Sunday, April 28, 2019

Hey, Look Over There!

Hidey-ho, people! Welcome to another edition of WTFHM! Thanks for stopping by!

So, in case you missed it. I discussed Criterion films and their significance in the world of movie making. Today, as luck would have it, we’re moving along with yet another Criterion film. This one starring Donald Sutherland.

That’s right. Keifer’s dad and the man responsible for one of the oldest sections of nightmare fuel in my brain (1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of my all time favorites, btw, which is saying a LOT considering it’s a remake) is the featured actor in this week’s horror movie.

I did a little homework on this week’s movie and found out that once upon a time in 1973, times were more innocent in movies. The type of things that would rate a hard R usually got an X rating back in the day. I imagine that’s one of the reasons this one made the collection. I mean, it’s a pretty movie as B-movie horror goes, but a little controversy goes a long way towards making your mark on history.

Okay, so;

Don’t Look Now starring Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania, Massimo Serrato, Renato Scarpa, and Sharon Williams.

So, the story opens with The Baxters, who happened to be sitting at home while their young daughter is playing outside by a pond with her brother. John Baxter(Sutherland) - a restoration...guy (Sorry, I’m just not smart enough to know what the title for that) -- is looking over slides of an old cathedral when his spidey sense starts tingling. He runs out to the pond to find that his young daughter has drowned.

Fast forward sometime later, the two of them are in Venice. John has taken a commission to restore an old church. They also use the trip as a way to get away after the death of their daughter, of course. One day, while eating out at a restaurant, John notices two women sitting a few tables down and they seem to be looking at them. When a door opens and one of the women gets something in her eye, they go to the bathroom and John’s wife, Laura, decides to be a good Samaritan and help out.

In the bathroom, the women introduce themselves as Heather(Mason) and Wendy(Matania). Wendy tells Laura that her sister, Heather, is blind, but she’s got second sight.

Heather tells Laura that she sees her little girl and that’s why she and her sister were staring at them back at the table. She tells her that her daughter was sitting at the table with them. Laura is shocked and understandably emotion about the idea that their daughter is still with them.

She goes to John and tells him with all sorts of I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT energy and John’s all, “Yeah, right. Kid’s dead. Get over it, lady.” She keeps insisting until she faints, crashing into the table in 300 style slow motion.

So, of course, an ambulance is called and Laura is taken to the hospital, where she recovers just fine. She tells John, a little more calmly, about what happened in the bathroom and what the ladies saw. John takes it a little better and treats her a little less like a hysterical woman and more like his wife. They go home soon after and then,

Yup. The infamous sex scene. 

Now, I’ve seen a lot of sex scenes in a lot of movies in my not-so-young life and on a scale of Twilight to Caligula, I’d put this somewhere between Angel Heart and 9 ½ Weeks in terms of sexy. Like, it wasn’t really enough to get a rise out of many evangelicals today, but I can see how people would be shocked into protests in 1973. Fun fact, the scene was considered so realistic that people believed they two of them were actually screwing on camera. They weren’t, of course. In fact, Donald Sutherland’s recollection of filming the scene was that it was anything but sexy at all.

But anyway,

After the sex, they go out to dinner and decide to do a little exploring of the back streets of Venice.

I don’t know. People do that, you know. Just wander around strange cities and get lost for fun. Personally, I always thought that if you’re so inclined to do it at night, you’re asking for a horror movie outcome. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happens to John and Laura.

They eventually get separated and John ends up seeing a small figure in a red rain slicker, just like the one his daughter was wearing when she died. He tries following her but is headed off when his wife calls for him. They find each other and their way out of the street maze.

Okay, so the next day, Laura’s all, we should have a seance with those two nice ladies Heather and Wendy. John’s all, I agree. You should have a seance with those two nice ladies. Leave my name out of it. Laura goes without him and right before Heather goes into a weird orgasmic trance she tells Laura that her daughter said that her husband is in danger and he needs to leave Venice. Now. Like, right now.

Laura goes back to the hotel and immediately tells John that he’s in danger. John goes all alpha male on her and goes off on her. He can’t just leave because of something a couple of old biddies said, after all. Later that night, they get a call that their son has been in a terrible accident. Laura immediately dips out, leaving John to stay in Venice to finish his restoration project.

The next day, John’s working while on a scaffolding and before he knows it, the scaffolding gives way and he’s almost killed. Clearly freaked out by the event, he realizes that maybe the crazy old ladies were right after all.

Later that day, he’s chilling in Venice when he spots Laura speeding by on a boat with the two sisters. Freaked out because Laura is supposed to be Venice AND, by the way, there are reports of a serial killer on the loose (no I didn’t forget. They kind of blend that into the background so you don’t really notice until around now), he understandably loses his mind.

