In SVB Halloween Theater, we asked various musicians and fellow bloggers to talk about some of their favorite horror films.
Dan Wilson – Guitar
The Lost Continent (1968)
I still remember watching this movie on a black and white TV set in a three room house on Lake Hopatcong, NJ in 1979. I remember all means of fucked up imagery in it – foggy scenes of wrecked boats, man-eating seaweed, strange rites being conducted, super odd music, and a pervasive feeling of being trapped. Maybe it was the zeitgeist of 1979, maybe it was just a really dark, weird movie… but it stuck with me 38 years, not even remembering the name of it, just the images and the odd dread around it. I recently watched it again in 2017. Zeitgeist is strangely somehow similar. Movie is STILL incredibly fucked up! Honestly, it’s terrible, with a really stupid plot, horrible effects, and really bad acting. Sense of dread, weird rites, foggy boats, killer seaweed – still there, all wrapped up in a freaking terrible movie. Seeing it as an adult, it was even MORE absurd and unlikely. But there’s enough amazing, whether made of real horror or Velveeta, for an 8- or 46-year-old me. Probably more for an 8-year-old me though, and I prefer my foggy impressions to the real thing. I also still don’t swim in the ocean though.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
This movie scared the shit out of me. James Brolin’s beard is really bad, and he looks like he’s been on a bender for approximately 4 years prior to filming. Margot Kidder does not. But the fact that a blockbuster can make you kinda freaked out to be in your house that may or may not want to kill you and tells priests to GET OUT while attacking them with flies? Well… yeah. Shit is scary when yer 8. I was still damaged from seeing The Exorcist – but that seems kinda cut and dried, plain old demon possession. This wasn’t as scary as THAT – but that there was no antagonist. Just a house? Okay… that’s a lot to wrap your head around at age 8. I mean, ghost story, right? But the house is evil? In all honesty, it’s another bad movie with bad effects from the ’70s with little or no redeeming art value in retrospect. BUT DUDE… the HOUSE is possessed.
Edward Ricart – Guitar
I remember seeing Videodrome for the first time and being completely blown away. There are so many ways to read a Cronenberg film. He is a master at exploring points of intersection between futurist technologies and base human nature… Even if a premise seems totally outlandish, Cronenberg finds a grounding element in how morally repugnant and disgusting human beings can be. Here, James Woods plays a television executive who uncovers a pirate feed of graphic snuff videos called Videodrome. He sees this as the perfect content for the audience of his seedy TV network, and in trying to learn more about its source, he develops this voyeuristic obsession with the programming that ends up consuming him. The movie is couched in layers of underlying sociopolitical struggle with all sorts of strange allegorical implications and absurd ’80s gore. It generally rocks as a cult document of anti-corporate monoculture.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Set mostly in a shopling mall, this one serves a dual purpose as ’70s zombie flick and awesome, hilarious indictment of mall culture. The film has this really claustrophobic sense of setting and pace to it – the pacing really is so meticulous and slow, with the tension just constantly simmering. In the trajectory of zombie narratives, this movie strikes me as a more comprehensive, macro view of what a zombie crisis looks like, contrasting the more intimate, thriller vibes of something like Night of the Living Dead. But mostly it’s all the brainless zombies ironically doing every-day-brainless-human-things in a shopping mall that scratches the itch for me here!
Gary Brents – Cara Neir
The Wailing (2016)
This is a enthralling story that will linger on your mind for awhile. While not settled into just pure scare tactics, it’s a compelling palette of mystery, crime drama, supernatural horror, and even interspersed dark comedy. The feel of this movie has quite a few mood shifts, counterbalancing intimate daily eccentricities of characters in a sort of lighthearted way (at times) and anticipatory moments of just pure dread — thus, keeping the viewer at the edge of their seat (or mind, for that matter). The ends of this spectrum serve one another throughout, which pulls the viewer in even more. Without too much of an unveil, you will come to question the insanity of the plot and your sympathy with certain characters as the story unfolds into an exhilarating bleakness. It challenges not only your wits, but also your emotions, and that’s a quality not a lot of newer horror movies have. Be prepared for a long journey (2hr 36m), but expect to be entertained.