Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2011 October Horror Challenge (Part 6: Day 20-24)

There's only one week left of October! Only one more week until Halloween. And, only one week left of the October Horror Challenge. Click the links below to get caught up with what has already transpired.

The 2011 October Horror Challenge:


I've seen some cool stuff this month which hasn't quite qualified for the Challenge. This year's standards are just a wee bit tighter than last year's inagural edition of the Challenge. While I have counted "The Walking Dead", I have generally been trying to not count television show episodes this time. For instance, we just recently started receiving the channel MeTV. Over this past weekend they had a bunch great programming that I simply couldn't count. On Friday they had the "To Serve Man" episode of "The Twilight Zone" (1959-64). Last year I probably would have counted that classic episode, but not this time around. Saturday night I caught some of Svengoolie's presentation of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" on MeTV. Of course that one has already been counted. It's okay to have repeats from last year's list (not too many though), but it just wouldn't be right to count repeats from earlier in the month. I've also watched various Halloween-themed videos and DVDs with The Little Monster that won't count. The one that might have counted last year is the all-time classic "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (1966). We're also checking out a few of The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween episodes too. Finally, I've been able to make it to National Amusements' Silver Screen shows the past two weeks. While they're featuring early Alfred Hitchcock films throughout October--and they're all thrillers of one sort or another--I just can't justify adding the ones I've seen: "The Man Who Knew too Much" (1934) and "The 39 Steps" (1935). They were both good films that I've never seen before, but they're simply not "horror" enough to count.


OCTOBER 20

Item No. 27: LET ME IN


"Let Me In" (2010) is the American remake of the 2008 Swedish vampire film "Let the Right One In"--which I watched earlier in the Challenge. I figured I should check both of these out, and it seemed like a good idea to start with the original. The American version is a perfectly fine film. I think that if I had only seen this version I would have enjoyed it quite a bit more. The original was a very well made film and didn't really need to be remade so quickly (other than to cash in on a good movie and let Americans watch it without having to read subtitles). The new one is fine, but pretty much just tells the same story in the same way. They made a few minor changes which were okay, but it was still basically the same movie with different people and in a different language. I did like the fact that it's set in the early 1980s (like the original). It didn't really seem necessary to set it in the semi-recent past (and probably made production just a bit tougher with having to make sure all the clothes, vehicles and scenery were time-appropriate). The main benefit of this setting was the 80s soundtrack! I might have to pick that one up at some point.


Item No. 28: THEM!


After watching a very recent horror movie like "Let Me In" I wanted to check out a classic one. I chose one of the best of the 1950s desert-based giant bug movies, "Them!" (1954). It had been a few years since I've seen "Them!" and it's a great movie, so it was nice to spend some time with an old favorite. I still have never been able to find a young Leonard Nimoy in his bit part as an Air Force Sergeant in the film, but that's just something to try to figure out the next time I see it.


OCTOBER 21

Item No. 29: CURSE OF THE FLY


I was happy to have managed to see the entire "The Fly" trilogy during this year's challenge. The last installment, "Curse of the Fly" (1965) was watched on the 21st. It's interesting that (unlike today's sequels) this three-movie series didn't feel the need to put numbers or Roman numerals after the title. It's also interesting that each sequel features characters from a generation after the previous film--yet all were filmed within seven years and they all seem to be set in what was the "present" at the time. The son of the original scientist who turned into a fly was a boy in the first film, an adult in the second and an old man in the third. The third one is also the first to not feature either Vincent Price or a fly. It was still a pretty good movie, but probably a good time to call it quits on the series.


Item No. 30: THE OTHERS


On the night of the 21st The Wife and I watched "The Others" (2002). This was the first film that we were able to watch together all the way through for the Challenge (after The Wife conked out halfway through "They Live" last week). I didn't think I'd seen "The Others" before this, but for some reason it seemed awfully familiar in places. Perhaps I had seen it? Strange that I could so completely forget a movie--especially one that wasn't bad. All in all it was a pretty good, spooky Nicole Kidman film with a genuinely surprising ending.


