6WH: Week 2 - Seventies Horror

After enjoying last week's original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I decided to check out the remake, which I had never seen. Suitably inspired, I added two more seventies horror movies to the hopper for this week's theme. Not the most creative of themes, but it will have to do. Let's get to it:
  • Night of the Creeps (trailer)
  • Invasion Of The Bunny Snatchers (Looney Tunes)
  • The Invasion (trailer)
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers - Perhaps due to the usual stigma applied to remakes, I wasn't expecting that much out of this, so I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying it. It mostly follows the same beats from the original, but director Philip Kaufman brings a stylish eye to the proceedings, deploying every visual trick in the book. You could say that the camera work and goofy camera angles is distracting or showy, but it's all used to add to the story, so I was pretty happy with that aspect. Adding to the tension is a buzzing, pulsing electronic score that is stereotypically 70s (but in a good way). Gone are the Cold War allusions (which weren't that thick to begin with), replaced instead with the paranoia and conspiracy that characterizes so much of 70s cinema. The story has moved from a small California town to San Francisco proper (allowing for many interesting canted camera angles), and our heroes, played by Donald Sutherland (rockin a bitchin porno stache) and Brooke Adams, work for the Department of Health.
    Donald Sutherland
    We also get a slightly better idea of how the actual imitation process actually works. As much as I enjoyed the first movie, the process by which the pod people duplicate people doesn't make much sense. Here it is marginally better, though still quite fuzzy in its own right. The special effects are also slightly better, and more creepy as well. There's a fabulous credits sequence that shows the pods traveling through space, landing on earth and taking root within our ecosystem (the sequence ends with a bizarre cameo featuring Robert Duvall dressed as a priest and swinging on a swingset with a bunch of kids, very weird).
    Home of the pod?

    Robert Duvall?
    The sequence goes on for a solid 5-10 minutes, which is representative of the movie overall. It is a bit too long, perhaps because Kaufman takes so much time playing with the camera instead of rocketing the story along. That being said, I kinda enjoy that they took the extra time to do that sort of thing, and I love that opening sequence. The supporting cast, including folks like Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy (!), is also pretty fantastic. As I noted last week, the ending of the original seemed rushed and a little odd. The ending of this remake is more cohesive, though being the 70s, it's not exactly upbeat (and if you goof off on the internets a lot, you've probably seen the gif of it floating all over the place). Overall, I really enjoyed this one, which certainly stands up as a worthy remake (if not quite the top tier). It's weird enough (the aforementioned Duvall cameo and of course, that dog with a human face!?) to have carved out its own identity, while still remaining true to the original story. ***
  • Honest Zombie (Robot Chicken)
  • Shaun of the Dead (trailer)
  • Zombi 2 (trailer)
  • Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things - Unfortunately, the best thing I can say about this early Bob Clarke (of Black Christmas and, uh, Christmas Story fame) movie is that I love the title. It calls to mind those weird titles from Italian Giallos, and the sequence leading up to the title is probably my favorite in the movie. So it started off well enough for me, but it sorta fell apart from there...
    Children Shouldnt Play With Dead Things
    Instead, we're left with a rather bland zombie movie about a group of kids from some sort of theater troupe who travel to a small island that is apparently used solely as a graveyard. They dig up a body and play around with some evil satanic ceremony intended to bring back the dead. Naturally, they're more successful than planned and hijinks ensue. Clearly a very low budget affair, and though there's some decent makeup on the dead folks, there isn't really any real gore factor to make up for a lackluster plot. I'm not a big gore hound or anything, but since the story in zombie movies is uniformly non-existent and boring, I can usually count on gore to keep things interesting. This movie has decent performances for what it is and there's one or two small twists that work, I guess, but it's ultimately a ho-hum zombie affair that didn't really do much for me. The characters are kinda meh, and the cinematography leans a little too dark (though this is clearly a bad transfer - I wonder how much better it would look if it got the Criterion treatment or something). So I clearly didn't love this movie, though to be fair, I'm not a huge zombie fan to start with, so maybe you zombie lovers will enjoy it more than I did... *1/2
  • How Scream Should Have Ended (short)
  • Black Christmas (1974 trailer)
  • Black Sabbath (trailer)
  • When a Stranger Calls - What a strange movie. I could have sworn I'd seen it before, but it turns out that I only really saw the beginning of the movie. Indeed, most of what you think about with this movie is that first 20 minutes (the recent remake attempted to take this opening and stretch it out to an hour and a half. I haven't seen it, but reviews were mixed to poor...). There's a sorta reprise of the opening in the last 20 minutes, but everything inbetween is a curveball.
    A Stranger is Calling
    Our heroine (played by Carol Kane) disappears for a solid hour of the movie, where instead we follow Charles Durning's private investigator character in a weird sorta police procedural drama. The movie even attempts to humanize the scumbag murderer, though not too much. It's just a really odd way to pace the story as that middle act goes on way too long. Of course, the movie is famous for the "call is coming from inside the house!" gag (which was seemingly lifted wholesale from the aforementioned Black Christmas), but there's more to like here. If they had managed to tighten up that middle act, this could have been a really solid movie. As it is, it remains a kinda curiosity, albeit one that's worth checking out (not before you've seen Black Christmas though!). **1/2
That's all for now. Stay tuned for some more recent horror offerings next week, followed by a week of Neo-Slashers. Other than that, my schedule is still pretty open, so if you have any ideas for movies I should watch, let me know!