An animated anthology released on netflix, so almost everyone has seen it according to letterboxd stats (as many as Kimi, 3x more than Phoenix or Mad God, 5x more than Downton Abbey 2 or Beavis & Butthead 2) and practically none of the critics/publications I follow have covered it. It got a TV movie nomination at Annecy, winning second place to a short called My Year of Dicks. All three are stories about absolutely doomed attempts at house renovation, something a lotta people can relate to, and it’s all extremely high-quality work.

1. After a visit by some shitty rich relatives, dad goes outside drunk and sad and makes a midnight deal with the satanic spirit of a phantom architect to build the family a glorious new house. The house comes fully furnished, with daily meals and newfangled electric lighting, but after they move in the house starts changing, the architect making “adjustments.” The kids find their old house in the basement of the new house, then crawl lost through the walls, while the parents go mad, burning all their old stuff in a trance then transforming into furniture. The baby falling down the stairs was a rare action highlight.

Small faces on big fuzzy heads, and an all-star cast: the little girl is Mia Goth, her dad is Matthew Goode (crazy uncle of Stoker), and the architect’s rep is Mark Heap. The previous mid-length movie by directors Emma De Swaef & Marc James Roels won awards at Toronto and Annecy.


2. A flipper/investor mouse has fired his construction crew, is working on a renovation by himself during a recession. As soon as the house is finished he discovers a beetle infestation, which he tries to hide during the open house (at which he’s the only one wearing the little shoe-booties). An Odd Couple loves the house and decides to sleep there, then takes it over without paying – they turn out to be supermutant rat forms of the beetles. He goes mad, of course. As a new homeowner myself, I’m not concerned about this at all, nope.

Director Niki Lindroth von Bahr is Trevor’s Stockholm neighbor. I thought I’d seen all her shorts (though I’ve only written up Tord & Tord) but I’m just learning of a recent one; see below.


3. Cat Rosa is having a bad time fixing up the apartments she rents out, because the tenants don’t pay. It turns out new-agey tenant Helena Bonham Carter has a hippie handyman boyfriend, and Rosa is thrilled when he offers to help out. But he’s removing the floorboards to build a boat. The hippies turn out to be right, Rosa in denial, as rapidly rising water levels have doomed the house (actually it sails away too, providing the anthology an unearned happy ending).

Lead cat is Susan Wokoma of a Sherlock Holmes teen spinoff series, the broke artist Will Sharpe of The Wrong Door, and the handyman Paul Kaye of Game of Thrones. Director Paloma Baeza also acts, is married to Alex Garland.


Bonus short:
Something to Remember (2019, Niki Lindroth von Bahr)

Feels like The Burden part two. A continuous dreary song of hopeless depression, begun by a child in the first scene, continued into each subsequent scene by a character who was present in the previous one – from an empty zoo, through a mattress store and doctor’s office, culminating in nuclear disaster. Pretty catchy song actually, but the delightful innovation here is the clothing design on the birds, moles, beetles and slugs. Funny, the opening shot made me think of Roy Andersson, and Indiewire says she works with Roy’s set designer.

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:

One of those movies I’ve been low-key meaning to watch every year for a decade and a half, and it’s good. Maybe not horror exactly, but it’s still a ghost story, expertly designed and written. Opens with a one-two rhyme just like all those Nightmares on Elm St. I’ve been tearing through, but the ghosts here are sad orphans who died in the house Laura is moving into. She’s Belén Rueda of a couple twisty Oriol Paulo thrillers, has got a husband and a curly-haired boy. When her son goes missing during a party and never returns, she invites medium Geraldine Chaplin to investigate the house’s spirits. Laura plays tag with the house ghosts, finally discovers her son dead under the stairs, then takes all the sleeping pills and plays ghost-mom to the houseful of dead children.

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.

101: Revenge

1955 was a busy year to launch a TV series while also releasing To Catch a Thief and The Trouble With Harry. Episode one was directed by the man himself. Vera Miles (year before The Searchers and The Wrong Man) is a sweetie living in a seaside trailer with her new husband, trying to rest after “a small breakdown,” when she’s found collapsed after an attack. “He killed me,” she says about a salesman she wouldn’t buy from. Some fun noir lighting along the way, but at this point I knew how it’d end, as husband Ralph Meeker (same year as Kiss Me Deadly) has revenge on his mind, and you can’t trust a woman with a history of breakdowns… she points out the man who attacked her… then another, and another. The kindly neighbor was in The Day the Earth Stood Still, the murdered man an FBI agent in Pickup on South Street. Was it the American writers or British Hitch who named the lead character Spann and had him kill someone with a spanner?