OCTOBER 22

Item No. 31: CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE


Not to be confused with the recently watched "Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954), "Creature from Black Lake" (1976) is a much less well known monster movie. This one is about Bigfoot (keeping with what has become a bit of a trend in this year's Challenge). In fact, "Creature from Black Lake" is one of my all-time favorite Bigfoot movies. October 20th was the anniversary of the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film. I wanted to watch something to commemorate that, but it took a couple days to get around to it. October 20th was also Bela Lugosi's birthday. I still haven't watched anything to commemorate that--but plan to before the end of the month.


Item No. 32: I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF


"I Was a Teenage Werewolf" (1957) is a pretty rare film to find. Because of various legal and financial reasons it has never been legitimately released on DVD. But it was one of the classic films shown on Creature Double Feature when I was a kid. I was able to find it at the Rock and Shock show in Worcester a couple years back and had managed to put off watching it until now. The plan was to try to get together with some old friends to watch it, but that plan never came together. I figured that since I have the movie in my collection (and who knows when or if it will ever get a true DVD release) that I should just go ahead and watch it. It's a fun American International Pictures cheapie featuring a young Michael Landon as the titular teenager/werewolf. I hadn't seen this movie since I was a kid, and there was only one scene that I remembered from then--but I remembered it pretty vividly. It was the scene where Michael Landon is watching a gymnast practicing in the gym when a bell goes off near his ear--causing him to turn into a werewolf and attack the gymnast.


OCTOBER 23

Item No. 33: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN


I introduced The Little Monster to Mel Brooks' classic "Young Frankenstein" (1974) last year. We watched it together again on the 23rd. This was another repeat from last year's October Challenge, but it's a great one. I was surprised by some of the things The Little Monster forgot, as well as some of the details she remembered. After watching it last October it became one of her favorite movies for a while and she watched it a number of times over the next couple of weeks. "Young Frankenstein" and "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" will probably be Halloween month traditions for us until she grows up too much to be my Little Monster anymore.


OCTOBER 24

Item No. 34: THE DREADFUL HALLOWGREEN SPECIAL


Monday October 24th marked one week until Halloween. I bought "The Dreadful Hallowgreen Special" (2010) quite a few months ago, but have managed to not watch it until now. How appropriate to finally see it one week before the big day.

Penny Dreadful is the host of the New Bedford, MA-based Horror Host show Shilling Shockers. I've gotten to know her pretty well over the past few years--we were both among the thousands of kids permanently affected by Creature Double Feature back in the 1970s and 80s. The Little Monster has also met Penny (and her husband/co-star Garou the Wolfman) on a few occasions. See my blog Penny Dreadful's Shilling Shockers for more on that topic. Anyway, last year, Penny Dreadful hooked up with Nashville, TN Horror Host Dr. Gangrene (who I am not familiar with at all) to make this Halloween special. It was shown on public access TV last year and then released on DVD by Alpha Video. I bought it through the website oldies.com. Here's a link to the DVD at the site.

The special itself is pretty good and funny. Penny (and Garou) and Dr. Gangrene have to join forces to try to save Halloween from a mysterious shift that has caused the holiday to become all cuddly and lovable instead of dark and scary. In an interesting twist, the two hosts come to the realization that they both unwittingly had a hand in causing the problem before they ultimately figure out how to fix it. As an added bonus the special is itself hosted by yet another Horror Host, Count Gore De Vol. There are also a number of entertaining special features on the disc.


Item No. 35: CURSE OF THE DEMON


The Wife agreed to try to watch another movie for the Challenge with me. I wanted to show her a longtime favorite, "Curse of the Demon" (1957). It's the American release of the British movie "Night of the Demon" (1957) (which is not to be confused with the grisly Bigfoot movie "Night of the Demon" (1980)--which shares the name, but not much else). Some friends and I first discovered "Curse of the Demon" at Blockbuster back in the 1990s. None of us had ever heard of it and it looked like a fun B-movie to watch on a Saturday night. Well, it turned out to be a very good quality movie all around, and also genuinely creepy in parts. It has been a favorite of mine ever since. "Curse of the Demon" was released a few years back on a double feature DVD that also includes the original British version. While The Wife was a real trooper to agree to watch it, she did fall asleep some twenty minutes before it ended (just at the most exciting part of the film).


