Watched on the exercise bike after Duel. Ultraviolent mythological epic, recalling Metalocalypse but with more rotoscoping. Swamp Witch and Ancient Guardian and Local Lord and Chief Librarian all struggle to obtain or protect or misuse a magic blue leaf that gives healing or destructive powers. I’m all in favor of this sort of thing.

Thought I’d pair this with the Coen version, not realizing the latter wouldn’t come out till early next year. A terrific looking movie, reportedly in part due to newly-designed anamorphic lenses – almost technically impeccable, a few dubbing issues. I like the idea of turning parts of the monologues into voiceover, although it means the actors have to silently react to their overheard thoughts, which is harder to pull off than speaking the lines. It gets gruesome between Macduff’s slaughtered kids, the king’s guards being dismembered, and a man taking a crossbow bolt to the forehead – also some clumsy clanking armor battles (these are all compliments). The only time I felt the 1970’s was in the “dagger I see before me” scene.

Polanski’s first film after his wife was murdered – he’d been prepping What? but thought it’d appear crass(er), and Hugh Hefner(!) was looking to add respectability by getting into the Shakespeare business and losing a bunch of money. Opens with the witches on a beach… the second prophecy scene is zany, and culminates in a good mirror scene.

In the chronology of filmed Macbeths, Werner Schroeter’s obscure hourlong TV version came out the same year, a TV miniseries the year before, but there hadn’t been a major film since Throne of Blood. The next would probably be in ’79, the TV movie with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench. Never heard of a single person in the cast, besides MacB (Frenzy star Jon Finch). Lady M Francesca Annis would star in back-to-back sci-fi epics Krull and Dune. Macduff would become a Gilliam regular, and Banquo was in Dennis Potter’s Cream in My Coffee.

Macduff would like some revenge please:

This was pretty good, and less than half the length of Woodlands Dark & Days Bewitched, which I watched as an extended intro. After his men and horses died with bright red paint for blood, romantic lead Ian Ogilvy (Puppet Master 5 and a Peter Cushing haunted junk shop movie called From Beyond the Grave) returns home to marry his beloved Sara (Hilary Dwyer, who’d return to Vincent Price and witches in Cry of the Banshee) with the blessing of her preacher dad. Meanwhile, Vincent Price is going from town to town with his brute beardo torturer sidekick Robert Russell (of the pre-Revenant Man in the Wilderness) getting paid for ferreting out witches, who are drowned using the Monty Python & The Holy Grail technique or burned or whatever’s convenient.

Villains:

Next time Ian is away, the witchfinders roll into town. Price’s game is to get cash and get hot women. Sara agrees to sleep with him for a time, but he drowns her dad and brands her a witch, and Ian forgives her (weird for a dude in a period film) then sets to hunting the hunters. Price is on the outs with Beardo and has to hire a substitute torturer in the next town, finally gets beaten to death when Ian catches up.

Appreciate that the townspeople left her alone except to enter her house with ladders and put up this witch sign like a happy birthday banner:

Reeves and DP John Coquillon (soon to join Peckinpah) acquit themselves nicely, with a lotta zooms, some nicely framed closeups, a real cool water-to-fire transition. The sound editor however had a minute of anguished cries and kept looping them.

A long doc, broken into chapters with Guy Maddin collage art in between. Begins in-depth on the unholy trilogy of Wicker Man, Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan’s Claw. Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale comes up, and I should really watch more of those, even though I disliked the first. Penda’s Fen looks cool, Rawhead Rex as cheesy as I remember it. The 1980’s films attacking heritage: The Company of Wolves, Lair of the White Worm. Paganism and witchcraft, sure. America gets a chapter, featuring Christian cults, and the “Indian burial ground” obsession (colonizers fearing being colonized, having their own homes taken away). Fear of poor people (Deliverance), racist voodoo movies, then positive shouts to Candyman and Ganja & Hess. The Fool Killer sounds cool, both as a movie and a profession. Into the global folk horror chapter, the doc started to feel long – I tuned out during Brazil and Germany, but should prioritize watching The Juniper Tree, maybe a double-feature when the next Robert Eggers film comes out. Also got my second Jacques Derrida reference this SHOCKtober.