How to help a woman with anxiety:


106: Salvage

“We don’t serve unescorted ladies at the bar.” Nancy Gates (Some Came Running, the crazy-sounding Suddenly) has heard local gangster Gene Barry (a Brock in a Fuller film) is out of prison, wants to confront him about her involvement in the arrest and death of his brother, is pretty sure he’s gonna kill her. Instead he sees her desperation and helps her out, bankrolls the dressmaking shop of her dreams, waits until she’s at her happiest point – then kills her. From a writer of Too Late Blues and the director of Jack Nicholson’s feature debut The Cry Baby Killer. I wasn’t trying to watch all forty episodes this season, so I chose based on particular factors, such as the presence of Elisha Cook Jr., which paid off.

Elisha, drunk and confused:


107: Breakdown

Joseph Cotten is a shithead business leader who fires a longtime employee then drives the long way home. I was expecting a Roadwork revenge scenario, but I guess there wasn’t time for the blubbering victim to plan an interception route – instead, Cotten crashes into construction equipment and we spend the rest of the movie in his head as he’s paralyzed and assumed dead by all who come to the scene. Gave me flashbacks to another anthology episode, which research suggests was Tales from the Crypt “Abra Cadaver.” The blubbering man was a silent star, notably of The Cat and the Canary, and Cotten’s only film of the year was a West German comedy that nobody has seen since.


131: The Gentleman from America

Sir Stephen (Ralph Clanton, good at being desperate and sinister) needs money, and rich Biff McGuire (The Thomas Crown Affair) is loaded, so Sir S and his less exciting sidekick John Irving bet the guy that he can’t stay the night in their haunted castle. After a flashback ghost story they win that bet, but hard, only realizing years later that the rich guy lost all of his marbles that night. Director Robert Stevens was an anthology TV heavyweight, appropriately ending his career on an episode of Amazing Stories.

Sir S shows Biff his pistol:

My second ghost story this month after Journey to the Shore, which also featured corporeal-looking ghosts with appearances signaled by lighting changes. Widowed Mrs. Muir (Gene Tierney at her cutest, also of ghost film Heaven Can Wait) gets a good deal on a haunted house. She soon runs into financial trouble, but rather than get rid of the housekeeper (Edna Best, the Doris Day of the original Man Who Knew Too Much), she teams up with house-ghost Captain Gregg (Rex Harrison, the My Fair Lady/Unfaithfully Yours lead shouter at his shoutiest) to ghostwrite his uncensored memoirs.

The living Mrs. Muir and dead Mr. Gregg learn to tolerate each other and gradually develop deeper feelings, but Gregg disappears after she starts dating a children’s author she meets at her publisher’s, creepy George Sanders (Ingrid’s husband in Voyage to Italy). When that doesn’t work out because he turns out to be married, she stays home staring at the sea for decades until death, when she’s reunited with her beloved captain (he could’ve come back sooner and kept her company, but it’s still a nice ending).

One of Joe Mank’s earliest movies, two years before A Letter to Three Wives. The story was expanded into a late-1960’s TV series with Laura Dern’s mom from Blue Velvet as the lead, and an Irishman from Caprice as the ghost.

Halfway-decent haunted-house movie inexplicably appearing on a few lists of best horrors. I get annoyed with Medak, feel like he’s over-emphatic, harping on things, but at least he did this to a lesser extent here than in his headache-inducing The Ruling Class.

Well-off composer George C. Scott (year after Hardcore) loses his wife and kid in an accident, moves elsewhere to teach music and rents a huge haunted house from the historical society. Ghosts lead him to a boarded-up bedroom upstairs, and a combination of visions, a really well-staged seance, and good ol’ historical research in the city library lead him and his realtor companion Trish Van Devere (Scott’s wife and costar in Stanley Donen’s Movie Movie) to uncover the ghost’s identity. It seems the house’s owner in the early 1900’s killed his own sickly, crippled son and replaced him with a sturdier orphan, whom he raised as his real son and inheritor. That kid has grown up to be elderly Senator Melvyn Douglas (The Old Dark House star, quite active in his 70’s appearing in The Tenant and Being There and Twilight’s Last Gleaming), who doesn’t want any of this history brought up right now.

“Who you callin’ a changeling,” asks Melvyn:

Apparently it’s a based-on-true-events ghost story, but this is before filmmakers splashed these things across their posters and opening titles. Besides the cool seance (the medium writing, her assistant narrating, like a more efficient ouija board) there’s much generic ghost business with clanking noises, whispers on audiotape, a creepy music box and a discarded rubber ball repeatedly appearing. My main complaint is that the ghost succeeds in getting Scott to help him out, then repays him by burning down the house with all Scott’s possessions inside.

