With Halloween upon us, it seems only natural to turn to our beloved films, Horror or otherwise, to get into the spirit of things. For this Halloween I decided to focus on some more obscure (or less remembered present day) films from the past (both feature length and shorts) in a series of shorter reviews to celebrate this scare day.
Directed by: Robert Mulligan.
Running Time: 95 min.
This is a little known psychological thriller film from the early seventies that was based on the book of the same name by Tom Tryon about a boy named Niles (Chris Udvarnoky) who played “games” along with his twin Holland (Martin Udvarnoky). As the story progresses on the family farm in a quaint agricultural community of 1935, we find that people begin to die, stemming from a mystery surrounding Niles.
Director Mulligan’s purpose in making the film was to provide a subjective experience for the spectators from the point of view of a child, in this case Niles. In the case of this film, after watching it, he does indeed seem to have done a good job of it. It is done primarily in Nile’s point of view, and there is this sort of stubborn innocence about him that refuses to move out of his imagination and into the reality around him, even when he is harshly confronted with it by his Grandmother Ada (Uta Hagen). The movie does a brilliant job expressing the more dangerous qualities inherent in imagination.
There is of course a bit of choppiness here and there between scenes. Other than Ada, Niles, and Holland, the other characters didn’t bring anything much to the film. This could be in part because there were scenes cut out of the film post-production.
Despite that, the beautiful summer atmosphere reflected Nile’s perspective of the golden moments while people dropped like flies all around him, and the Udvarnoky brothers and Hagen did a good job with their characterizations within this environment.
In the end, it’s mostly a film that uses the environment to reflect the theme of dangerous imagination combined with the folly of the matriarchal desire to preserve the child from grief. It certainly does a decent job of that, though the film can be a bit plodding her and there for those who are looking for a more brisk paced plot and visuals.
Trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMmMqWkudgA
Trick or Treat.
Directed by: Jack Hannah.
Running Time: 8 min.
This is an animated Walt Disney Short from the fifties featuring Witch Hazel who takes exception to Donald Duck playing mean tricks on his nephews, Hewey, Dewey, and Lewey who are out trick or treating, and then further humiliates Hazel by pulling on her nose and dousing her in water. Thus the rest is revenge of the witch through a spell on Donald Duck.
This was a fun bouncy animation in all its Halloween shlock that can only come from Disney during that period and in any other context outside of a Disney Cartoon, would be utterly horrifying. It’s a great little story that progresses smoothly with some enjoyable Halloween imagery.
The delightful voice talent of June Foray (the original Granny from Loony Tunes, Cindy Loo Who from The Grinch, Lucifer from Cinderella, and Rocky the Flying Squirrel, just to name a few) who owned the part of Hazel and made this fun character delightfully colorful, was the heart of this little number.
Over all a non-serious goofy little number with some standard fare music, great voice talent, and fun Halloween visuals.
Directed by: David Cronenberg .
Running Time: 92 min.
This very odd little number is a Canadian Science Fiction Horror about a single father raising his daughter while his wife is kept in a special house for the mentally disturbed run by a doctor who uses radical physiological techniques. In the process, all those whom his ex-wife has had some sort of negative history or ill fillings towards have suddenly been murdered by mysterious child-like creatures in colorful snow suits.
All around, this isn’t a movie of multiple twist endings or anything more complicated than a retribution style story from the outside, until you watch it again and realize that there are several couched themes that can be gleaned from the narrative, though from the first onset as a regular viewer, its mainly how they go about the story that is unique and very strange, thanks to its imaginative construction and great cinematography particularly in the last scene making monstrous the very act of birth itself, disturbingly so.
Despite the fact that murders are not overly creative in their deaths, this isn’t a slasher flick or a blood and guts horror, it’s the horror of creation and utilization towards murder that makes this a riveting experience. The strange discombobulating atmosphere keeps you attached to seeing where this is all going, and you can’t help but be impressed by the end, not surprising considering it’s a Cronenberg film.
In the end I could go on and on about this film and its many layers, but this is a short review section and I can’t do it justice here. I highly recommend giving it a watch more than once.
Trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tI32rz-Xh7U
Directed by: Tim Burton.
Running Time: 6.24 min.
This animated short is another of those narrative examples that show the destructive nature of imagination, particularly in children. In this case, a boy obsessed with Vincent price with aspirations to be said man.
This is Tim Burton’s first animated stop motion short with that fun unique macabre style that made him famous. Much like his later film The Nightmare Before Christmas, he utilizes the story through a poetic verse, though this short has the poem narrated by none other than Vincent Price himself during the progress of the short instead of merely basing it on it.
The short has this amazingly engaging flow, and the fact that Vincent Price did the narration, in fact he is the only vocal center of the entire piece gives it this multilevel engagement and a certain charming appeal.
For any Tim Burton fans out there, this is a fascinating artifact from the early days of his career.