With one week to go I have already gone past the 31 movie goal for the month. Now it's time to see how this all ends and find out if I can surpass the 46 movies and shows watched in last year's Challenge. It will be tough to reach that total, but at least this year the Challenge has featured far fewer television show episodes than were counted last year. Stick around to see how it all ends...


CURRENT SCORE
Monster Dad: 35
October: 24

From the end of "Curse of the Fly"

To Be Continued...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

2011 October Horror Challenge (Part 5: Day 14-19)

Suddenly the month of October is more than halfway over. Fall is in the air. The spirit of Halloween is everywhere (especially at the stores). My Little Monsters are looking forward to Halloween of course. And, the October Horror Challenge goes on...

Here's what has transpired so far on this thirty-one day journey:



OCTOBER 14

Item No. 20: THE THING (1982)



Like I mentioned earlier, even though it would have been appropriate, I was glad that October 13 didn't fall on a Friday this year. Instead, it fell on a Thursday. On Friday October 14 the new version of "The Thing" was released. This is the third time that this story has been put on film, after "The Thing from Another World" (1951) and John Carpenter's "The Thing" (1982). It's amazing to think that this new one comes nearly thirty years after the last one. That's almost the same amount of time between the 1951 and 1982 versions! Actually, this new one is supposed to be a prequel of sorts rather than a remake, but it shares the same name as the 1982 version and has pretty much the same look as far as the title and poster go.

I'm interested in going to see the new "The Thing" at the theater, but as much as I love movies I have to say that one of the greatest real-life horrors for me is movie crowds. I love going to the movies but generally always hate the crowds there. It's a bit of a catch-22 for me. Anyway, I watched the 1982 version of "The Thing" on videotape with one of my best friends back in 1985 when my family got our first VCR. It was quite an experience. That same friend and I are planning on going to see the new "The Thing" once it's been around for a while. More on that later. In the meantime, the opening day of the 2011 version of "The Thing" seemed like the perfect time to watch my DVD of Carpenter's 1982 version again. It really is a great movie, and I hope that the good things I have heard about the new one are true.

Friday the 14th was also the opening day of the annual Rock and Shock show in Worcester, MA. I went to the show on Friday night and also was planning on taking The Little Monster on Saturday before we went to the Worcester Sharks (AHL) home opener that night. Along with other things we had going on I didn't think that there would be too much movie watching getting done over the weekend. But there was some...


OCTOBER 15

Item No. 21: CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON



The month (and the Challenge) started of on October 1 with a double feature of "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy" and "The Incredible Shrinking Man" on THIS TV. Well, on Saturday the 15th THIS had another nice retro double feature. I was able to catch "Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954) at 1:00, but missed out on "Island of Lost Souls" (1932) at 3:00. Like both the films that started the month off, I own "Creature from the Black Lagoon" on DVD (and I also saw it on the big screen in 3D last October too), but it just seems like an event of sorts to see it playing on TV.


