During the pandemic years, I took a very holistic and intensive approach to Spooky Month. Having a surfeit of time to kill, I filled with with a robust roster of appropriately themed movies, TV shows, videogames, comics, prose, and old time radio shows. It was a glorious time to discover, re-discover, revisit, and generally wallow around in groovy ghoulish retrotrash.
Now that things are back to “normal” (by which I mean “unchecked spread mitigated somewhat by vaccination”), I don’t have the free time for such an immersive approach, but I have made a dedicated effort to indulge in some creepy comforts on a daily basis. My 27th (!?!) annual October playthrough of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is currently in progress, I’ve pulled a few cherished horror fiction anthologies from the shelves, and I have been making an effort to squeeze at least one spooky flick into my daily schedule.
I did consider making the procession of cinematic horrors the basis for this year’s countdown, but realized that it would box me in of days when I could barely manage a quick shitpost and the logistics would require a “one-ahead” approach to viewing and that all sounds suspiciously close to actual work.
What I will do, however, is drop a weekly breakdown of capsule summaries/reviews/factoids/snarky bullshit covering the films I’ve watched thus far.
Graduation Day (1981): Christopher George! Michael Pataki! Patch McKenzie! Linnea Quigley! Vanna White? A zero budget teen slasher with death by a bladed football, an excruciating disco theme song, and a performance by L.A. glam/new wave band Felony at a roller boogie party.
Honestly, the glimpses of authentic material culture from the dawn of the 1980s was the real draw for me here.
Curse of the Faceless Man (1958): A stock template mummy movie, with the requisite lumbering monstrosity and tragic tale of doomed love and reincarnation. The big twist, such as it is, is that instead of a cloth-swaddled corpse from Ancient Eqypt, the titular Faceless Man is a lava-encrusted gladiator discovered in the ruins of Pompeii. Richard “Oscar Goldman” Anderson is in there as a square-jawed scientist whose stiffness rivals the ambulatory ash-heap terrorizing the Naples countryside, and there’s also an unseen narrator doing the always amusing bit of explaining to audiences what they have clearly seen depicted on the screen.
There’s nothing in it I haven seen done better in a dozen other movies, but it’s only an hour long and doesn’t overstay its cheap trash thrills welcome.
Mortuary (1982): Christopher George returns, and this time his real-life wife Lynda Day George is with him! Also a disturbingly young Bill Paxton! And some great location shooting at a real 1982 SoCal roller rink!
This is a weird one. There are teen slasher elements, but it’s not a teen slasher. There are Hitchcock-inspired suspense elements but the what mystery there is can be figured out within the first twenty minutes. By accident or design, it felt like an American attempt to reverse engineer an Italian giallo flick. It doesn’t quite get there, but it was still an interesting and occasionally disturbing experience.
Did I mention there are scenes shot at a real life 1982 roller rink?
Dark Intruder(1965): Another sixty-minute quickie, this time a failed TV pilot repurposed as a cinematic feature. A supernatural serial killer is on the loose in 1890 San Francisco, and playboy supernatural investigator Leslie Nielsen is on the scene!
It’s not a bad way to kill an hour as long as you go into it right-sizing your expectations. Despite how it was released, it’s very much a made-for-TV product, right down to the presence of Werner Klemperer in a supporting role. There are no actual scares to be found, but some nice period atmosphere and suspenseful moments. Nielsen plays the heroic lead with caddish aplomb, and accomplishes the exceptional feat of being the smarmiest member of a cast that also included Peter Mark Richman.