He goes to the cops and tells them that he saw her with the old ladies. The inspector he speaks with(Scarpa) tells him that they’ll look into it and in the meantime, has John followed without his knowledge.

So, John is looking all over Venice for the old ladies and his wife and after getting freaked out by the little girl ghost in the red coat, he goes back to the hotel and calls home to check on his son’s condition. When he calls, their nanny tells him that he’s fine and his wife has been taking good care of him.

John’s mad confused and he asks to speak to her. When she gets on the phone and confirms to him that she is, indeed, in England, John goes back to the police and tells them to call off the hounds, which they do. In the meantime, he notices that Heather is in the police station because, you know, they said they were going to bring her in.

John, feeling like a world class heel, offers to take Heather home. When he gets her back to the hotel where they’re staying, she goes into another trance. Wigged out, John leaves. Heather freaks out and tells her sister to go after him because he’s in grave danger.

I’m gonna pause right here to say that at some point during all this, Laura comes back from England. I don’t know how far England is from Italy, but she gets there pretty darned quick and by the time she does, everyone’s looking for John who’s now roaming the streets chasing after a little red coated girl.

Only it’s not a girl. He finally tracks the red-coated figure down, only to find that it’s a little old lady that’s been going around killing people. She kills him and in the flashes, before his life ends, he realizes that the images he’s been seeing were actually prophetic of his death and funeral.

The End.

So, what did I think? Again, I get why a movie like this is in the Criterion collection. The cinematography is stunning, the symbolism was fabulous. It’s a grade A movie. I’d be remiss to give it anything less than a jewel.

All right, so next week, we’ve got a movie that I’ve been repeatedly told to watch - Greenroom. Okay, my people. Don’t let me down. See you next week!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Creep Carnival

Ahoy-hoy, peoples! Welcome to another edition of WTFHM!

So, this week we review an entry from the Criterion Collection. What, do you ask, is the Criterion Collection?

The Criterion Collection is a collection of movies assembled by a video company that includes classic, independent, and generally really well-made gems within the movie field. The movies span all genres and include B-movies and A-list stars, sometimes at the same time.

Right? For that reason, I have to say that regardless of my personal opinion of any of these movies that I review, it’s getting a jewel on general principle. If it made it to the Criterion Collection, there had to be a reason.

That being said, however, keep in mind, I’m not going to sing the praises of a movie that I didn’t like. The thing about horror is that there are movies that are stunningly beautiful that are also painfully awful. Some of those movies are among my favorites as well. (See Suicide Club. No, really, you should watch it. It’s so awful and so great.) 

Okay, so this week’s movie: 

Carnival of Souls starring Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger, Art Ellison, Stan Levitt, and a cast of zombie men that all look the same to me, but I was shocked to find out they were played by different people.

So, Mary Henry(Hilligoss) is going for a drive with her girlfriends when a group of guys pulls up next to them and challenges them to a race. They say “Let’s do this!”

They race until they reach a rickety old bridge. Mary Henry’s car goes over the edge and is submerged under the murky depths of a lake. Sometime later, the whole town is out looking for the submerged car and lo and behold, she comes crawling out of the muddy water.

Sometime later, we see Mary playing a large organ. Her boss comes to her and tells she’s the bomb and she should stick around. Mary’s got other plans, however. After almost dying and losing her friends, she’s decided that she wants to start over in a new town and a new life. She’s accepted a job as an organist at a church in Utah.

So, Mary jumps in her car and drives to Utah. Along the way, she starts seeing ghostly faces. One even tries to run her off the road. She rights herself, however, and continues on.

She sees different sites along the way, including an old abandoned pavilion. When she stops to get gas, she asked about it to the attendant, who tells her that it used to be a few things before it was finally a carnival….for SOULS.

I just added that last part for flavor. :D

So, anyway, she makes it into town where she stays in a boarding house managed by Mrs. Thomas (Feist). A kindly old woman who tells her that tells her that her only other tenant is Mr. Linden (Berger) staying in the room across the hall. Mary thanks her and goes about unpacking…with a creepy ghost checking her out in the window.

The next day, she goes to her job and plays the organ for her new boss, who shows her around and when she asks about the old pavilion, he offers to take her out to take a look at it.

So, they do and she reveals that she wants to see it because she’s curious about it. They can’t go into it because that’s breaking in, of course, but she can’t shake the feeling that there’s something there.

When she gets back, Mrs. Thomas offers to bring her some dinner. She thanks her and tells her that she’s going to take a nice bath.