Item No. 22: THE WALKING DEAD Episode 1: DAYS GONE BYE



I was also able to finally watch most of the pilot of "The Walking Dead", called "Days Gone Bye" (2010) on the 14th. I knew there was a lot of buzz about this show when it started last year, but since we don't have cable I never got a chance to check it out. Now that I've seen the pilot on Netflix streaming I think I'm going to have to watch the rest of the show. It's very good. In a way it feels very much like a continuation of the zombie scenario in George Romero's Living Dead trilogy: "Night of the Living Dead" (1968), "Dawn of the Dead" (1978) and "Day of the Dead" (1985). Part of the reason for watching it now was that one of the guests at the Rock and Shock show on Friday night was Addy Miller from the show's pilot. She has the distinction of being the very first zombie seen in the show--and was also the first one killed. There were supposed to be a number of other cast members of "The Walking Dead" at Rock and Shock, but apparently AMC decided that they should cancel and go to a Comic Con in New York City instead. After watching most of the pilot I took The Little Monster to the Rock and Shock show Saturday afternoon, where we not only met Addy Miller, but also met Sherman Howard, who played Bub the zombie in "Day of the Dead", and hung out with Penny Dreadful and Garou the wolfman from the show "Penny Dreadful's Shilling Shockers"!




OCTOBER 17

Item No. 23: RETURN OF THE FLY



After one day with nothing to add to the October Horror Challenge I got back into it on the 17th and watched "Return of the Fly" (1959). After watching "The Fly" (1958) earlier in the month I wanted to see its two sequels too. I had never seen "Return of the Fly" before. It was pretty good. While the first movie opens with the fly monster's death and then goes back to tell the whole story, the sequel doesn't introduce the monster until about twenty minutes before the end. Of course we have the knowledge of what happened in the first film (and what we just know is going to happen in this one). Plus, it also has Vincent Price again--which is always a good thing!


OCTOBER 18

Item No. 24: THEY LIVE



Another guest at the weekend's Rock and Shock show was "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. I didn't get a chance to meet him (all the big name guests were charging thirty bucks for an autograph and I simply couldn't afford to do that this time). But I did see Mr. Piper at his table. He seemed to be a bit frail and was wearing a neck brace, which just seemed wrong. I just had to watch John Carpenter's "They Live" (1988)--which starred Roddy Piper. It had been a few years since I'd seen the film, but it's always a fun watch. It includes one of the great fight scenes of film (between Roddy Piper and Keith David) and and one of the best lines of all time (uttered by Roddy): "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. ...And I'm all out of bubblegum."


The Wife actually watched about half of the movie with me before going to bed. It was the first thing from the Challenge that we've watched together--seeing as how we chickened out on watching the "Bigfoot" episode of "Monster Quest" when we were staying at the cabin in the woods last week. See Part 3 for more on that incident.


Item No. 25: THE WALKING DEAD Episode 2: GUTS



After watching "They Live" I finished up the pilot of "The Walking Dead" (which I started back on the 15th). Then I also watched the second epidode, "Guts" (2010). While I'm trying to limit this year's challenge to movies as much as possible, "The Walking Dead" certainly falls into the realm of appropriate subject matter (zombies, horror) despite being a TV show. It certainly is cinematic in its scope and quality level.


OCTOBER 19

Item No. 26: ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN



Keeping with the theme of watching all kinds of stuff from all different eras, I watched the original "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" (1958) on the 19th. The movie was remade for cable in 1993 (starring Daryl Hannah), but I still haven't seen that version. The original is pretty low on the quality scale, but falls into the "so bad it's good" category. Also, this is one of the few films from the era that was really a horror movie for women. Allison Hayes plays the title character, who is a woman betrayed by her cheating husband before the circumstances that make her grow to fifty feet in size. Luckily, her increased height enables her to exact revenge on both her husband and the floozy he's shacking up with. There have been other films about people growing to extraordinary size (or shrinking to a tiny size, like "The Incredible Shrinking Man"), but this is the only one I know of that seems to have a bit of a feminist side to it. A nice touch, and something to distinguish it from other movies. My favorite giant-human movie is "The Amazing Colossal Man" (1957), but this was certainly a fun one.

We're getting closer and closer to the end of October and Halloween. The Challenge is going well so far, but it's certainly not over. Stay tuned for more updates...