Dev Patel’s finest role, in a pleasingly confounding movie. Mostly grey-brown tale of a knight trying to prove himself by journeying to fulfill a bargain with an immortal. I didn’t realize how much of the movie would be the journey, since you only hear about the bookending scenes.

Dev P.

There’s silver plate photography, giants, a digital-ass fox. The king and queen are played by Prometheus costars Sean Harris and Kate Dickle, and his witchy mum is Mississippi Masala star Sarita Choudhury. Barry Keoghan ambushes him and steals his horse. There’s a whole ending where Dev becomes king, but he also died earlier, so I lost track of what’s real.

Barry K.

Adam Nayman in The Ringer calls out “its self-aggrandizing style and prepackaged gravitas.”

Lowery’s fable about a half-human, half-arboreal creature patiently cultivating a lethal debt against a crumbling civilization vibrates with a certain apocalyptic anxiety, one that’s been color-coded for maximum effect. Stoic, implacable, and only resigned to defeat in Round 1 because he knows his revenge is impending, the Green Knight … terrifies as a figure out of a woodcut … but he’s also an avatar of climate change.

Lavinia is introduced by the lake, doing a wiccan ritual to cure her mom of cancer and get herself out of this town, when a wandering hydrologist interrupts – it’s convenient that a hydrologist is on-site exactly when an alien color-force lands via meteor and gets into the locals via the well water. Lavinia’s cancerous mom is Joely Richardson (of a movie-royalty family, previously of Drowning by Numbers and the Ken Russell Lady Chatterley), her dad is Nic Cage (toned down from Mandy, and better), doing his damnedest to inform America that alpacas are the animal of the future (they are!).

Lavinia and little brother Jack-Jack:

Cage vs. The Color (Purple):

Soon the mutations begin. Mom reabsorbs Jack, stoner brother Benny and his buddy Tommy Chong see otherworldy visions, the alpacas fuse into a many-headed blob, and Cage takes care of business with a shotgun. I think Lavinia helps bring about the apocalypse! Stanley is beloved for some 1990’s cult films… good music by the composer from Hereditary… shot by a music video vet (Grinderman’s “Heathen Child”). The first major Lovecraft feature since Beyond Re-Animator and Dagon in the early 2000’s (RIP Stuart Gordon).

Hydrologist, Benny, Tommy:

Hi, mom:

Released from church school on vacation, all the students immediately steal from the market, assault women, and generally terrorize the town. Three dim individuals get lost in the country and find a barn to bed down. In the night, a crone hits on Philosopher Khoma Brutus, and flies away with him when he refuses her, but he knocks her down and beats her senseless with her own broom – crisis averted. I mean, the old witch transforms into a beautiful young girl, but that’s probably nothing to worry about.

But back home, the Michael Shannon-looking rector sends Brutus to give last rites to a landowner’s lovely daughter, who was beaten nearly to death by unknown assailants in the night. Brutus is terrified, tries to escape the whole way back to the farmhouse and… stuff like this starts happening:

Also, cranes!

The now-dead girl’s very unhappy father locks Brutus in the chapel for three nights to pray for her soul. Night one goes okay – she rises from her coffin, but the magic chalk circle he draws around himself keeps her away. “A cossack fears nothing,” he swears drunkenly to the guards… survives an all-night assult by her floating coffin the next night, but the stress turns his hair white, and he tries again to escape.

