Tag Archives: Black Sabbath

30 Days of Madness: Day 31

Well, I made it through 30 Days of Madness none too worse for the wear. The only major difference in my life is a series of YouTube videos that show me, a shy introvert who never was much for public performance, occasionally acting like a lunatic for all the world to see. Did I learn anything? I learned I never want to do anything this intense again. I learned a lot about the history of cinema. I learned a lot about my own abilities in film criticism. I reaffirmed that, especially when it comes to horror movies, there are a lot of good ones, a lot of bad ones, and a lot of stuff that is just plain ugly.

Let me take a quick look back over the movies I’ve watched this month of October:

Day 1: Nightbeast (1982) Hey, my first movie was from the year of my birth. How fitting. My inaugural flick was my personal introduction to Troma and one of the worst movies I’d ever seen, but one I would watch again with friends. My response video was only my second YouTube video, after my introductory video which is available for viewing on my channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/KapriciousT.

Day 2: Redneck Zombies (1987) My second Troma movie, and the first movie I ever refused to finish. I would like to wash my memory clean of this one. This one I actually was watching with friends (the only time during the month I was able to do so), and I was embarrassed about it.

Day 3: The Call of Cthulhu (2005) My third movie was a huge step up in quality, one that I would recommend to anyone, horror fan or not, and one that I would watch again by myself or with friends.

Day 4: Puppet Master (1989) My fourth day, I started having a little more fun with the video responses. This is actually my first scripted video to appear on the Internet–at least, the first one that I scripted. (There are one or two other videos floating around out there featuring my acting skills.) I would definitely watch this one again with friends.

Day 5: The Black Cat (2007) Surprisingly, the best thing I watched this month–for this project. (I’m not counting The Social Network or Amélie, which I watched almost immediately after finishing up with Day 30. Call it a palate-cleanser.) I may watch this one again, but it was so horrifying, I might have to wait awhile. I highly recommend it only for people with a high threshold for gore and horror, and especially for cinephiles and fans of Edgar Allan Poe.

Day 6: My Name Is Bruce (2008) Possibly the most disappointing movie I watched this month, in terms of expectations I had going into it, but also possibly the most fun I had doing the YouTube response. I might begrudgingly watch it again with other people.

Day 7: Pandorum (2009) Possibly the most pleasant surprise. (The Black Cat, while amazing, was one of the most horrific things I’ve ever watched and a bit difficult to get through.) I had a great time watching this one, and I’d watch it again by myself or with friends. I’d recommend it to most people.

Day 8: Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009) The second movie I refused to finish. The humor went from obnoxious to ridiculous to offensive. Nowhere near the level of Redneck Zombies, but not one I care to ever revisit.

Day 9: Funny Games (1997) One of the toughest movies I had to watch, and even more difficult formulating a response. This may be the most personally contentious film I’ve ever watched. I would not recommend this to anyone but serious film students. I had a great time doing the video though. Mmmm-bananas.

Day 10: Black Sabbath (1963) This was a really boring one, maybe not even worth watching with friends. I might revisit it at some point for a more in-depth review though.

Day 11: Fright Night (1985) Probably the movie in which my mood most changed (for the better) from the beginning to the end. I started out hating it and by the end was legitimately enjoying it. I’d watch it again, alone or with friends.

Day 12: Sometimes They Come Back (1991) I doubt I’ll ever bother with this one again in any setting.

Day 13: The Fly (1986) One I had been meaning to see for years, and I am glad I finally did. It was one of my favorites of the month, and I highly recommend it. Horrifying, humorous, heartbreaking. I’d watch it again alone or with friends.

Day 14: The Phantom of the Opera (1925) A classic, but one I probably will never sit through completely again, unless I get to see one of the other edits of the film floating around. Definitely worth revisiting for certain scenes and for its importance to cinema. Also, my first silent video response.

Day 15: Lo (2009) One of the true pleasant surprises of the month, and one that has appreciated the more I’ve thought, written, and talked about. Not only would I like to watch it again, I almost feel like I need to, as I’d be seeing it from a completely different perspective thanks to the way the plot wraps up. Did a Flickchart segment in my video, which is less interesting when it’s just me talking. Also gave me a chance to talk up http://www.Flickchart.com and http://blog.flickchart.com/index.php/category/flickfights.

Day 16: The Burrowers (2008) This one, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it immediately after watching it. It’s a well-made movie that doesn’t have a very good ending, and is also one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen. I may never watch it again, but I’m glad I saw it once.

Day 17: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) The final scene of this film still makes me uneasy to think about it. It’s definitely one of the best of the 70s-80s horror. I may watch it again someday, maybe with friends who could handle it.

