Thursday, October 30, 2008

2008 Halloween Film Festival

October is winding down. The days are shortening, the shadows are lengthening, the temperatures cooling and the leaves are changing from green life to the dashing colors of death. And, best of all, Halloween is quickly approaching. A holiday that I treasure as much as any holiday—it is part sentimental and part adult anticipation. It is the unofficial end—at my house anyway—of the summer season and the beginning of the season of hibernation.

As I mentioned in a previous post my wife and I watch a horror movie each Sunday in October to celebrate the coming of Halloween. There is no real preparation for the films other than selecting a broad array of horror films from the library and video stores to choose from and then simply picking one and watching it Sunday evening.

This October has been the season of Richard Matheson. Of the six films—we slipped a few extra into the schedule—three have been based on novels by Mr Matheson. And all three were pretty good; I have my favorite, but none were complete bums. The films represent the modern-era of Hollywood. The oldest was released in 1964 and the latest was released in 2006.

October 4. We watched the recent release BUG. It was a modern tale of paranoia and fear. It was a well made film that shouted low budget. It was filmed in one small place—a cheap and decaying motel room. It was enjoyable and thought provoking, but at moments felt a little flat. I wrote a review of this one earlier in the month. Click Here.

October 10—this is one of the extras. It was a chilly Saturday night and we decided to cheat and watch an old horror film instead of going out. We made the right decision. Last Man On Earth was released in 1964. It stars Vincent Price, was directed by Ubaldo Ragona, and based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. Of the three films made from I Am Legend, Last Man on Earth is the most faithful to the story and spirit of the novel.

Vincent Price admirably brings the protagonist Robert Neville to life—for some reason his name is changed to Robert Morgan in the film. He is alone in his home. His wife and child are gone, and the marauding vampires call his name at night as they circle and try to get through the walls of the building. His days are lonely and long, until he discovers he is not the last man.

Last Man on Earth is a great film with more meaning than is expected from an old low budget black and white from the 1960s. Very much recommended.

October 11. This was a two film night. The first was a short slasher movie titled The Descent. It was probably the weakest of our Halloween films. The opening thirty minutes felt like a Richard Laymon novel—a diverse group of women get together once a year for an adventure. They are smart-alecky, attractive, brave and scared. I really enjoyed the opening, but the film devolved into mindless violence and gore.

It was written and directed by Neil Marshall. I don’t know this, but it felt like a foreign film aimed directly at an American audience. It was released in 2005.

The second horror special of the night was “Sounds Like” from Masters of Horror. This is the best episode from the uneven Showtime series I’ve seen. It was written and directed by Brad Anderson. It first aired in 2006. If you haven’t seen this one, you should. I wrote a detailed review last year. Click Here.

October 18. We watched the second of three films based on Richard Matheson’s work. Stir of Echoes is an updated adaptation of the novel by the same name. Kevin Bacon plays the role of Tom Wallace—again the protagonists name is changed to Tom Witzky in the film. The adaptation is loose, but faithful to the ideal and concept of the novel. There are a few startling and chilling moments; the climax is predictable, but fun.

Stir of Echoes was adapted and directed by David Koepp. It’s an enjoyable film that, if you leave your expectations at the door, is enjoyable, quick and a little unsettling. It was released in 1999.

October 25. The Legend of Hell House. This is one of the films that I really anticipated watching this October. It is based on the novel by Richard Matheson and also adapted by Mr Matheson. It was originally released in 1973. It is a traditional ghost story with a twist of modern technology thrown in. As I watched the film—I have yet to read the novel—I was struck by how closely it resembles several more recent ghost stories, the most notable Stephen King’s Rose Red.

The Legend of Hell House is the story of four people who are hired to enter an old mansion that is proven to be haunted; a scientist and his wife and two mediums. They are paid a large sum to stay for four days and interpret what they see. It is a well made film that doesn’t feel its age, or even of the 1970s. There is nothing overly gothic about it and there are even a few legitimate scares. It is very probably my favorite film of the Halloween 2008 Film Festival.

October has been a great month, and I can’t wait to see what is on tap for the evening itself. Here is to a wonderful and eventful—the good kind of events—Halloween at your house too.

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