Sunday, August 18, 2019

Hammer Time

Hidey-ho, fellow horror nuts. Welcome to yet another WTFHM!

So, you might remember last week that the next bunch of movies in my line of sight within the Ferndale Area District Library’s illustrious collection had to do with the Hammer Films. On the off chance that there might be a Hammer film that I haven’t seen, I checked out the two disc collection so to review for this week. So, how did that work out, you ask?

Yeah, I’ve seen every one we have. Thanks Thriller Double Feature!

Now, normally, this is where I’d be moving on to the next movie in the series, but I thought, meh, why not do a Hammer Appreciation blog instead?

So, this week we’re going to cover the Hammer Movies, starring, like, all the best horror movie actors in the 60s and 70s. Hammer movies have a distinctive quality to them that you can pretty much spot at a glance. So, in honor of that, let’s do an At A Glance guide for all you newbies out there going “What’s a Hammer Movie?”. Welcome to today’s special segment entitled:

How Do I Know if I’m watching a Hammer Movie?

The Hammer Acting Crew

Here’s probably the best way to spot a Hammer Horror film from back in the day is whether or not the following actors are in it:

Christopher Lee

Peter Cushing

Oliver Reed

Bella Lugosi

Barbara Shelley

Veronica Carlson

David Prowse

Michael Ripper

Michael Ripper, by the way, is probably the one guy you’d see all the dang time. I’m pretty sure he was in all of them.

And those, of course, aren’t all the common actors, but those are the ones I recall seeing the most.


And before you get at me about forgetting Our Lord and Savior Vincent Price, contrary to popular belief, he never did any Hammer movies. He was a Roger Corman guy.

Moving on:

Everything is in British

Okay, so, you have to keep in mind that the majority of the old school Hammer horror movie productions jumped off around the time when most of the world was obsessed with the British. Like the Beatles and The Rolling Stones were hot and Twiggy was the big It Girl in Fashion and everything was in that weird high definition swirly tie-dyed color scheme.

All that was working out pretty good considering Hammer Productions was based out of, you guessed it, London. And at some point, somebody said, hey, you know what’d really be far out? Horror movies!

Yeah, I don’t really get the connection either, but it worked out for them. So, yeah, everything in a Hammer movie is in British, even if the movie takes place in Spain. I’m looking at you Oliver Reed.

 The Goth Look

So, I have no citations to back me up on this, but I’m pretty sure the Hammer films started this trend:

Or maybe even this trend:

However it started, Hammer Horror movies became synonymous with horror movies that took place back during the time of horse and carriages and floor-length black and red velvet gowns and dark paisley wallpaper and heavy curtains and canopy beds with drapes and so forth. It was commonplace in a Hammer movie to live in a castle in a high necked gown with lots of pearls.

Vampires are a Thing

All and all, the Hammer Horror movies ran for, like, a decade and you would think with that kind of run there would be about a billion new and interesting story ideas that came out of it.

Well...interesting, sure, but they were all pretty much vampire movies. I mean, there were werewolves and mummies and all the classic monster mash things happening, but really, Hammer Horror films were mostly vampire movies. Dracula, The Horror of Dracula, The Brides of Dracula, Kiss of the Vampire, the list just goes on and on and on.

In fact, Christopher Lee played Dracula, like, nine or ten times...which is a lot when you think about it. You know how when you think of Wolverine, you can only picture Hugh Jackman playing him? That’s what it was like for Lee in Hammer’s heyday.

But that vampire thing leads me to…

Bloodshot eyes are also a thing

Closeups of well-lit monster eyes are pretty commonplace and they’re always bloodshot. I never looked into it, but I’ve always wondered if actors had to stay awake for days at a time to achieve the bloodshot thing, but worked pretty well. No matter how handsome or rich he was when he was human when you saw this:

You knew you didn’t want those kinds of problems.

And lastly…

The Colors, The Colors!

Hammer horror (well, all the Hammer films) were known for their bright and vivid color scheme. Everything kind of looks like somebody turned the gamma up on the screen. All the blondes and REALLY golden blonde and the redheads all have red/orange hair. And blood looks more like candy apple red paint than blood.

In a way, though, that’s part of the fun of it. Most Hammer Horror movies, you can watch with Granny without a lecture about how violent movies are bad for you. Seriously, nothing’s all that gruesome when it’s colored like a Bugs Bunny Cartoon after all.

So, next week we’re getting right back in the game with The Haunting of Alice D, which I really hope I haven’t seen before. I’ve seen a lot of movies that started off with “The Haunting of Blah, Blah, Blah.”

See you next time!


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Fun with Psychotic Hitchhiking Murderers

Hidey-ho, horror people and welcome to another WTFHM!

Before we get going, I need to ask you old school horror nuts a very serious question. Remember Hitcher? From the 80s? Rutger Hauer (RIP)? C. Thomas Howell? Jennifer Jason Leigh? You know it, right?

So, what was your favorite part of that movie? Now, nine times out of ten, I’ll bet that you’ve got a lot of great moments that come to mind and I’ll bet every single one of your lists includes one particular scene that stays burned in your memory, even to this day. 

Don’t all shout it out at once. We’ll get to that moment in a little bit.

All right. Ready for some more remake/reboot/reimagined foolishness?

The Hitcher starring Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton, Neal McDonough, Kyle Davis, Skip O’Brien, Travis Schuldt, and Danny Bolero.

Okay, so this one is as full of bad decisions as the first Jeepers Creepers, but in the same kind of way that the original does with the primary lesson being that no good deed goes unpunished and never, ever pick up hitchhikers.