CURRENT SCORE
Monster Dad - 26
October - 19


Friday, October 14, 2011

2011 October Horror Challenge (Part 4: Day 13)

2011 October Horror Challenge


OCTOBER 13

Thursday, October 13 was a very good day in the October Horror Challenge. It's highlighted by something I was hoping I'd be able to make happen, but wasn't sure of it. The day actually started with the end of "Let The Right One In" (2008). I counted it as being watched on the 12th, but actually had to finish it up on the morning of the 12th. Eve so, I was still able to add four movies to the list. As an aside, I was glad that the 13th of October fell on a Thursday and not a Friday. While a Friday the 13th would be perfect in the month of Halloween, I do tend to get a little nervous whenever a Friday the 13th rolls around. See My Own Personal Superstitions for more on that side of Monster Dad. And now, on with the Challenge...


Item No. 16: MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND


For some reason, I'm not able to access Netflix through out Roku box at the moment. This is causing a bit of concern--as I was counting on using this service for a lot of movies through the rest of the month. But even without Netflix streaming I still have access to plenty of movies in my DVD collection (as well as some stuff on VHS, stuff available from libraries and free movie channels on the Roku). I decided to tap into my DVD collection for this item. A couple years back I saw my first Al Adamson movie, "Horror of the Blood Monsters" (1970). It was an absolutely horrid movie that I barely managed to make it all the way through. Now I like bad movies, but this one was especially bad (and not in a good way). It made no sense that I could discern. Well, believe it or not, after watching it I ended up...watching it again! It had a commentary track by producer Samuel M. Sherman that I thought might shed some light on the mess I just witnesses. Turns out it was one of the most interesting and entertaining commentary tracks I've ever listened to. I learned that the movie was actually made up of two or three separate movies spliced together in an ineffective attempt to make one complete movie. It even had footage of a couple of the actors from the film shot quite a few years later, and they were obviously quite a few years older in that footage--making it even more senseless!

Through the commentary track I learned quite a bit about the movie from Mr. Sherman, and I found myself wanting to watch more of his movies (or at least those that have DVDs with his commentary tracks on them!). A few months back I ordered two more of them (and bought "Horror of the Blood Creatures" too--believe it or not). I got "Mad Doctor of Blood Island" (1968) and "Beast of Blood" (1971). Turns out that these movies are parts two and three of the so-called "Blood Island Trilogy". Even though I haven't seen the first part, "Brides of Blood" I had a feeling that I wouldn't be missing out on much by watching these two out of order. On the 13th of October I watched "Mad Doctor of Blood Island" and was rather disappointed by it. No, not because it was so bad, but because it didn't measure up to the total badness that was "Horror of the Blood Monsters". Yes, it was still a pretty terrible movie, but it actually seemed to make some sort of sense on some level (unlike "Horror of the Blood Monsters"). I still have to watch it again with the Sam Sherman commentary. Hopefully that will give me a deeper understanding of "Mad Doctor of Blood Island".


Item No. 17: THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS


Talk about perfect timing. The Little Monster made a request on the 12th to see "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993). She saw it for the first time last year and went through a little phase where she watched it pretty much every day for a while. I was glad that she enjoyed something that I had enjoyed so much myself, and was able to share it with her. She hadn't seen the film in many months, and I was pretty proud of her for suggesting it just in time for the Challenge, without any prodding from her dear old Monster Dad. I let her watch it on the 13th. I watched a good part of it with her (and the Littlest Monster too), but have to confess that the "Dad" part of Monster Dad took over for a bit--I missed some of the movie while preparing dinner for The Little Monsters. When I apologized for not watching all of it with her, The Little Monster replied "That's okay Daddy, you've seen it before." Fair enough. I still think I saw enough if it to count it toward the Challenge.

Item No. 18: ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN


This was the highlight of the day (and possible the month so far). The Little Monster saw "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948) for the first time during last year's October Horror Challenge. I was very glad to see that she enjoyed it. As a kid I grew up watching Creature Double Feature on Saturday afternoons on WLVI Channel 56 out of Boston. But after watching those two monster movies from 1:00 to 4:00 PM I got to indulge in another tradition--Channel 27 out of Worcester would play an Abbott and Costello movie at 6:00 every Saturday during the same period. If you were lucky enough to have a really cool 4:00 movie on channel 56 (or WSBK TV38 for that matter) you could conceivably have an entire day of fun TV watching, starting with Saturday morning cartoons, continuing with Creature Double Feature a good 4:00 movie, and finishing it all off with an Abbott and Costello movie at 6:00.

