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:

This SHOCKtober we are counting down the days until the new Hellraiser Remake comes out, and starting the celebration with this Clive Barker adaptation. Seems odd that another Books of Blood semi-anthology TV movie would come out so soon after the last one, instead of like a Masters of Horror-style Books of Blood series, or a Weaveworld adaptation, or really anything else. Trying not to focus on the fact that this (smells like content) movie and the new Hellraiser are both “Hulu originals,” maybe there’s still hope.

Kicking off the anthology framing story, hitmen Yul Vazquez (War of the Worlds) and Andy McQueen (Clifton Hill) are after the Book. But we’ll get back to them in a bit – first, Jenna (Britt Robertson of Scream 4) is sad since her parents don’t understand her, is off her meds, runs away since mom is “sending her back to the farm.” Jenna’s x-men superpower is she can loudly hear the sounds of people eating. She stops in an internet cafe and books an airbnb (what year is this?) in a spooky house with hosts Freda Foh Shen (Ad Astra) and Cronenberg regular Nicholas Campbell, has a noise-cancelled sleep paralysis nightmare and pukes CG bugs, then discovers the walls are full of people (“we relieved them of their eyes and tongues”).

You’d be depressed too if you lived in this house without curtains:

Airbnb hosts:

Next, a professional fraud-debunker (Anna Friel, not of Stephen King’s IT, but of Pierce Brosnan’s I.T.) is confronted by a “speaker for the dead” (Rafi Gavron: Aarfy in a previously-unknown Catch-22 miniseries). This guy seems to be the real thing, and Anna is convinced until he drunkenly admits his scam. Alas, the dead have highways, and the boy gets cut up by ghosts, becoming the valuable “book” the stupid hitmen think they’re looking for. And the depressed girl from part one goes back to the spooky house to be relieved of the burdens of seeing and speaking and be buried alive in their floor.

Have I mentioned that the dead have highways?

From the producers of Stallone’s Lock Up, King’s Dark Tower, King’s Bag of Bones, the Barker Dread, Final Destination, Unstoppable, Cabin in the Woods, and Family Guy (those are all different producers). The director worked with a more distinguished cast than this one on the series Cosmos, aka that show everyone thought I was talking about when I used to recommend the Zulawski movie.

So many Chinese traditions I didn’t know, like virgin boob-sweat tea.

Blunt ghost movie, no tiptoeing around – very good, sharp and funny with some wicked dialogue.

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:

Good house and one good character: Roddy McDowall as a jaded, buttoned-up medium refusing to let the spirits in. He and some others are sent by a rich guy to live in the definitely haunted house to prove the existence of an afterlife. Arrogant scientist Clive Revill (CHUD II: Bud the Chud) almost sinks the movie, but fortunately the house wins, and Roddy outlives Clive. Roddy’s fellow medium is Pamela Franklin (Food of the Gods, The Nanny), the first to die, and Clive’s long-suffering wife Gayle Hunnicutt (Eye of the Cat) is allowed to live. Roddy defeats the ghost by taunting it relentlessly, which seems a bad strategy, but don’t underestimate the British weakness against taunting. Written by Twilight Zone vet Richard Matheson. Hough has made his share of cult faves, and also a Howling sequel, which I’ve probably seen but the sequels were all so shitty I’ve never tried to straighten out which movie was which.

My first-ever Sammo Hung movie. This did have skeletons, a ghost pulling somebody into a mirror, a hopping vampire, an Evil Dead hand rebelling against its body, and a battle between magicians, but it’s really not a horror movie. Rather a comedy action flick: a likeable loser called Big Guts is getting cucked by his wife and set up by his boss, but keeps managing to survive. I can see the Sammo influence on Jackie Chan, using all the props in the room and looking panicked while doing cool moves. Magician Lau (Tai Bo) disapproves of his master’s murderous work-for-hire, kwaidans and protects Sammo, then defeats evil magician Peter Chan Lung. Internet says both magicians were in Enter the Dragon, all my early kung fu movie interests starting to come together. I think one of the Jackie/Sammo collabs like Project A or Dragons Forever should be next. This movie has convinced me that Sammo is cool, but it loses points for bird killing.

I thought it was the Plazadrome screening of part 3 that got me on a Nightmare on Elm Street kick this month, but no, it was probably this:

Pretty good unwinking found-footage ghost story, or, an Australian remake of Fire Walk With Me with a worse sound mix. Some Paranormal Activity stuff after Alice dies on a family lake trip then is spotted on camera afterwards. These appearances are twice explained away: first her brother was acting ghostly to get her exhumed, then the neighbor actually snuck into the house looking for the sextape Alice made with him. So partly it’s about a grieving family, partly about Alice’s secrets, and maybe there’s a real ghost. The director’s follow-up is a six-hour Netflix show called Clickbait.