, but there’s plenty of killing. Never heard of this until it showed up on Criterion – the only feature by a famous New York photographer and starring Carol Kane as an office worker who goes over the edge among layoffs and cutbacks, sleazy coworkers and computerization. Sending all employees to work from home with new apple laptops, this horror is familiar to me. Everything is cool here, from the opening titles (projected onto stairways and such) to the toy piano music (by John Lurie’s brother Evan). Widely disrespected movie – at least it played Locarno in competition with The Mirror and Winter Sleepers.

The office is a magazine publisher, run by large-haired asthmatic Barbara “Hannah Arendt” Sukowa, who will be killed when Kane loads a butane cartridge into her inhaler. Molly Ringwald and Jeanne Tripplehorn and Jeanne’s bf Michael Imperioli are the bitchy in-crowd, mocking the homebody Kane, whose editing work is grudgingly respected. First killing is the accidental electrocution of computer guy David Thornton (of High Art, another magazine-office movie the following year), then Kane brings his body home to liven up the basement a little, and decides he needs companions. Soon she’s proceeded from righteous vendettas to random murders – an office boy gets a food processor blade to the neck, a couple of girl scouts unwisely accept an invitation into the house. Imperioli is the would-be hero who discovers Kane’s madness, but he gets slashed, and she burns the place down and escapes, on to the next office – perhaps yours.

Maybe the only movie that I tried to watch the last ten minutes of, then decided not to spoil because it looked good. I still put off watching it for a few years, only remembering “metal/horror.” Everyone I follow on letterboxd has seen this but only Kenji liked it – and Kenji is right, it’s good.

Crazy Raymond plays loud guitar to drown out the voice of the devil, kills his parents, then Jesse/Astrid/Zoey buy the house and play some loud guitar but not enough, as artist Jesse becomes possessed and starts painting intricate scenes of his daughter on fire. The implication is that the devil will cause him to kill his wife and daughter, but Raymond is still the threat, returning to murder everyone, and Jesse’s visions can maybe help. Set/filmed in Texas, and pretty metal, more metal than most horror movies. The girl was in Maps to the Stars, the mom in The Thirteenth Floor. Some of the music by Sunn O))).

Shout out to Melvins:


Advantage Satan (2007, Sean Byrne)

An early demon/metal/horror short by Byrne, bit of silliness, drunk couple fooling around on a tennis court gets trapped and killed by unseen forces.

Great movie with a dream cast, my first time watching it in HD. Absolutely loopy cannibal western horror comedy with no bad scenes and about ten great ones, it’s unbelievable that this went through three directors and didn’t turn out incoherent.

MVP Jeffrey Jones. I’ve seen the drunk with the big mustache and the blonde soldier in five other movies each, and the curly-haired religious guy in seven others, still don’t recognize ’em.

A good haunted house movie, much scarier than the 1970’s one, with some good demons and a new twist: the couple can’t move out of the extremely ghost-filled house because they’re Sudanese refugees who barely survived a treacherous boat ride that killed their daughter, and have been placed here by the government, their only chance to stay in Britain. He’s Sope Dirisu of the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel, and she’s Wunmi Mosaku of Lovecraft Country and the Wyatt Russell episode of Black Mirror. Ghosts in the house, crows in the walls and thugs outside, nowhere to hide. When he’s scraping off all the wallpaper and pulling out the wiring, and she’s trapped in the maze of their housing complex, I start wondering if they died at sea and England is hell, but they’ve got other secrets: their “daughter” was a girl they kidnapped to get preferential treatment while escaping. But instead of hell-vengeance, the wife kills the witch and they patch up the walls to please the housing people, and try to live in relative harmony with their racist neighbors and house full of spirits.

Wife, husband…

and daughter:

The Day of Destruction (2020, Toshiaki Toyoda)

A movie shot quickly in 2020, in which a masked woman screams that we’re all dying and can’t even hold funerals. A man pays his way into a closed mine, walks for a very long time, music only appearing as periodic blasts of static, looks at the epidemic-causing monster for ten seconds then turns around. We hear unconfirmed rumors of a Masque situation, the rich waiting out the plague together in an estate. But it’s an arthouse punk movie, and instead of going anyplace narrative it stays slow and philosophical. Issey Ogata (emperor of The Sun) appears, and I recognized the professor from Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy. Some good percussion on the soundtrack almost saves the movie, not quite.