Of course "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" was always a favorite of mine. It was always special when one of their Classic Universal Monsters tie-in movies was on, and "A&C Meet Frankenstein" was the best of all. As it turns out, this film is a perfect way to introduce kids to the classic monsters from early Universal Horror movies (namely Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and The Wolf Man). True, the original movies that featured those monsters mostly came out in the 1930s and 40s and might seem pretty tame compared to the monsters and special effects in the movies of today. But for a kid with a good imagination and ability to pay attention to an old film, they can still be pretty scary to this day. Starting in the 1940s Universal decided to mine its monsters for a series of films featuring Abbott and Costello. While it might seem like a bit of a disrespectful way to treat those monsters--by putting them in comedy movies for laughs rather than scares--the fact that they were being made relatively close to the time of the originals, and the fact that they were being made by Universal actually make them pretty good--especially for fans of Abbott and Costello (like myself).

This movie was also the perfect way to introduce all those classic movie monsters to The Little Monster without being traumatizing. It's so great to be able to experience a favorite movie of mine like this through her eyes. Regardless of the fact that it's obviously a comedy, and the fact that it's hard to see it as anything but that as an adult, I love that The Little Monster can actually get a bit scared during a few scenes (like when A&C are delivering the crates that contain Dracula and Frankenstein's monster). It's a great way to get back in touch with how I would have felt watching the movie as a little, imaginative kid.

So what made watching "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" such a special event this year (especially in light of the fact that she's already seen it before)? Well, besides all the great stuff mentioned above, this year we were able to see the movie outside our house. Our local library had a screening of the movie on the 13th. The Little Monster and I went to see it there. Yes, it was only a DVD projection, but going somewhere to see it on a semi-large screen was still a pretty cool thing! The biggest disappointment of the night was that only four other people bothered to come out for the movie (and they all left well before it ended). It did end almost an hour after The Little Monster's normal bedtime, but sometimes you have to make exceptions, right?
The Little Monster preparing to watch "A&C Meet Frankenstein" at our library
There were a couple additional bonuses for me too. First, I was surprised (but amused) to hear that The Monster still calls Dracula "Drac-Lea". Also, when we were leaving the library she told me that "Seeing Count Drac-Lea reminded me of that cereal." She was referring to the fact that I introduced her to the General Mills Monster Cereals last October (Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo-Berry). Add in that she found a few scenes scary enough that she had to sit close to me and even hide her face behind a napkin made the night all the more special!

Item No. 19: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD


Believe it or not, that's not all for October 13. The Littlest Monster had a cold and was having a tough time sleeping. Since I was up late trying to get her down anyway, I decided to check out Tom Savini's 1990 remake of "Night of the Living Dead". While a big fan of the original, and a fan of Mr. Savini, I had never gotten around to seeing this version. At first it seemed so much like the original I kind of didn't see the point of making it. Then it took off in some interesting slightly different directions. It was a pretty good movie, and you just know that the make-up effects would be special, with Tom Savini behind them!


CURRENT SCORE
Monster Dad - 19
October - 13

To be continued...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 October Horror Challenge (Part 3: Day 7-12)

This is the third installment of this year's October Horror Challenge. For the first two parts, read here:


It's been a bit of slow going for the Horror Challenge since the last update. I was glad to get so far ahead at the end of that one (eleven movies watched in the first six days of the month). I knew that we were going to be spending most of last weekend in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, and wouldn't be watching anything for a few days. In fact, I wasn't be able to add anything to the Challenge until Sunday, October 9.