Day 18: White Zombie (1932) The article in which I started doing a scene-by-scene recap but had no time to finish. I’d like to go back and finish, possibly to use in another project that I’ll be working on in conjunction with IncidentalDog.com. If you’re as big a fan of http://AgonyBooth.com as I am, you already have an idea of what I’m going for.

Day 19: Peeping Tom (1960) There was a lot to laugh at and a lot to admire, but I don’t know if I’ll ever watch it again.

Day 20: Planet of the Vampires (1965) A movie that is as important as it is ludicrous, I’d love to go back and do more of an in-depth critique of this film. This one would probably be fun to watch with friends.

Day 21: Ringu (1998) The one I realized I never wrote an article for. I’d been wanting to see this film for years. Now that I have, I can compare it with the American remake, which I love. I may go back and explore these two films in an actual complete article.

Day 22: The Last House on the Left (1972) One of the biggest surprises of the month, in how poorly made a movie it is. I’ve heard that it’s a must-see in the horror genre, but it’s really not. And it’s too unpleasant to be fun for a group or for a scene-by-scene recap. As far as the video response goes, there were apparently a few people who watched it without having watched my video response for Ringu. I appreciate everybody almost calling to make sure I was okay.

Day 23: Fido (2006) I’d been waiting for a real good zombie flick, and Fido delivered. The messy ending and some less-good performances kept it from perfection, but I’d watch it again anytime. And it’s a PG-13 zombie film, which is just weird.

Day 24: The Masque of the Red Death (1964) I’d recommend this film for just about anyone. It’s well enough constructed to be respectable, but there’s also plenty to have fun with. I might like to revisit this one for a more in-depth look someday.

Day 25: Empire of the Ants (1977) This was one of the most ludicrous films I watched this month, but it would be a lot of fun to watch with a group of friends or to do an extended review of. I totally forgot about all those fake giant ants I had sitting around when I did the video response. Oh well.

Day 26: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) Another respectable but slightly-cheesy flick I’d watch again, especially with a group.

Day 27: The Washingtonians (2007) I paid the price for cheating on choosing the next movie title out of my jack-o-lantern in the previous YouTube video, because this movie was awful in every way. I don’t think I could tolerate sitting through it again.

Day 28: Cat’s Eye (1985) Much like Fright Night, I was much more into this movie at the end than I was in the beginning. This would be fun to watch with a group. Also, a note on my YouTube video: I learned that the deep guttural growl of a cat does not pick up on my laptop mic, so while my cat sounded really pissed off to me, to the audience it looks like I’m just holding a silent cat. Oh well. Crazy is as crazy does, I guess.

Day 29: Attack of the Puppet People (1958) I’m glad I got to bring back Shakes and Lefty for this one, because they are much more interesting than I am in the videos. Attack would be fun to do a more in-depth review of. Maybe someday.

Day 30: Sugar Hill (1974) I did not choose Sugar Hill at random. I did it as a present to my friends who chose it for my jack-o-lantern and kept mentioning how much they wished it would come up. They may be underwhelmed, though, because I enjoyed the movie alright. Sorry, honks, it wasn’t nearly as awful as you were hoping.

I am so happy to be done with this so I can start watching other movies I’ve been wanting to watch. Between watching the movies, preparing and recording the YouTube videos, and writing the articles, it took roughly four hours per movie, so this frees up my time a fair bit. One final thing I’d been wanting to do is some sort of a Top Horror list, so what I did was, I went back through all the titles available for instant streaming on Netflix and chose what I consider to be the 31 best horror films (out of what I’ve seen–there still are a ton of horror flicks on there I’ve never watched).

Some are relentlessly horrific. Some aren’t specifically horror films but still have a strong element of horror in some aspect of the narrative. Here are my Top 31 picks (an asterisk indicates a title from the 30 Days of Madness):

1. Aliens (1986)

2. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

3. The Black Cat (2007)*

3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

4. The Call of Cthulhu (2005)*

5. Carrie (1976)

6. Child’s Play (1988)

7. The Crazies (2010)

8. Creepshow (1982)

9. Diabolique (1955)

10. District 9 (2009)

11. The Exorcist (1973)

12. Fido (2006)*

13. The Fly (1986)*

14. The Host (2006)

15. Interview with the Vampire (1994)

16. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)*

17. Jaws (1975)

18. Lo (2009)*

19. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

20. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

21. Nosferatu (1922)

22. Pandorum (2009)*

23. Paranormal Activity (2007)

24. Peeping Tom (1960)*

25. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)*

26. Reign of Fire (2002)

27. Signs (2002)

28. The Sixth Sense (1999)

29. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

30. Them! (1954)

31. Zombieland (2009)

Thank you Alban, Nate, and Steve for your support this past month, and to everyone else who left encouraging comments along the way. Thanks to Cindy (my dog) and Putty and Kunj (my cats) for their appearances, and special thanks to Jack-o, Shakes, and Lefty. Finally, thank you to the film makers whose good films made the bad ones more bearable. Happy Halloween.