He’ll get a thousand gold pieces if he survives night three, goes into the chapel drunk as hell, then the movie pulls out all the stops. The effects are just great, like Goofball Cocteau. Shadows and projections and disembodied arms and skeletons, dwarves and wall-crawling demons and many-eyeballed goblins, attack from all sides, but he’s safe in his chalk circle. Then everyone steps the fuck back when she summons Viy, a golden-eyed giant, and when the foolish cossack locks eyes with the beast, his soul is lost and the monsters descend on him.

Russia’s first(?) horror movie, supposedly based on the same Gogol story as Black Sunday. Lead actor Leonid Kuravlyov came up with Tarkovsky, but only appeared in his student film, and is better known for starring in the sci-fi comedy Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future. One of our codirectors died in 1984 – the other, Kropachyov, did production design for Hard to Be a God. Art and effects by Russian animation legend Aleksandr Ptushko, whose 1935 stop-motion feature The New Gulliver sounds cool.

The movie opens very promisingly, with an owl… then things get nuts real fast. A team of knights are led by a Gilliam-looking toadie to a cave full of witches – innocent-looking, but supposedly cursed by the cross-shaped mark under their feet. All-out massacre ensues, beheadings from Knight-POV, the camera inside their helmets with cross-shaped viewports, as a Philip Glass tune plays. After stumbling across Soavi last SHOCKtober with The Sect, I was right to check out his other work, though are all his movies about basement-dwelling satanic cults?

Soavi worked with Gilliam on Baron Munchausen the year before this:

Flash-forward a few hundred years, it’s the first day for church librarian Tomas Arana (a cook on the Red October the following year). He’s almost hit by stuff falling off an art restoration scaffold (shades of Don’t Look Now), later makes out with the artist Barbara Cupisti (Argento’s Opera), then finds an ancient parchment and imagines it could be the secret to a lost science that could turn him into a god – not bad for a first day! Genius codebreaker Tomas figures out that the ancient runes are just mirror-writing, sneaks into the church at night and unleashes demons. These crazy demonic effects scenes are where Soavi’s movies really excel, laying all other late-80’s movie demons to waste, and with his crazed angles and quick, precise camera moves, it feels like Sam Raimi must’ve been a fan.

Back to the plot, Tomas is now obviously possessed and creeping on 13-year-old Asia Argento, daughter of the churchwarden, who sneaks out to discos at night. Her dad Roberto Corbiletto (Fellini’s Voice of the Moon the next year) has also lost his mind, suicides by jackhammer on the cursed cornerstone in front of horrified priest Hugh Quarshie (Nightbreed), his blood setting an ancient rube goldberg into motion, locking everyone including a wedding-photo party and a class of kids inside the church.

Asia wearing Eastern Europe:

I can’t tell what old bishop Feodor Chaliapin (Inferno) is up to – he understands what’s happening, but doesn’t appear to be helping. Meanwhile, innocents are being abducted by caped demons or eaten by giant lizards, a woman cheerfully beheads her husband, and another escapes into subway tunnels only to get mooshed by a train.

Enraged Corbiletto:

Father Corbiletto is alive again, I guess, and has gone fully mental, kills the schoolteacher in a rage – none of the kids seem to notice, since they are in the pews bonding over Nietzsche quotes (seriously). The restoration artist is raped by a goat-devil. Fortunately, Asia remembers the opening scene from a millennium before she was born, and tells Priest Hugh that if he pulls the murder-dildo from the skull of the church architect in a basement crypt, the whole church will collapse, killing everyone and ending the curse. As the bodies of the damned rise in a giant mud-dripping mass, he triggers the ancient self-destruct sequence as Asia escapes.

The good content you crave:

The dubbing is appalling, but the music (by Glass, Keith Emerson, and Goblin) is very good – demons whisper from the soundtrack, a welcome relief from the screaming strings of the netflix movies. Filmed in Hungary, since it was hard to find any churches willing to let them shoot all this satanic shit. Originally posited as Demons 3, then rewritten when Soavi came aboard – Cannibal Ferox auteur Umberto Lenzi would finally crank out a third Demons a couple years later.