A portion of my weekend was joyfully sunk into a beer festival, but there was still time for movies. The weekend brought me a horror/sci-fi I’d been wanting to see for a few months, a slightly trippy movie for kids, a horror-as-puberty analogy, some Spanish devil zombies, and a cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about. This is the movie weekend that was… you’re daaaamn right.
Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (1973)
While Lemora wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, I have to admit that I’m fascinated that there’s an entire sub-set of horror that uses the supernatural as a metaphor for puberty. Lemora certainly qualifies, as a 13-year old girl is taken captive by a sexually aware adult lady vampire, who tries to tutor her on her way to “recognizing her own power” (paraphrasing but not by much). It was hard to watch Lemora without thinking of the 1970 Czech New Wave classic, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), which dealt with identical themes. On the werewolf side of things, there’s Ginger Snaps (2000), The Company of Wolves (1984), and even the hokey I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). Someone smarter than me could write a tremendous article about this phenomenon.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Dark Skies (2013)
I had avoided this in theaters because the trailers made it look so completely clichéd. The ad campaign for Dark Skies did it no favors, because it was actually quite a solid little horror/sci-fi film. And while nothing about it really surprised me, I have to confess that at least a few of the jump scares got me really good. As someone who watches a lot of horror, I can tell you that it’s not often that I’m sucked in by a jump scare, so it says something for Dark Skies that it got me.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
[REC]³ Génesis (2012)
As the opening credits for [REC]³ ran and I saw Paco Plaza’s name pop up as the director, I knew I was in for good times. Plaza’s Xmas Tale, from the Spanish “Six Films to Keep You Awake” series, is one of my favorite lesser-known horror films of the last decade. And I had enjoyed Plaza’s work on the first [REC]. In full disclosure, I hadn’t seen the second film in the series, which ultimately made a little bit of [REC]³ confusing. That’s my own fault. Some quick googling filled in the cracks nicely. [REC]³ is honestly an impressive film, one that employs the shaky cam at the same time that it winks at it, even making fun of the liberal use of it in the American remakes of the [REC] films. There’s a heavy religious element to [REC]³, which I assume is at least partially residue from Spain’s strong Catholic population (according to Wikipedia, 70.5% of Spaniards self-identify as Catholic). The whole reason I watched [REC]³ in the first place is its presence on this list of 25 horror films from 2012, written by critic Scott Weinberg. It was the last one on my list, and I can’t say enough good things about the list in general. There are some real gems on there.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Big House (1930)
The Big House wasn’t an overtly bad film, but I completely lost interest in it. Whatever the reason, it simply did nothing for me. There’s not a lot else to say about it, really.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
The Phantom Tollbooth (1970)
Butch Patrick (the kid who played Eddie Munster) plays a bored 10-year old who is visited by a magical tollbooth, which transports him into a fantastical animated world where he must re-unite rhyme and reason (they’re princesses) with the kings of numbers and words. It sounds ridiculous, but bear in mind that it’s kids fare and it was made in the late 1960s. The animation, screenplay, and direction was all supplied by legendary animator Chuck Jones, while many of the voices were supplied by Mel Blanc. What results is a very effective, imagination-driven piece of children’s entertainment, sort of the nexus of Looney Tunes, Dr. Seuss, and Disney. And it comes with just a tiny dash of 60s trippiness. Apparently, the film derives from a children’s book of the same name, and the author “hates” this film. So if you’re familiar with the book, you may also dislike this movie. As for me, I highly recommend it for kids.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Shaft’s Big Score (1972)
First things first- Shaft movies are fun. This is an unquestioned truth of human existence. It’s as true as pointing out that water is wet, the desert is dry, and you should never make the first or third out at third base. Having said that, the biggest take-away from Shaft’s Big Score is that I DVR’ed it off of TCM and they edited nothing. There was nudity and a lot of f-bombs. That TCM didn’t edit the film in any way makes me respect them so much more. I guess I’m not shocked that TCM would do the right thing as far as cinematic integrity goes. But it’s still great to get a reminder every now and again.