George and Trish at the microfiche:

Probably not interesting to anyone but me: John Colicos plays an asshole cop in this, and in the following year he was murdered by Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange in The Postman Always Rings Twice. Crap Italian filmmaker Lamberto Bava later made a movie called Per Sempre which was conceived as a sequel to Postman and released on video as The Changeling 2.

Apparently-wealthy London music critic Ray Milland (with The X-Ray Eyes) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey, photographer in The Philadelphia Story) spontaneously buy a haunted house on the cliffs of Ireland from Commander Donald Crisp (a DW Griffith silent actor). The commander’s granddaughter Stella (Gail Russell, who’d drink herself to death at age 36) has a ghostly obsession with the house, keeps wanting to visit and then almost committing suicide on the cliffs. Ray’s got a thing for the girl, who is way too young for him (he even mentions this once) so they keep allowing her to come over, and Pamela tries to figure out the ghostly presence in the house, but the commander is unhelpful with family history.

Stella and Ray – lot of nice candlelight in this movie:

Turns out he had reason to be unhelpful, since Stella’s real mom isn’t his dead daughter but a model named Carmel hired by Stella’s philandering dad. Ghost-mom is trying to murder the girl, while ghost-bio-mom Carmel wants her protected. The ghosts are mostly conveyed by Pamela looking intense and commenting on some odor or sound in the room, but we get some light visuals at the end when Ray sees them with his x-ray eyes.

The whole mystery gang:

A seance is faked with the help of old doctor Scott (Alan Napier, also appearing with Ray in Ministry of Fear), who I suspect isn’t the best doctor, in order to convince Stella to stay away from the house (or something). This doesn’t work, and Stella keeps running towards the cliff (maybe they should build a guard rail). The Commander takes drastic action, has the girl committed to a nuthouse run by ghost-mom’s nut friend Holloway (famed writer Cornelia Skinner, with Ray again in Girl in the Red Velvet Swing). Escapes and rescues ensue, Ray ends up with Stella, and Pamela with the doctor (I didn’t see that coming).

L-R: Stella, her dead mom, her dead mom’s obsessive girlfriend:

“From the Most Popular Mystery Romance since Rebecca” – the book must have been racier than the movie since there was hardly any romance to be found here. IMDB says it reused sets from I Married a Witch, and F.S. Nehme says the censorship boards and decency leagues of the time decried the implied romantic affair between evil-ghost-mom and her evil madhouse friend.

A middling haunted-house movie, with none of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s post-Cure style of evil lurking in the offscreen space. Some inspired moments, and some cinematic plot points (living shadows, a slide melting under a projector bulb, an actor melting in much the same way). Apparently the movie is most famous for having spawned a “survival horror” Nintendo game which inspired the Resident Evil series. Also the last time Juzo Itami (Japanese New Wave actor, more recently in Grass Labyrinth) appeared as an actor, having already turned to directing with Tampopo and a few others. I assumed that he played Old Man Exposition, the local crank who helps out at the end, but no that was Tsutomu Yamazaki, an actor in Tampopo, so I don’t know where Itami showed up.

not Juzo Itami:

A TV production talks their way into the long-abandoned mansion of a dead artist to document the murals he’d painted on his walls. Widower Kazuo (Shingo Yamashiro of some Kinji Fukasaku movies) is the show’s producer. He brings along his daughter Emi (pop singer Nokko – in her mid-20’s, but I bought her performance as a middle-schooler) and show director Akiko (Nobuko Miyamoto, also of Tampopo) – our family-unit heroes, which leaves the other two (driver/cameraman/comic relief Taguchi and melodramatic on-air personality Asuka) to be murdered by ghosts.

L-R: Asuka, Taguchi, surrogate mom, actual dad, “child”:

And murdered they are, with surprisingly good, goopy gore effects. First Asuka turns into a ghost, yelling “give me back my baby” then digging up an actual baby coffin. Then the shadows come to life, so they all have to hide in patches of light. Taguchi doesn’t make it, gets burned clean in half and Asuka finishes him with a wrench shortly before an axe falls on her head.

Akiko vs. furnace:

Old Man Exposition comes to the house and walks into the furnace to rescue Emi, kidnapped by ghosts. But either he fails or she’s kidnapped again, and her dad gives up, leaving Akiko to rescue the girl, proving herself a worthy wife/mother figure. I did like the evil-mother monster who fights her with lightning there at the end.