Fortunately for everyone involved, this movie pretty much follows the same path as the original movie with just a few exceptions. Instead of one guy running from a psychopath, we have college students Jim (Knighton) and Grace (Bush), instead of Rutger Hauer, we’ve got Sean Bean in, yet, another movie he dies in, and this time we’ve got explosions, because Michael Bay said so.

That being said, I got about halfway through writing this synopsis when I realized that remake Hitcher not only has the same path, but it really is the same as the original movie, storywise and eventwise. Just about everything that went down in the original goes down in the remake.

No, really. The only real difference is that it’s got all your Michael Bay-isms. Just mix a kind of a nice guy:

With a hot girl:

Some cool vintage vehicles:

A car chase or two:

And “cool guys walk away from explosions” action:

And Voila! You’ve got yourself a Michael Bay Joint.

So, let’s save a little time and do a little Dos and Don’ts list. I mean, even in the original, there are quite a few. 

DO: Listen to your girlfriend

Or boyfriend or whichever person in your crew is talking the most common sense. So, let me set this up for you. The jumping point for this movie begins when while driving at night in torrential rain, they almost run over a guy standing in the middle of the road. While their car stalls, the following conversations ensues:

Jim: I’m going to go talk to him.

Grace: No! Why would you do that? Let’s get out of here.

Jim: But his car is stalled and we almost hit him. We should see if he’s okay.

Grace: My dude. It’s in the middle of the night in the pouring rain and homeboy was standing in the middle of the road. What kind of crazy person stands in the middle of the road in the pouring rain?

Jim: But...but we should help him.

Grace: No, we should call for help and keep it pushing.

Jim: *pouts*
They make it as far as a gas station where Jim runs into the guy on the road (who’s caught a ride with a trucker). He feels bad and offers to give him a ride to the nearest motel. Guess what happens next? If you saw the original, you probably already know because the same thing happens in the remake.

DON’T: Wreck your car. 

I realize that if you find yourself stuck in a Michael Bay movie, not wrecking your car might be a little harder to do than normally, but do try to make the effort. Like, don’t pull up alongside a car trying to warn that family that there’s a killer in the backseat. Pull in front of it and stop, maybe. Or pay better attention to the road so you don’t have to swerve.

Because if you don’t, well, then, it never really mattered because the family is going to die anyway - only, now, you don’t have a car.

DO: Listen. To. Your. Girlfriend.

 Sometime before the family scene, Grace asks Jim if they can just turn around and go home. I mean, they had just been through something really traumatic and since there doesn’t seem to be any police stations in the direction they’re going, maybe going back is a good idea. Don’t blow her off, dude. Go back home.

DON’T: Get cocky. 

Look, a psychopath is chasing you all over the countryside. Just because he’s not here right now doesn’t mean he’s not right around the corner. Trust me. If he’s not dead yet, assume he’s still coming to get you.

DO: Get with the program. 

This is a note that I make a lot when talking about horror movies and, to Jim and Grace’s credit, they get with what’s going on pretty quickly. Well...Grace does anyway. Overall, they manage to make adequate life choices while running from Captain Crazy Pants.

Except for the pivotal and very famous scene that is forever burned in all our memories. You know the one.

So, Jim and Grace break into a hotel room to hide after their ordeal running from Ryder (and the cops, by this time). Feeling relatively safe, they shower, make love, etc and so forth.

Then, Jim leaves the hotel room. I’ll be honest, I don’t really remember why, but he just leaves like it’s a day ago when they were just a couple of traveling college kids. There’s no, “if I’m not back in an hour, call the national guard” or nothing like that. Just, “Going to the store for some cigarettes” and that’s it.

So, as you can imagine, because of Jim’s poor choice making, he gets kidnapped.

And here’s where we get to the bonus round. 

As you might recall from the original, this is the part where Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character gets herself expired when Ryder ties her between two idling semi-trucks.

Only, in this version, it’s Jim that’s tied up.

Honestly, the scene between Ryder and Grace with Grace tearfully begging for Jim’s life is pretty powerful, but...well…

Look, all, I’m saying is that if I were watching this for the first time, I wouldn’t be as scarred as I was watching Jennifer Jason Leigh get torn to shreds. And before you yell sexism at me, it’s not that...or, okay, it’s not JUST that. What makes this scene so jarring is Hauer’s cold indifference. The icey sense of despair and madness from Hauer’s performance is sorely missed in Bean’s “Hey, I’m just a crazy jerk that doesn’t actually care about anything. Whee! Watch me let go of the clutch!”

I’m not hating on it, mind you. It was a good scene. It just wasn’t Hauer and Howell.


DON’T: Ask why. 

Sometimes people just want to watch the world burn. It’s life. Quit asking the psycho why he’s a psycho.

Last, but not least,

DO: Double Tap. 

The killer is coming back. If at any point in time you have a chance to put a bullet in his head, take that shot. Like the original, Ryder keeps killing all the way to the very end and just when you think it’s all over, here he comes on that BS.

What did I give this one? Well, it looks like we’ve got another movie that’s out to make me a liar about not liking remake/reboots/reimagings. Despite the fact that it’s just a tweaked version of the original Hitcher, Imma throw it a jewel.

But, if you have the choice to see this one or the original, watch the original. Rutger Hauer’s Ryder is worth the price of admission.

Next up...well, it’s kind of a mixed bag. Technically, the next up is the Hammer Movie Series which I’m not sure about. I’ve seen a lot of Hammer Movies, so we might just move on to the next one down the line. We’ll see next week!