Tonight, here's an oddball pairing of films (currently on Prime) about oddball couples investigating strange happenings together based on an eerie and unexpected premonition that strikes one of them out of the blue. In each film, one is a layman with the vision, the other is an investigator with a yen for a big story, eager to visit the place they saw in the vision. To balance things out, in one film its a NYC woman (Catriona MacColl) who has the premonition and the man is a cigar-chomping newspaper reporter (Christopher Plummer) sensing a scoop and maybe some chemistry (he rescues her from a coffin --and nearly splitting her head open with a pickaxe doing so, after she 'dies' in the midst of a seance) and the town is in New England. In the other, the seer is a race car driver (Leonard Nimoy!) who almost dies in a racing accident while having the vision, and the investigator is a spunky lady Brit rare occult book detective (Susan Hampshire) and the town is nestled in the remote English countryside. One is a gory nightmare of zombies and creepy violence; the other an early 70s TV movie/pilot. Can you ask for a more/less at the same time? A veritable yin/yang they are.
(1972) Dir. Phillip Leacock
(1972) Dir. Phillip Leacock
*** / Amazon Image - B-
Lots of turtlenecks and medallions and occult signifiers; fancy British cars tool around the grounds to make sure the car fanatic aspect of Kovac's character fits in (with some unconvincing but just dandy rear projection during the chase scenes). There are way too many daylight exteriors and extraneous herrings about but I like the weird non-sexual friendship chemistry of Nimoy and Hampshire's characters. They're into each other but not enough for it to get in the way with their strange bond, which means they're smart enough to leave it as a will they-or-won't they. Between her trenchant knowledge of arcane texts and his weird flash forwards to strange murders somehow tied in with an an occult group of weirdoes known as the House of the Wolf, they're kept too busy, aside from being stuck in an elevator shaft during most of the hair-raising climax, too get gooey (but Kovak's already seen the previews). The cast of British BBC stock are all in their best chipper form. Hampshire is especially a delight: animated, assertive, fearless, funny and forthright, bouncing around in her 70s peasant frocks and groovy turtlenecks. A bewildered Nimoy can't help but laugh in admiration.
CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD
(1980) Dir. Lucio Fulci
***1/2 / Amazon Image - ADespite its unconvincing and excessive gore and gross-ours, City of the Living Dead is a strangely beautiful film, thanks especially to a great HD transfer: the darkness seems to stretch inward to the infinite; it occurs almost all at night or late afternoon and each scene is lit for maximum moody October night eeriness. The ground is ever laden with billowing fog, the night courses jet-black (no 'day for night' balderdash here) and the hair of the ladies is wondrously loose, auburn and backlit so it glows with an unerring luster.
On the fourth or fifth viewing it gets no easier to unravel, especially when marveling on the weird web of sexy relationships and inappropriateness going on in the lives of Dunwich's residents. For example: Gerry's girlfriend Emily (Antonella Interlenghi) is far too young for him, was probably once a patient (how unprofessional!) and even barges in on his session with sultry Janet Agren, only to have her self-deprecatingly dismiss her own dreams as just 'daddy issues,' all just so Emily can cancel her date with himsas she decides she has to (for some unknown reason) to go check on 'Bob,' (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) a deranged sex addict derelict who lives in a hovel on the outskirts of town. Somehow or other she thinks she must barge in on a session of psychoanalysis, and break up a date all just to pose seductively (and uninvitedly) on Bob's rotted mattress, only for him--all pale and red-eyed in fear of some disembodied moaning monster-- to push her down as he spring away, so whatever it is takes her instead of him. Talk about nightmare logic! Why the frickin' hell would she head off into this dump to visit a deranged sex offender on his filthy mattress in the dark of an autumnal night? If you have an answer, you must be lost in a vivid REM cycle.
The middle child bridging Fulci's early Zombie and the gonzo far-outness of The Beyond and House by the Cemetery, City is a great R-rated (for gore alone) creeptastic ideal 2 AM Halloween pick for the Mole Family. Pounce on its wriggling form before it vanishes back into the ground, and all therein that may be explored.
Third Feature Option:
18. THE ETERNAL
(1998) Dir. Michael Almereyda
*** 1/2 / Amazon Image - A-
A kind of Lower East Side downtown hipster coffee and cigarettes experimental and cool, The Eternal is a boozy metatextual dissertation on memory, alcoholism, and the bonds of the moment transcending the bite of history and vice versa, it's also a loose, sexy update of a kind of combination of Hammer's 1972 Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (and its Stoker source novel) and the 1951 The Thing. The story has boozy rich couple Alison Elliot and Jared Harris leaving NYC for her ancestral Irish moor's estate, as if called home by some archaic homing signal (shades of 1934'a Black Moon, though I can't imagine Almereyda has seen it). As far as the previous two films, it's got that American out of water vibe as an ancestral estate is visited, strange visions, sudden corpses, and a sense of nonchalant cool highly unusual for the horror genre.
Christopher Walken has a couple of great scenes as a boozy call aesthete puttering around the mansion in his red robe, drinking Irish whiskey and, amongst other things, showing Alison the mummified corpse of a long dead druid priestess relative, found nestled in amidst old basement trunks. Amongst other curious things, the more Elliot starts to feel woozy and black out, the more alive and beautiful the mummy gets, until it looks almost identical to her, though gifted with immortal strength, a disregard for the life and death of those around her, and telekinesis. What's her deal? "It was the Iron Age," notes Walken. "You had to do a lot of nasty things, just to get by." Amen.
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