Tis’ the season.

Isn’t this the coolest Halloween card ever?  The little skeleton guy dances.

Hope you guys have something scary planned for the month ahead.  I’ve got a short list of movies I’d love to make time for: “Dracula” (1939), “House of the Devil” (2009),  “Annabelle Creation” (2017) and “Mr. Mercedes” Season 3 (2019).  Yeah, I know that last one isn’t a feature film, but it’s a program of truly cinematic quality.  “Mr. Mercedes” has been the best kept secret in Stephen King fandom — no, its antagonist isn’t as flashy as Pennywise the Clown or The Gunslinger’s various nemeses.  But it’s a gorgeous adaptation of a King novel that might even be better than its source material.  Check it out, seriously — skip “American Horror Story” if you have to.

There are two movies I need to get to that have been recommended to me with a lot of enthusiasm.  The first is “In the Mouth of Madness,” 1994’s H.P. Lovecraft adaptation starring Sam Neill.  (I actually started it a few years ago after a friend in New York urged me to, but it just didn’t hold my interest.)  The second is 2001’s “Shadow of the Vampire,” which features Willem Dafoe doing Nosferatu.  (I only discovered just now writing this that John Malkovich portrays F.W. Murnau.)

I’ll tell you something else, too — I’ve checked out one or two short films on the free ALTER channel and they’ve been terrific.  Maybe I’m due for another visit there.

 

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Throwback Thursday: 1990’s Nerd Nolan!

This is from sometime in the late 1990’s.  I can’t remember which one of you guys sent me this photo, or its date.  But I’m running it primarily because of that old red t-shirt, which I loved so much that it nearly fell apart before I threw it out.

It was the “official” t-shirt of the Mary Washington College Department of Psychology, and I thought it was for one of the academic years I attended.  But … it looks like it says 1989-1990, and I feel like I even remember that.  (It’s a little hard to make out.)  I went to MWC just afterward, between 1990 and 1994.  I”m not sure what the story is here; maybe an upperclassman gave it to me?

The t-shirts were sold by psychology majors to raise funds for … something.  Was it a picnic at the end of the year, or a trip or something?  God, I’m getting old.

My only disappointment with that shirt was that I wore it for years without hearing a single relevant “Star Trek” joke.

 

 

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10 classic movies that I will never fully understand the appeal of:

Because I can’t sleep, and you’ve been dying to know.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1) “Memento” (2000)
2) “Fight Club” (1999)
3) “American Psycho” (2000)
4) “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968)
5) “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)
6) “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975)
7) “Natural Born Killers” (1994)
8) Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi” (alternately titled “Zombi 2,” 1979)
9) “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982)
10) “The Big Chill” (1983)

And … worst of all … I’m kinda on the fence about the first two “The Evil Dead” films (1981, 1987), Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) and John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” (1978).   I am hanging my head in shame here over those last two.  I know Kubrick’s film is considered a masterpiece.  I saw it twice when I was a college student (once in a psychology class!), soooo … maybe I just wasn’t mature enough to grasp it?  Mea culpa, people.

I left “Citizen Kane” (1941) and “Ben Hur” (1959) off the list, because I haven’t seen them in their entirety.  I was nonplussed enough to turn those off after 40 minutes or so, but I’m weird about never saying I dislike a movie unless I watch the whole thing.  You can add 1979’s “Phantasm” to this category too.

I know, I know … there’s nothing wrong with any of these films (except “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” of course, which is terrible).  There are just basic ingredients in them that I somehow fail to appreciate.

Now one of you needs to e-mail me a cure for insomnia.

 

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Episode 1 of “Black Summer” (2019) looks quite promising.

The hectic first episode of “Black Summer,” Netflix’ new zombie series, looks like ambitious stuff — it plays like a hybrid of “28 Days Later” (2002), “Pulp Fiction” (1994) and “24” (2001-2014).  While it seems unlikely that this show can emulate the greatness of those classics, “Black Summer” still gets off to a damned good start.  I’d rate the first episode an 8 out of 10 for being a pretty lean and mean start to a decent zombie series.

Part of the episode’s appeal is its frantic vibe and format — something that seems like a deliberate contrast to “The Walking Dead’s” slowly placed, methodical epic.  The viewer is plopped down into the middle of a heartland neighborhood evacuation effort, three weeks into a zombie epidemic.  With a series of lengthy, real-time tracking shots, we race beside a collection of unconnected characters who are desperately trying to reach United States Army pickup point.

The zombies are few in number.  But they are the “high-speed zombies” that most modern horror viewers associate with Danny Boyle’s film, so the arrival of even one imperils the fleeing families.  The makeup effects are good, the transformation process is effectively rendered, and the show is satisfyingly scary.  The show makes this even more interesting by filming each character’s dash individually, and then showing them as discrete vignettes that are out of chronological order.  

The story is weakest when it slows down enough to allow its characters to talk.  The dialogue is truly bad, even if the quick action sequences make up for it.  (Has there ever been a more generic bribery offer, for example, then the one we see here?)  But this weakness doesn’t much affect the overall quality of an episode that follows so much action.

I was even more surprised that the episode works when I googled “Black Summer.”  The Netflix series is produced The Asylum, the film company notorious for “mockbusters” like “Dead Men Walking” (2005), “Snakes on a Train” (2006) and … sigh … “Transmorphers” (2007).  What’s more, “Black Summer” is intended as a prequel series to  The Asylum’s “Z Nation,” the lamentable horror-comedy zombie series that ran for three seasons on SyFy.  (It was so bad I couldn’t get through a single episode.)

It’s a weird world.

 

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