The October Horror Movie Challenge is over, and final reviews and write-ups are rolling in across the board. The last week of the Challenge was fairly light for me, particularly after revisiting the entire Saw franchise. There’s just something about those movies that kind of kills the buzz. Anyhow, here are the last few films for the 2014 October Challenge!
Twice Told Tales (1963, dir. Sidney Salkow; first time view) – Anthology film based on three Nathaniel Hawthorne stories — “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” and House of the Seven Gables — each starring Vincent Price. Of the three, the strongest tale may be “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” in which Price and Sebastian Cabot, as the title character, play aging friends celebrating a birthday and mourning the passing of Heidegger’s fiancée nearly four decades prior. As they visit her tomb, they discover that she has been perfectly preserved by some kind of mysterious water that’s been dripping on her coffin. Furthermore, they find that this substance can renew life to an old pressed flower, and decide to drink it to regain their youth. What happens after is a mix of the old monkey’s paw-style of storytelling, and the kind of Twilight Zone-esque twist ending where consequences are harsh and wishes have a deadly kickback. “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” which involves two young lovers kept apart by a controlling father and a very strange skin condition, is fairly dry and offers little more than smoky special effects and a lot of men controlling the fate of the female lead. The final segment, based on a novel as opposed to a short story, has a promising start but devolves into a lot of general silliness. Here, Price plays the cursed son in a long line of cursed sons, returning to the family home to break the spell once and for all. There’s a bit with a severed flying skeleton arm, if that tells you anything about how different this version is from Hawthorne’s novel. Overall, not a terrible trilogy of spooky stories, but really only worth watching for Price alone.
The Innocents (1961, dir. Jack Clayton; first time view) – In a story based on Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw,” an ambitious young woman is sent to a remote country estate to care for two children not long after the sudden death of the previous governess. As time goes on, dark secrets are revealed and ghosts both real and perceived slowly begin to manifest on the estate’s grounds. Some of the best haunted house films are ambiguous, leaving it up to the viewer to decide on the mental states of all involved. Are the children deeply disturbed or playing a game? Is the governess completely at wits from the start or does she begin to fall apart the more time she spends with the children? Is the house haunted or are the people? The Innocents weaves in and around these questions on a spider’s thread, delicately speaking of indiscretions in hushed tones and entertaining child’s play in an inappropriate kiss. There’s much going on here, and this is by far one of the best ghost tales in horror canon.
Saw I – VII (2004 – 2010, various; repeat views) – my really deep thoughts on the Saw franchise can be found here.
The Craft (1996, dir. Andrew Fleming; repeat view) – When new girl in school Sarah joins a trio of teen witches, dark mayhem and death ensue. What can I say about The Craft? It is not a good film. There’s a lot of bad acting, and there’s a pretty terrible message about how women with power will go mad with it. And yet, I love this movie and the general respect it has toward the magickal path. Goth girls everywhere got a hero in Fairuza Balk here, too. It’s just a shame that a film about teenage girls trying to take control of their lives wasn’t given a better treatment, and frankly, if someone were to do a serious remake of this film that fixes what’s broken…I’d support it. Still, there’s a lot about The Craft that scratches some kind of itch, from the comeuppances that Nancy and Rochelle get on their tormentors to the discoveries of new power that each girl makes. I wish we could get more supernatural teen girl empowerment films.
And with that, the October Horror Movie Challenge is over for this year. In an unusual turn of events, I wasn’t able to watch the usual Halloween-night triple feature of Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), and Halloween (1978), nor was I able to revisit one of my favorite autumnal films, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), which is a film I’ll easily be able to watch in the next few days. That one isn’t as married to October 31 as the other three. For what it’s worth, here’s my final tally of films watched in the tenth month:
OHMC 2014 Tally:
44 total films watched