–Tom Kapr

30 Days of Madness, Day 20: Planet of the Vampires

Planet of the Vampires (1965) Directed by Mario Bava.

Planet of the Vampires is my second Mario Bava film this month, and just as Black Sabbath had nothing to do with the Sabbath, or particularly with the color black either, Planet of the Vampires has nothing to do with vampires. (It does, however, take place on a planet, so at least this time half the title is germane to the plot.) It’s closer to the definition of a zombie film, a pre-Romero zombie film (my second this month after White Zombie), in which the zombies are not mindlessly autonomous undead cannibals but undead bodies controlled by an external force. The twist on the zombie formula here is that there is an alien force involved.

Here are some of my notes on Planet of the Vampires:

–Hey, they’re wearing X-Men suits!

–The usual Italian-director habit of hiring non-English-speaking actors to mouth English dialogue then looping English actors’ voices in later, thus causing the dialogue to be mismatched to mouth movements. (This is true even of great films like the spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone.)

–The usual 60s-era sci-fi ridiculousness: the meaningless technobabble, the ostentatious brightly-colored props, the goofy sound effects, the women wearing lots of makeup and bouffants that can’t possibly allow them to wear their helmets.

–I’d swear that they’re making up this technobabble as they go.

–The planet’s gravity is irresistibly pulling the ship toward it, and this is causing everyone to be pulled irresistibly toward the floor of the ship?

"I feel like a villain in an opera wearing this ridiculous outfit."

–Typical 1960s-era Star Trek-level acting.

–Holy crap, could this scene be moving an slower?

–They can’t even turn their heads in those uniforms–one of many examples of the usual 60s-era (and especially Italian) habit of style over practicality.

–They don’t have spacesuits–they just put on helmets if they need to leave the ship on some strange planet.

–Again, typical for 60s-era sci-fi, the planet looks like a soundstage and the weapons look like plastic toys.

–Seriously, how did she get that hair in that helmet?

–When they’re not technobabbling, the script is actually pretty good.

–Nope, spoke too soon on the script. They’re looking for their disappeared shipmate, and the captain’s orders are “If anything moves, shoot first, ask questions later”? WTF?

–Well, that’s what happens when you leave a woman on guard duty. First sign of danger, they go to pieces.

–The ladies take off their helmets and their typical 60s hairdos are suddenly back to their perfect, ridiculously huge shapes.

–All this silliness aside, I can definitely see how this film could have influenced later sci-fi like Alien and such.

–Where are they getting these huge metal grave markers from? Do they keep a supply on the ship? If so, why would they do that?

–I have to admit at this point that the plot is intriguing, even if there’s a lot of silliness along the way.

Our zombies come plastic-wrapped for freshness.

–These giant alien corpses don’t match up with the size of their derelict spacecraft in which they were found. There is no way they’d be able to properly fit through the doors or sit at the tables.

–Women get hysterical so easily–why even bother to bring them along on these potentially dangerous expeditions? (All I can say is, thank God for Ellen Ripley or we might still have nothing but useless female characters in fantasy cinema.)

–Nobody trusts these two that were thought to be dead but suddenly showed up–yet nobody is set to guard them? Captain really is failing at this point.

–Why oh why do these monumentally influential sci-fi films of the 50s and 60s have to be so monumentally stupid so much of the time? They are almost always a mixed bag of really cool stuff and really, really stupid stuff. This one is a prime example.

–The End. That was a very frustrating film because of how much potential it had to be great if only it exhibited more intelligent characters, and more intelligence in the script and the way things happen. It really does have an interesting and unique plot, and I’d say it’s worth watching, even a must-see for sci-fi cinema enthusiasts, but gosh, there is just so much ludicrous stuff happening along the way.

My Netflix rating: 3 stars (out of 5) — due to its originality and the way it influenced science fiction cinema, otherwise I’d have given it 2.

–Tom Kapr

30 Days of Madness, Day 18: White Zombie

White Zombie (1932) Written by Garnett Weston. Directed by Victor Halperin. Starring Bela Lugosi.

