100 Days of Horror welcomes you to ... SATANFEST 2013

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"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', and down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back the tourists, that'll put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Friday, October 1, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Seventy - "Poltergeist!"

Welcome! I bid you good day! Enter freely of your own will and leave some of the happiness that you bring!

It's hard to believe, but here we are - the final stretch of the 100 Days of Horror challenge! When we were planning this whole thing out, this was the month I saved all my best and favorite films in my collection. The idea there was that, since my family and I love Halloween so bloody much, we'd gear up for the holiday itself by watching the most terrifying - and fun - movies out there!

One of the emergent circumstances I've experienced in writing this blog is the fact that I have to sometimes schedule these films around the rest of my life - work, school, food, the occasional sex romp and I actually manage sleep once in a while, too! And as I looked back at the list yesterday, I was amazed that, even though I've seen some of these movies dozens of times, when I see their names now I am automatically taken back to when and where I was when I watched it for this blog. And that's some powerful memories there, people; from now on, when I watch "Shaun of the Dead," I'll forever be hunched over my laptop at midnight in a screened-in porch at Frontier Town in Ocean City, Md, as people danced at the pavilion across the canal. This is a completely unexpected side effect of this experience and one that makes me happy that I didn't bail on it back in the beginning like I wanted to. I've also had to skip a few films, but that's fine because with Double Features and those late-nite horror movie orgies, I've more than made up for it.

So, here we are and we begin again! Counting down to the Halloween Hoedown on the 23rd and the great holiday itself the following weekend! And we kick off the month with a film that is on my all-time favorite list - the Steven Spielberg-produced "Poltergeist!" I love this movie and cannot wait to give you my two cents! Rave on, readers! Thanks again for your time! I love you all!

Don't forget: tomorrow is the Sam Raimi cult classic "Evil Dead II!"

Poltergeist (1982): Directed by Tobe Hooper. Starring Craig T. Nelson, Jobeth Williams, Zelda Rubenstein, Heather O'Rourke and Beatrice Straight.

The Skinny: Brought to you by the director of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Poltergeist" is a heart-pounding supernatural thriller. When five-year-old Carol Anne Freeling disappears into thin air from her suburban home, her family will do anything to get her back - including dealing with forces in a dimension beyond our own.

What's Good: The word is, Steven Speilberg was dying to direct this Metro-Goldwyn Mayer production but was contractually obligated to produce "E.T." for Universal. Instead, he acted as produced and certainly had a creative hand in the final process, leaving Tobe Hooper at the reins and playing a more background role. If you tell Hooper this is the case, he vehemently denies it and claims the film as exclusively his own. However, if you compare this with every other film Hooper has made - and do the same with Spielberg's oeuvre - its quite easy to tell whose film it is! All that furor aside, it is still a masterpiece and stands the test of time nearly 30 years on. Cemented by credible performances all around by a top notch cast and believable characters - particularly parapsychologist Dr. Lesh, played to aching perfection by the late Beatrice Straight. And the effects are, of course, top of the line for their time. In fact, I dare anyone in the CGI realm to show me something as realistic and as terrifying as the bony demon that stops Jobeth Williams from getting to her kids. That thing scared the Jesus out of me. It also set up a series of sequels of diminishing returns, except for the excellent "Poltergeist II," which we will get to in a few weeks.

What's Bad: Not a fucking thing. In my opinion, it's just a hair south of perfection. It was nominated for three Academy Awards - sound editing, special effects and the incredible score by Jerry Goldsmith - and it should have been nominated for at least the script as well.

Why We Like It: Crazy thing is, I was first exposed to this film through MAD Magazine, as I was with many films including "The Shining" and "Altered States." And when it finally came on cable, I thought I was prepared for it, but hell no. I was absolutely terrified by this film. The monster in the hallway, the evil clown puppet, the guy who tears his face off in the mirror, the corpses floating in the pool - this movie is filled with deeply disturbing images, including a piece of raw meat that erupts some horrid animal matter like a volcano. It scared me, it moved me, it made me laugh, it made me bawl like a babe. So it is just about as near to my heart as a film can get. When I was a kid, before I had my own VCR, I would audiotape movies and listen to them on long trips or just sitting in the pool. And "Poltergeist" was one of my favorites. For a few years, I could quote whole clips of the dialogue, especially the scene where Dr. Lesh and Bobby Freeling talk about the afterlife. That is just an absolutely brilliant piece of filmmaking, lit in neo-noir tones that turn Straight into the starlet she never was. I love the statements Spielberg makes in the script about the blandness of suburbia - a theme in many of his early works - and of the power of the family. And of course, it wouldn't be a complete review without mentioning the late, great Zelda Rubenstein's diminutive psychic, Tangina Barrons. She is the lynchpin that the plot turns upon in the vital final third of the film, and she has some of the best fucking lines in cinema history. She she makes Williams kneel down and asks her what she would go through to save her daughter ("Will you do anything I ask even if it comes contrary to your beliefs as a human being and a Christian?"), I bawl alongside Williams almost every time. In fact, I am watery-eyed as I type this right now. It's not only on my top list of horror films, it's in the Top 20 all time list.

Memorable Stuff: Well, I remember quite a bit. But I think for most, the scene towards the end where bodies start popping up everywhere (the whole subdivision is built on an old cemetery) is pretty horrific. Spielberg likes his corpses juicy and gross and this is no exception. And also, the late Heather O'Rouke really showed some talent here, emoting in the right places and not punking out like some kid actors do. She's pitch perfect and lights up every scene she's in with her energy. I love it and it's a great way to kick off the month of October.