Friday, October 20, 2017

The Halloween List: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Bay of Blood, and Blood and Black Lace

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970)

These movies have been my first exposure to Italian Giallo, a sub-genre that feels like an evolutionary link between Murder Mysteries and Slasher Films. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage follows Sam Dalmas, an American writer living abroad in Italy, who one night stumbles across an attempted murder inside a museum. Although he’s trapped in the antechamber, he manages to call the police, and then has to wait, just feet away from a woman he can’t help further.

Shockingly, the victim survives passing out from her injuries. More shockingly: she isn’t the only assault victim to live through the movie. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage doesn’t view death like a contemporary film. People survive reasonable injuries, and people like the writer are haunted by what they see. Death isn’t easy to achieve, and it’s also too weighty to shrug off. Sam can’t forget the horrible imagery, and spends the rest of his time in Italy trying to track down the attacker where the police have failed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Halloween List: Final Destination and "Death Note"

Final Destination (2000)

This is a series I utterly missed out on in the 2000s because I was stuck-up. How lazy was it to ditch a proper Slasher killer and use an invisible hand of Death itself?

Not lazy at all, actually. The movie follows a teen whose vision of his flight exploding causing him and a few friends to leave. The plane does explode, and our teen becomes a suspect of the bombing. Meanwhile, the teens begin to die in a series of ludicrously complicated coincidences. The first features a kid slipping on water from a leaking toilet, falling into a bath tub where his neck catches on wire, and spilling shampoo under his feet so he can’t stand up. It quickly becomes apparent that Death itself is after the survivors, seeking to fix what went awry in its plan.

It’s a fun idea that fits right into the classic Slasher formula with one major change. Slashers historically thrive on either having a killer with a strong personality, or on having the identity of the killer be a mystery. Here instead we have a killer that is as absent as it is present, and one that uses entirely unconventional.

A friend called it “Rube Goldberg’s Death Traps,” and that’s apt, because the fun lies in trying to guess what things in a room are going to wind up being dangerous. Is turning on the record player going to lead to her demise? Is the electrical outlet going to short out at the right moment?

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Halloween List: The Devil's Candy, The Disappointments Room, and Lake Mungo

The Devil’s Candy (2015)

A family of Metal Heads move to a remote farm house and run into the same demon that killed the previous tenants. It’s a demon that loves the arts; it manipulated the love of music of the previous tenants’ son, and now works its way into the new tenants’ father.

My favorite facet of the movie is that the Metal Heads aren’t hard-drinking freaks; they’re misfits, sure, but they love each other, drive a cheap station wagon, and screw up in relatable ways. As they move into their idyllic little house, our soundtrack is screaming Metal. What they do is make their aesthetic feel mundane and human. It’s delightful to see the music culture applied to different life styles.

Metal Heads are people, too. And like all people, they occasionally have to repel the assault of a serial killer who hears the same voices as their father. 

The movie ramps up well after they family sets down their roots. The father, a painter of morbid art, starts feeling “the inspiration” – but an inspiration all too close to what led the previous tenant to go murderous. As the father paints disturbing scenes that even his family thinks are weird, the old killer reappears, confused how anyone else could live there. There’s high tension as both the killer and father stir up, like two kettles on one stove, and you just hope for the sake of the family that they don’t both boil over.

I’ve been harsh on most of the IFC releases that I’ve seen, but between this and Apartment 143, I’m going to have to give their catalog another look.

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