She does and while she’s in the bath someone knocks at her door. She gets out, expecting Mrs. Thomas. When she opens the door, she sees Mr. Linden there and the creeper fest begins.

So, she tells him to wait by the door…no…wait…she INSISTS that he wait by the door and she has to insist because he’s basically just squeezing himself in through the door that she’s trying to hide behind. Once he’s back on the other side, she puts on a robe. Creep sneaks a peak while she’s getting dressed.

She lets him in and he’s trying his best moves on her and, not surprisingly, she turns him down…you know, because he’s a creeper with all the charm of a pedophile.

After he leaves, she goes out into the hall and sees a creepy ghost man coming up the stairs. She panics and runs back in her room and locks the door. She hears the footsteps however slowly coming up the stairs.

Ending with a knock on the door. Mrs. Thomas is on the other side with sandwiches. She opens the door and asks Mrs. Thomas if she saw the man on the stairs. Mrs. Thomas doesn’t know what she’s talking about and tells her she better eat some food because she’s losing her mind.

The next morning, her alarm goes off and she gets up. Knocking at her door is the creeper from down the hall. Creeper comes in with coffee in hand and tells her that he knows she was up because he heard her alarm go off…because THAT’S normal.

She invites him in this time and they have coffee. He immediately takes out alcohol to put in his coffee and offers her some. She tells him that she can’t because she has to go to work at her job at the church. He goes all; “I didn’t know you was one of them praying chicks!” She assures him that the job is just that to her. Just a job. 

Later, she goes out to the store for clothes and in the middle of shopping suddenly finds that no one can see or hear her. She freaks out and runs out of the store, running into a doctor who offers to help her. She sits down and talks to him and…

By the way, it’s not until she starts talking to him in his office that he admits that he’s not a psychiatrist. We never do find out what kind of doctor he actually is, but…yeah.

Anyway, while talking to the doctor, she decides that the only thing for all the weird stuff that keeps happening to her is to go to the old pavilion.

She breaks in and walks around the place. She doesn’t find anything strange, per se, but something is still watching her.

She goes home, has another messed up interaction with Creepy Neighbor.

So, the next day at work, she’s playing the organ when all of a sudden, things get all wavy and she starts playing weird eerie music. The minister stops her and flips out, calling the music sacrilege and profane. Needless to say, she’s fired on the spot.

As she’s leaving, Creepy Neighbor is hanging out by the door and walks her home. She tells him that she doesn’t want to be alone, so she agrees to go out on a date with him.

That night, they’re at the bar. He’s drinking like a fish and she’s got the whole Million Yard Stare going. The next few minutes is this painful exchange where he gets pissed at her for not being personable and she gives in to him and tells him that she really wants to be with him. He plays on her vulnerabilities and manages to get her to take him back to her room.

They get there and start making out (albeit stubborn thing. Things are kind of heading towards date rape central) and she looks in the mirror and lo and behold, there’s the ghost man.  She freaks out and Mr. Charming runs out of the room pissed off because he thinks she’s gone crazy.

K, so. She spends the night barricading herself in her room. Mrs. Thomas calls the doctor (yes the same doctor Mary saw earlier) and he doesn’t know what’s wrong with her…because he’s not a psychiatrist. He tells Mrs. Thomas that what he does find out is that she’s planning on leaving the city…which she does.

She leaves the boarding house and packs her car up and tries to leave. Her car starts acting up, however, so she takes the car into the shop. The mechanic tells her he will have a look at it, she opts to stay in the car as he lifts it up on the hydraulic lift.

While up in the lift, she starts seeing the ghost people. She freaks out and jumps out of the car and runs away. She tries to buy a bus ticket out of town, but the weird invisible no one can hear her thing happens again and she can’t. She tries just hitching a ride on a bus, but the bus is full of ghost people.

She runs away and ends up at the pavilion. She wanders until she happens upon a ballroom area where all the ghost people are dancing around and around. She slowly realizes that one of the people is actually her. 

When she realizes it, she runs away and all the ghosts run after her. She makes it to the beach and collapses, where the ghost people close in on her.

Meanwhile, back in the small town that she left, they finally find the car that she was in and are dragging it out of the river. In the car, they find her friends as well as Mary Henry, dead as doornails.

The End. 

So, yeah, like I said, getting a jewel on principle BUT I’d give this a jewel whether or not it was a Criterion Collection movie. I mean, it’s very B-movie with a very weak plot, but it’s positively hypnotic to watch. I’d recommend it highly.


So, next week is yet another from the Criterion Collection. Don’t Look Now with Donald Sutherland! See you next week!