We had a great time getting a couple days away from everything (including The Little Monsters and the Challenge). The Wife and I did some hiking around the Quabbin Reservoir, enjoyed some warmth from the wood stove and the fire pit outside the cabin, and were lucky to get some beautiful late-season weather. I did make one attempt to watch something for the horror challenge. I brought along my copy of season one of The History Channel's show "Monster Quest" with the intention of watching one of the Bigfoot-related episodes featured that season on the DVD player in the cabin. I always like to bring along a Bigfoot book to creep me out a bit when we go camping. Since the cabin had a TV and DVD player I figured this was a perfect opportunity to get creeped out in a whole new way--and also be able to add something to the Horror Challenge total at the same time! The cabin we stayed at was deep in the wooded area surrounding the Quabbin Reservoir, and pretty remote. It was about the closest you can get to being "in the middle of nowhere" in central Massachusetts. The Wife hesitantly agreed to watch the episode "Bigfoot" with me, but changed her mind after the opening scene, which consisted of audio from a purported 911 call from a man witnessing a Bigfoot in his yard. I have to say that, being out in a cabin in the middle of the woods late at night, that 911 call sent a genuine chill down my spine! For the sake of keeping the peace (and because I was getting pretty creeped out myself) I turned the show off.


OCTOBER 9

Item No. 12: MONSTER QUEST: BIGFOOT



Sunday night we were still away from home, but stayed at The In-Laws' house. This meant that we were back in civilization, and I had a chance to watch the entire Bigfoot episode of "Monster Quest" (Season 1, Episode 5: 2007). The 911 call seemed quite a bit less fear-inducing while watching it in more familiar surroundings. It's amazing what effect time and place (late at night, under a full moon, in a cabin in the woods) can have in how scary something can be! This is the first item I'm counting this year which isn't an actual movie. There were quite a few TV shows in last year's Challenge (including a number of episodes of "Kolchak: The Night Stalker"). I wanted to avoid putting too many in this year's edition, but this one seems to be pretty appropriate for it. While it wasn't intended or planned, this Challenge is shaping up to be quite heavy on the Bigfoot material. That's perfectly fine with me. And, that leads us to the next item...


Item No. 13: THE SNOW CREATURE



Monster Quest wasn't the only Bigfoot-related thing I watched on October 9. "The Snow Creature" (1954) is a personal favorite, and I was also able to watch that on Sunday night. It's not a good movie by any means, but I have a special fondness for it nonetheless. I first saw the movie back in the 1980s when I found a Goodtimes VHS double feature of "Godzilla vs. Megalon" and "The Snow Creature" at K-Mart. While not a high-quality film, it is notable for being part of a wave of Abominable Snowman/Yeti movies that came out in the early- to mid- 1950s in the wake of Eric Shipton's photographs of Yeti footprints in 1951 and reports of the creature from Sir Edmund Hillary's trek to the top of Mount Everest that introduced the legend of The Abominable Snowman to the western world.


I first watched the movie late at night at a friend's house as a teen. We laughed through the movie and mercilessly made fun of it, but... After watching it I had to walk home through the woods after midnight, and once again that element time and place made something that seemed so silly and utterly not scary suddenly seem less silly.

Sean Hartter's artwork for Saturday Fright Special's presentation of "The Snow Creature"
On this night I was able to catch (online) the new episode of the New Hampshire-based public access Horror Host show Saturday Fright Special that featured "The Snow Creature". The two-hour show didn't start until midnight, making for a long night. In fact, I wasn't able to keep myself up for the whole thing--giving up about fifteen minutes before the end (luckily I also have the movie on DVD and was able to finish it a couple days later).