The Tell-Tale Heart (1941, Jules Dassin)

Sorry to say I prefer the 1950’s animated version, the 2005 animated version, and the expressionist version all over this one. Dassin’s film debut is pretty good, with some cool lighting and camera moves, but the cinema is rich with Tell-Tale Hearts, and the 1940’s were the least frightening decade in the movies, unless you count the newsreels. Joseph Schildkraut (an oscar winner a few years before) isn’t even tormented by the evil vulture eye of the old man (Roman Bohnen, later Ingrid Bergman’s uncle in Joan of Arc), he’s just unstable and tired of being told what to do by such a miserable geezer, and he’s a terrible liar when the cops come around.


Metrograph ran a series of very average old-timey holiday shorts…

The Cuckoo Murder Case (1930, Ub Iwerks)

One of those cartoons where every single object is anthropomorphized, all swaying to the rhythm of the score. Detective Flip The Frog is on the case of a murdered cuckoo. I think Flip escapes into hell at the end but I’ll have to watch the sequel to be sure.


KoKo’s Haunted House (1928, Dave Fleischer)

KoKo sends his dog into the haunted house, too chicken to go himself. Primitive silent animation, with plenty of ghosts – some frantic out-of-the-inkwell stop-motion saves it at the end.


Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party (1933, Dave Fleischer)

Oh, I last watched this short from Clay’s collection at the Plaza. Those were good times.


The Haunted Ship (1930, Bailey & Davis & Foster)

A couple of dumbasses flying a tiny plane tempt fate until fate sinks them, so they explore a haunted ship on the sea floor. Hard to return to something this primitive after the Boop. I thought the sync sound would be limited to sound effects until a barbershop quartet of drunken turtles sang Sweet Adeline


Pete’s Haunted House (1926, Walter Lantz)

Cheeseball animator who puts on a suit to work from home keeps a cartoon dog in a model house in his office, sadistically torments the dog every chance he gets. The dog discovers the plot and blows the man to bits, good ending at least.


The Cobweb Hotel (1936, Dave Fleischer)

A fly hotel run by a spider, uh oh. Champion fighter fly and his equally strong wife bust it up and free the fly-prisoners. Pretty inventive. Our print was pink.


Felix the Cat Switches Witches (1927, Otto Mesmer)

After being a total dick and pranking everyone around, Felix gets his fortune told and learns he’ll marry and have a bunch of kids, but his bride is a horrible witch. Naw, it’s a hot girl cat in a witch costume.


Bold King Cole (1936, Burt Gillett)

Felix is just trying to get inside from a thunderstorm, ends up at Old King Cole’s castle. The King is a loudmouth braggart, and the castle ghosts have chosen this night to torment him for it. Felix harnesses the lightning to rescue the king. I was rooting for the ghosts.


The Garden (2019, Patrick Müller)

Real 60’s 8mm-looking film of Savannah trees (reminded me of Charleston, which we’ve visited more recently) with a spoken Lovecraft poem. A nice breather after the cartoons.


The Pit and the Pendulum (1964, Alexandre Astruc)

Back to the classics – this is our third Pendulum on the blog, sticking closer to the original Poe story since the Stuart Gordon and the Roger Corman added whole plots to expand out to feature length. This is the mid-60’s version of arthouse slow cinema, entranced narrator speaking the story we see playing out with Maurice Ronet (star of The Fire Within) alone in the torture chamber. His great idea with minutes left to live is to have the rats chew through his ropes – I’d think that would take longer, but it works. The walls close in to force him into the pit, then they stop short, because just then, at that moment, the 350-year reign of the Spanish Inquisition ends. So it’s pretty much just as narratively suspect as the Stuart Gordon, but nice and short. Astruc was a pre-Cahiers auteurist known for his blandly-titled feature Une Vie.