Shula is not a witch, but is tied to a leash and sent to live in witch camp, with other women who are actually not witches but have proven inconvenient to keep around. From the enraging first section (mob superstition meets government corruption) and the tragic/triumphant ending, it’s a beautifully shot movie, and our first from Zambia.

Only a couple minutes after Buster Scruggs ended, the opening titles of this movie announced that it’s a story told in six chapters – what are the odds? Unexpected suicides in both movies too. It’s not that I wanted a faithful remake, since the plot is the weakest thing about Argento’s Suspiria, but what made them turn a bonkers Italian horror about witches in a dance studio into a 2.5-hour movie set in Berlin during the Baader-Meinhof hijacking, with long sections about a psychiatrist who lost his wife in the Holocaust? What’s the meaning of Tilda Swinton playing both Evil Mothers in charge of the studio and also the psychiatrist? Nice plot twist with Dakota Johnson (the older sister in Bad Times at the El Royale) appearing to be the fresh-meat new girl with especially good dance-murder skills, later revealed to be the reborn Mother Suspiriorum come to cleanse the school by killing one or both Tildas. I mean, this was a lot of movie for a single weeknight, so I think that’s what happened. I have mixed feelings, but pretty sure I need to keep watching all of Luca’s movies (this is my second of the year).

Chloe Grace is a paranoid escaped dancer in the opening scenes, then disappears forever, followed shortly by suspicious Olga, who gets gnarled up in the practice room. Mia Goth (A Cure for Wellness) is the dancer who shows Dakota around, and Jessica Harper cameos as the psychiatrist’s dead wife. Most unexpected name in the credits: The Turin Horse cinematographer Fred Kelemen as one of the cops who Psych Tilda asks for help. Writer David Kajganich has also done a Body Snatchers remake and a Pet Sematary remake.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky compares it to “the movies Nicolas Roeg was making around the same time, confounding mosaics of predestination and psychoanalysis … It’s a movie where most of the characters are liminal figures, mid-phase between identities. It is packed with doors, mirrors, ceremonies, rehearsals, shared secrets, and make-up, suggesting commonalities between the backstage world and the supernatural through collage.”

This was the second Italian horror of SHOCKtober, and usually it’s wisest to stick with one Italian horror, but I was psyched about Suspiria Remake. There is screaming in the first two seconds of the movie, a good sign. Finally watching Kill Baby Kill after years of hearing about Kill Baby Kill, so the title card was a surprise:

It is slightly Dracula-ish for a second, a doctor being dropped off outside town by a coachman who refuses to drive any further. Dr. Eswai (Giacomo Rossi Stuart, star of War Between The Planets the same year) has a cravat and nice hair, is joined by local student Monica, who of course will end up being involved in the supernatural conspiracy. It seems a long-dead little girl appears to people, then they die mysteriously soon after, a precursor to The Ring.

There’s a beardy inspector, a bald burgomeister, and a wild-haired mystic girl, and you can’t always tell whose side anyone is on, but really they’re all just suspicious and terrified because of the baby murders, which are somehow caused by the dead child’s mother, a reclusive baroness. After the burgomeister dies, his girlfriend the mystic goes on a suicidal revenge quest, takes out the baroness, and our innocent heroes are free to get outta this burg.

Ruth the Sorceress (Fabienne Dali of Le Doulos) was cool, and I liked all the colored lights shining on the sets. Apparently the lighting and camerawork are the reason for this appearing on so many best-horrors lists, but prosaic me was paying too much attention to the silly plot. Bava directed some 15 movies in the 1960’s, including The Mask of Satan and Black Sabbath and I’ve got Five Dolls for an August Moon around here somewhere.

The first film by Studio Ponoc is also Yonebayashi’s third feature based on British children’s lit, with much of the familiar visual style and same crew members as Ghibli, so it’s more a continuation than anything bold and new. We’d also just watched Castle in the Sky, another movie where a girl with unexplained powers is chased from a floating castle. We played spot-the-reference as Mary finds a flower that turns her into a super-powerful witch, rides to witch school, then gets pursued by the schoolmasters who want to harness the flower’s power to crossbreed animals, or do some Captain America kinda thing, I dunno. It’s all very attractive, and impressive on the big screen, but like its witchy predecessor, it started to feel like we were just watching a kids movie.

Second movie I watched this week where the lead girl is told at the end to not look back. Some obvious parallels with other Ghibli movies – the romantic lead boy who transforms into a flying creature to work for/against wickedness (Howl’s Moving Castle), living dust sprites (My Neighbor Totoro), the lead girl nervous because she’s moving to a new house in the country, kooky/friendly old folks, villains who are maybe not so evil really, and fantastical beasts galore – like a Ghibli’s Greatest Hits thrown into a giant bathhouse. The greatest.

One of the weirder movies in theaters last year. Meticulous art design, color, makeup and costumes, with a look referencing the glory of technicolor. Once the actors showed up speaking their dialogue methodically, carefully pronouncing every syllable, I assumed it was going to be self-consciously campy along the lines of The Editor, but I eventually got over that. I suppose it’s its own unique thing, though unlike the unique things made by Cattet & Forzani or Peter Strickland or Yorgos Lanthimos, my mind stubbornly refused to ride its feminine groove.

M. Sicinski’s online Cinema Scope review makes beautiful sense of all the pieces… after reading, I went from thinking “oh well, that was pretty good/failed experiment” to desiring to watch it again soon.

The Love Witch is so exaggerated in its twin concerns — magicks and genteel, womanly behaviour — that they come to intersect imperceptibly, even when they don’t fit together at all. (Elaine’s garish, Lovecraftian self-portraits, for example, or her mad-scientist laboratory set-up, come to seem completely of-a-piece with her wide brimmed sun hats and her pinky extension in the all-women’s tearoom) … Biller’s control over her own filmic world parallels Elaine’s witchcraft in that both are pervasive and thoroughgoing … The Love Witch does demonstrate the power that resides in matriarchal practices that are frequently scorned for their ostensible lack of seriousness.


SEPT 2017: Watched this again, confirmed it’s a misunderstood masterpiece.

“According to the experts, men are very fragile.”

Elaine has freaked out Wayne:

All I learned from IMDB is that the libertine professor Wayne is on General Hospital, Star recently played a zombie stripper, and I should probably watch Viva, which costars Biller with this movie’s beardy warlock fellow.

Finally watched this Laika movie. I love love loved the look, beautiful stop-motion with ghostly effects. A total visual triumph, and I wish we’d caught it in theaters. Didn’t expect the screenplay to suck, though. Overall story is fine, weird kid in town can see ghosts, has to use his powers to save the town from a vindictive witch, but most of the plot points and dialogue were boring and obvious, led by a veritable who-cares of voice acting. Maybe it’s just because we watched it on Halloween (Katy’s sole SHOCKtober film) and treaters interrupted the movie every five minutes so I couldn’t get sucked into its particular atmosphere.

The cast:

The crew:

The adventures of:
Heen, a coughing laryngytic dog
Markl, child with a fake beard
Turnip, a scarecrow

And also:
Sophie, a cursed girl
Howl, a bird-demon

And also:
Witch of the Waste, melty-faced after losing her powers
Calcifer, a fire-demon

Katy says large parts of the source novel were omitted in the movie version, which would explain why the war and dealings with evil queen Suliman seem underdeveloped. But as far as visuals and unique characters go, this movie is unsurpassed.

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: