What better way to enter the Halloween weekend than with The Exorcist, arguably one of the most chilling movies of all time. And who am I to argue? Friday nights in October are for staying up late and getting scared. Or maybe shocked is a better word, which is what this film does to its audience. I was 12 when this movie was released and although I read the book at around that time, I did not see the movie until I was 17. My mother gave me the book to read after she finished it - she loved horror as much as I do. The original horror moviefests took place in her room when my father was out of town; we would watch Nightmare Theater and scare ourselves. My dad wasn't away much so it probably only happened a couple of times, enough to anchor the memory for a lifetime. I miss my mom, she would love how we do Halloween over here. The Exorcist is based on a true story, which as we know comes with a good deal of creative license. The subject of the exorcism was a young boy who, in 1949, underwent a months-long exorcism or a series of exorcisms that ended in him apparently being cleared of evil spirits and leading a normal life. Today the consensus is that the young man, "Roland Doe," was most likely suffering from mental illness; no proof of demonic possession was ever obtained. True story or not, you don't have to be Catholic or even remotely religious to be shocked and terrified by this film.
I rented Constantine when Netflix was still fairly new to the DVD business - long before streaming and at a time when people would wander through the video store looking for something to tide them over because the movie they'd intended to rent was not available. It surprised me how long it took for mail-in DVD rental to catch on. I bring this up because Constantine answered the question, what do you do when you when you lose the rental? I'm not saying anything supernatural happened, but the Constantine DVD that I rented from Netflix vanished. Poof - right into thin air. I honestly expected it would turn up when we moved; everything in the house was packed up, moved, and unpacked. No DVD. That event is on my list of shorts that I plan to request in the next life, along with the times (yes, plural) that my keys also vanished. Anyway, I had forgotten about this film until I saw in on the list of scary movies with storms. I had forgotten how good it was, angels and demons, good vs. evil, and a glimpse of what Hell might look like. I liked Keaneau Reeves in the matrix and felt like he delivered a comparable performance in Constantine. Right down to paranormal guns blazing at the supernatural. I bought the video for the 2016 moviefest and expect it will become a regular.
In about the time it takes to bake 13 dozen cupcakes, you can watch The Shining. The Stephen King version and not the Stanley Kubrick one. I watched a Stephen King interview on a television news show and he talked about how he hated Kubrick's adaptation of his book. In fact, he was so vocal that Kubrick offered to sell him back the movie rights if he would stop his criticism. So he stopped and remade the movie 17 years after the Kubrick film was released. I sort of hate Kubrick's version and until I saw the interview, I didn't know that (a) Stephen King hated it too, and (b) there was a remake. It bothered me that Kubrick ended his film with Jack simply sitting down in the snow to freeze to death. Or that he changed the topiary into a static maze. I mean, WTH? The creeping boiler, "you will remember what he forgot," is paramount to the story yet left so entirely out of Kubrick's movie that the ending had to be different. I doubt that is the reason for the lame ending, Kubrick never does anything without a reason. Like casting Shelly Duval as a weak, sniveling Wendy Torrance. The Twins figure so prominently in the Kubrick film but are notably absent in the King version. That puzzled me because they are key to the book's creepy plot.
When Stephen King stayed at The Stanely Hotel, he stayed in Room 217 which is the room number of bathtub woman in the television miniseries. In the Kubrick film, the bathtub woman is in Room 237, which I really think is the same as the book so now I am really confused. In the epic battle of Kubrick vs. King, my assessment is this: Kubrick had the better movie while King had the better adaptation. Peace, because I own them both.
I saw the original Tales from the Crypt at the local movie theater when I was 11, and that was the age at which I set the benchmark for scary because this movie was the scariest movie I would see for a long time. I remember the heart scene, hiding behind the seat in front of me too scared to watch and unable to look away. I remembered all of the stories in the 40 or so years until I saw it again. The popular cable series of the same name apparently remade several of the episodes although I didn't see them. I searched for years to find this one on video and I finally succeeded last year. The movie was as good as I remember even with the seriously fake blood that looks like red paint. I ran this film again for my brother on Halloween; he hadn't seen it since 1971 either and we both thoroughly enjoyed the creepy nostalgia.
I started the preseason with The Amityville Horror, so it seems fitting to close it out with the original. Based on a true story, the Lutz family moves into a house where an unspeakable crime was committed and the haunting begins until they run screaming from the house in the night. And while the movie is indeed based on a true story, there is much controversy surrounding the truth of that story. It is true that Ronnie DeFeo murdered his family in that house, that the Lutz family moved in a year later and that they left their home never to return. There is really no corroborating evidence for the supernatural events that are described in the book on which the story is based. But then ghosts and demons hate corroborating evidence. True or not, I love a good haunted house story even if it turns out to be fiction.
Another Stephen King television miniseries, Salem's Lot was released on DVD this month. I honestly can't remember when I first saw the series but I remember reading the book, another donation from my mother's collection. And I remember being scared witless by it. I love vampires but there just aren't very many good vampire stories. I didn't care for Interview with the Vampire and while I believe Nosferatu was indeed the scariest movie at the time, it doesn't do it for me. And don't get me started on Twilight. So I was really thrilled when this series came out on video so I can add it to the movie collection. I turned the video on while I was decorating cupcakes so it functioned more as background and I really want to just sit and watch this one. All three hours of it. I will put it at the top of next year's list and maybe sneak in a screening in the meantime.
So that sums up the 2016 Halloween moviefest. 31 days - 37 movies, 3 repeats and a blog. I will be back next year with the old favorites, films I didn't get to this year, and hopefully some new movies that prove the scary movie genre is alive and well.
Now I will kick back for something really scary . . . the 2016 presidential election. Talk about wanting to hide under the covers.