[Editor’s note: Rather than fall behind on the 30 Days of Madness project, and because I am doing something a little more ambitious with this review, I have decided to post this as is, in its unfinished form. Consider it a prototype of a more prolonged recap process.]

My second Bela Lugosi film this month with a color in the title that inspired the name of a heavy metal band. Thirty-six years before Romero’s genre-defining Night of the Living Dead, zombies in the movies were simply dead folks reanimated by sorcery to do the bidding of their master. Allow me to take you on a scene-by-scene tour of White Zombie.

The credits open to what sounds an awful lot like “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Suede, if the ooga-chakas were joined by, let’s say, a demo tape of Robert Plant testing intros for “Immigrant Song.” Credits were a lot simpler then, with a “story and dialogue” credit to writer Garnett Weston, and ten guys credited simply and broadly for “art and technical” stuff. Apparently, sound recording company Clarco has provided the movie audience with “An RCA Photophone Noiseless Recording,” which really confuses me, what with the chanting and wailing currently accompanying the credits. Fourteen people are credited as the “players,” which is plenty for a baseball team.

A bunch of people are burying someone in the middle of the road, when our assumed protagonists approach in a carriage, stop, learn from their driver what is happening, then proceed to drive through the funeral and over the grave. Those West Indians and their kooky customs are not nearly enough to slow us down–we’re white and we’re in a hurry, dammit!

–Tom Kapr

30 Days of Madness, Day 10: Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath (1963) Directed by Mario Bava. Starring Boris Karloff.

My first film by Mario Bava, the famed Italian horror auteur. The English title Black Sabbath actually has nothing to do with the subject matter, which is an anthology of three short films originally entitled I tre volti della paura, or, literally translated from the Italian, The three faces of fear. “Black Sabbath” probably was chosen just because it sounded scary, though why those who chose it thought “The Three Faces of Fear” wasn’t foreboding enough is unknown to me. Boris Karloff hosts the film between the three segments and also stars in the third. Here are my notes on each:

I'll admit that this dead old woman is freaky.

Segment 1: “The Drop of Water”

–Nothing is sadder than lounge music playing on a record player that is turning just a little too slowly

–The Italian directors of the 60s and 70s loved shooting without sound and dubbing everything in later

–The horror in this tale is leaky plumbing?

–The whole thing is kinda goofy

–This is one of the least effective kinds of horror for me. A character I already don’t like brings a curse upon herself by doing the very thing she was warned not to do lest a curse befall her. Not only that, but the thing she does, curse or not, is a morally wrong thing to do. It’s difficult in such a case to empathize with such a character, let alone be afraid that the same horror could befall me.

Segment 2: “The Telephone”

–The horror in this segment is crank calls?

–Why don’t people in horror movies ever call the police when they are first threatened?

–This is pretty lightweight horror, and very 1960s

–Half the horror genre would disappear if the characters showed a modicum of intelligence

-Why would a character make the decision to further isolate herself? It’s one thing if there is no help to be found, but to feel trapped, then have someone ask if they can help you and deny their help? What motivation could there be not accept? None is ever given.

–I might take this movie more seriously if it weren’t for the garish 1960s spy thriller music: ba-BA-da-ba-ba-DAAAAAA

–“You’re dead! Don’t you understand? You’re dead!” Yeah, I don’t think he cares.

–This segment is LAME!

Segment 3: “The Wurdelak”

–Started out so promisingly, but then got very confusing

–Karloff delivers this unfortunate line: “What’s the matteer, woman? Can’t I fondle my own grandson?” My, how language changes. (It doesn’t help that he later steals his grandson from his bed in the dead of night.)

Grandpa Boris is watching you sleep.

–I don’t get this. They all knew what would happen if their father returned from the mountains any later than five days  from the time he set out (though why they knew this was never made clear, or why “five days” matters), yet none of them did a thing when he returned late, even though–come on, now–they all know he’s a vampire.

–Nobody does anything that makes sense in this movie!

–These two love each other? They met, like, ten minutes ago and barely interacted!

–Gotta love the random red lights glowing in the middle of the ruins in the middle of nowhere

–I had such hope for this segment to be good. Now I don’t care how it ends, as long as it ends.

–And to top everything off, here is a musical medley of badness to go with the end credits.

I have to say that between this and my recent viewing of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, I am not much impressed by the great Italian horror auteurs. There seems to be a lack of things making sense in such a way that I can understand characters’ motivations for making the decisions they make. As it is, characters just seem to do things or to know things without cluing the audience in to how or why. At best, it creates a randomly connected series of horror images rather than a cogent horror story. At worst, it’s just alternately boring and confusing.

My Netflix rating: 2 stars (out of 5)

–Tom Kapr