As John Haloran rows across the lake on his family’s Irish estate, he teases his wife Louise (Luana Anders). If he drops dead, Louise will inherit none of the Haloran wealth. Pro tip: Never annoy your wife in a rowboat…if you have a bad heart. The always resourceful Louise dumps John overboard, packs his suitcase, and tells the family he went to New York on business. She’ll stay at the Haloran castle and get to know them while John’s away. Psst…it’ll be a while. It doesn’t take long for Louise to see just how nutty the Halorans are. Richard (William Campbell) solders bad art and scowls. Billy (Bart Patton) walks around in a fog telling people about his dreams. Lady Haloran, fixated on death and grief, holds funerals to commemorate a funeral. Creepy Doctor Caleb (Patrick Magee) tells everyone they’re doing it wrong in a ‘Get into my van. I have candy.’ kind of way.
“…and then I crushed its head.”
They’re a fun bunch.
Louise, ever the multitasker, figures she’ll push the already dotty Lady Haloran over the edge using a few props from the nursery while insinuating herself into the family and the will. Her simple plan runs into a snag, however and then the fun really starts.
If you see this, you have gone too far.
Francis Ford Coppola (yes that one), wrote and directed Dementia 13 with some tweaks by Jack Hill (The Bees, Coffy). Coppola gives the film a creepy quality by using odd camera angles and off-kilter close-ups and filming so much of it at night. The look reminded me of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). Even the dim day shots look dismal and give the black and white film an eerie atmosphere.
Eavesdropping on the funeral.
What’s missing is dialogue and character development. What dialogue there is works, but the characters need more to say to help us get to know them. More realistic conversations might also decrease the tendency toward exposition. Also, for a film set in Ireland, I found the lack of Irish accents from almost all the lead characters somewhat baffling. According to articles on the making of Dementia 13, producer Roger Corman assigned Coppola to make a gory Psycho on the cheap so he dashed off a script and went into production. In spite of this and the fact that this marked Coppola’s non-porn directorial debut, it’s a good gothic horror film with a creative plot and some genuinely scary moments. The nifty chamber music by Ronald Stein enhanced the mood as well. I understand why this has become such a cult favorite and I’m glad I finally saw it.
A sure sign of quality
I’m @echidnabot on twitter.
I love Halloween. I decorate every room in my house and fill my yard with skeletons, gravestones, and disembodied heads. I am the only one in my neighborhood who does it. I know I’m not the only one in the world though. Many adults with kids get a kick out of Halloween. They love seeing the cute costumes and the reaction of their children to spooky decorations. Well, my kid is seventeen now and I’m still doing it. For years I made her costumes and helped her make invitations to her yearly Halloween party. Did I do it because I’m a good mom? Possibly. I think it might also be that I love making skull cookies and punch with an ice hand floating in it. I love using toilet paper dowels and glow sticks to fill my bushes with glowing eyes. I also love horror movies. I’m a big fan of psychological and atmospheric horror, but I welcome gore as well.
This year, I plan on watching a horror film every day in October. I will write a little something about each film. I won’t write tomes, just short posts consisting of impressions or highlights of each film. I’ll post links on twitter and use the #31DaysofHorror
Since I’m planning to watch some horror films I’ve never seen before, I’ll post on cinemashame.wordpress.com and my own blog prowlerneedsajump.wordpress.com throughout the month.
I’m @echidnabot on twitter.
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
2-The Man Who Cheated Death (1959)
3-The Savage Bees (1976)
4-In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
5-Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)
The Cat and the Canary (1939)
8-The Innocents (1961)
9-The Fog (1980)
Vault of Horror (1973)
11-Kill, Baby Kill (1966)
12-The Deadly Bees (1966)
14-The Legend of Hell House (1973)
15-Mark of the Devil (1970)
16-Wolf Creek 2 (2013)
The Devil’s Rain (1975)
18-Carnival of Souls (1962)
19-Terror Out of the Sky (1978)
Dementia 13 (1963)
21-Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
Black Sunday (1960)
I’ll admit there are a few on this list I’ve always wanted to see and a few I just haven’t seen. I thought I’d throw them on this list for fun. For instance, I’ve wanted to see Suspiria, Black Sunday, and The Innocents for ages. The Slime People, not so much. That’s ok. I have to lighten it up too.
Since it’s 31 Days of Horror and not 22 Days of Horror and 9 Days of Annoyance, here are the other 9 films I plan to watch. I’ve seen these before, but they fit the parameters. Boo.
Torture Garden (1967)
The Uninvited (1944)
The Creature From the Black Lagoon 3D (1954)
The Thing (1982)
Tales From the Crypt (1972)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Wait Until Dark (1967)
Let the Right One In (2008)
Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Never has the expression honor among thieves played a larger part in a modern film than in this Coen brothers’ Prohibition era gangster film. Gabriel Byrne stars as Tom Reagan, right hand man to Albert Finney’s crime boss, Leo. Tom, a brilliant strategist in the crime world’s chess game has long had Leo’s ear and his back. He also has Leo’s girl, Verna (Marcia Gay Harden) and this Lancelot/Guinevere affair threatens to undermine King Leo’s reign.
The story begins in a Godfather-like scene with mobster Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) asking Leo to rub out John Turturro’s Bernie Bernbaum, a bookie with a knack for angering the wrong people. Leo refuses because although Bernie is a thorn in his side, he’s also Verna’s brother. Tom advises Leo to give up Bernie and when he won’t a mob war starts. Tom ends up on Leo’s bad side and despite his loyalty, Tom is cut loose. Caspar snaps him up and Tom seems to have switched sides. Caspar takes over Leo’s businesses and prospers as Tom plants seeds of distrust about Caspar’s main henchmen Eddie Dane (J.E. Freeman) thus eroding Caspar’s gang from within and proving his loyalty to Leo.
Based on the Dashiell Hammett novels Red Harvest and The Glass Key, Miller’s Crossing is a love letter to 1940s film noir and the snappy dialogue prevalent in novels by Hammett, Chandler, Thompson, and Cain. At one point Tom is asked if he knows the mayor. He says, “I oughta. I voted for him six times last May.” The costumes by Richard Hornung, sets by Nancy Haigh and cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld along with Carter Burwell’s spare and perfect score give the film a 1940s feel. Supporting roles by Steve Buscemi, Mike Starr, Frances McDormand, Michael Jeter, and Olek Krupa add depth to the already stellar cast and the direction by Joel and Ethan Coen just works. The scene with hit men approaching Leo to the strains of Danny Boy is as beautiful as grand opera and as violent as anything Peckinpah ever directed. Poetry. I liked Miller’s Crossing a lot. It has a flawed hero devoted to an equally flawed father figure and crime. Combine that with the Coens usual gang of quirky characters and great dialogue and you have an entertaining and almost Shakespearean story. I cheered for Tom and Leo. I booed for Bernie and Caspar. I hung on every word of dialogue and after watching the film for just under two hours, I wondered where the time went. Here’s another example of the sharp dialogue.
“Come on Tommy, wake up.”
“I am awake.”
“Your eyes are closed.”
“Who you gonna believe?”
How can you not love this film?