OCTOBER 11

Item No. 14: TROLLHUNTER



I wasn't able to watch anything on Monday the 10th, but on Tuesday I saw the recent Norwegian movie "TrollHunter" (2010). I'd heard about this one a while back and added it to my Netflix queue, then promptly forgot about it. It seemed like a perfect time to watch it and add it to the list. And it was very much worth it! What a fun monster movie. I'd have to say that it's the best giant monster movie I've seen in some time (at least since "Cloverfield"). Like "Cloverfield", "TrollHunter" employs the "found video footage" documentary-like gimmick popularized by "The Blair Witch Project". It is becoming an overused and tired cliche, but apparently can still be used to good effect--as "TrollHunter" proves. I'm no fan of the reliance that movies have on CGI special effects these days, or the shaky-cam, quick cuts they use to mask the unrealistic-looking nature of many of these effects (I'm just a bit old-fashioned in that way). However, this movie makes good use of both the effects and the techniques. While it doesn't seem to have had a huge budget, "TrollHunter" masks any defects in its effects by showing them mostly at night, in snowy weather and through the camera of someone who was supposedly right there rather than in a cinematic way. You still get good views of the titular trolls, but I didn't have many complaints about how they looked or moved like I might have expected. It was a movie that I wouldn't show The Little Monster, but does keep the nice mix of old, new, campy, funny, scary and serious movies that this October Challenge seems to be developing into.

OCTOBER 12

Item No. 15: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN



I've been meaning to see the 2008 Swedish vampire movie "Let the Right One In", and it's American remake "Let Me In" (2010) for a while now. The Challenge gave me the perfect excuse to finally do just that. I decided to start with the original and watched "Let the Right One In" on Wednesday October 12. It's another of those movies I'd heard a lot about but had never seen. I found it to be very good, and once again, a perfect addition to the Challenge. It should be interesting to see how the remake stacks up to the original (much like I'm wondering how the new "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2011) will compare to the Swedish original from 2009.

That's gotten us caught up to now. I'm expecting an exciting few days as the middle of October arrives. The Rock and Shock show is going to be in Worcester for the weekend of October 14-16. I probably won't get a chance to watch too many movies over the weekend, but should have a fun, horror-filled time--and might even be able to pick up a few DVDs to watch over the rest of the month...



CURRENT SCORE:
Monster Dad - 15
October - 12

Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 October Horror Challenge (Part 2: Day 2-6)

First off, it seems worth mentioning that "The October Horror Challenge" might not be the best title for this little project. After all, like I mentioned earlier, I admit that I'm using a rather loose definition of "horror" for it. Because I'll be watching at least some stuff with my Little Monster some of it dies have to be family friendly. Basically anything that seems to be in the spirit of Halloween in some way is eligible for inclusion. "31 Movies in 31 Days" might have been a better title, but some of the things that I might watch and count might not actually be movies. Not only that, but "31 Movies in 31 Days" is already being used by others, so I wanted it to be a little different. Maybe next year I'll manage to think up a better title...

Anyway, onto the updates. After a very successful Day One of the October Horror Challenge (three movies watched), Sunday (Oct. 2) was an off day. Due to other commitments, no movies or other horror-related material was watched. Luckily, the New England Patriots beat the Raiders rather handily and didn't provide a horror show of their own like they did the previous week when they had a total second half meltdown against the Buffalo Bills, but that's another story...

OCTOBER 3

Item No. 4: THE FLY


Monday brought an opportunity to watch Vincent Price in the original "The Fly" (1958). I was a big fan of David Cronenberg's 1986 remake, but the the original is a classic. I don't remember the last time I even saw the original--in fact I'm actually wondering if it's even possible that I may have never seen the entire movie before at all. I remember seeing the climatic scenes as a kid on some show on TV about monster movies that showed clips from some of the great ones. The scene with the fly in the spider web at the end pleading for someone to "Help Me! HELP MEEEEE!" left quite an impression on me back then. I enjoyed finally being able to see the whole movie--possibly for the first time (?). The Little Monster didn't watch it with me, but I did let her see the scene where the scientist's wife first pulls the towel off his transformed head. I wasn't sure if she was ready for it or not, but she assured me "No don't worry Daddy, this isn't scary." ...Of course later she was in tears about it--not because she was scared, but because she felt sorry for both the scientist and his wife. Oops. Well, at least I didn't make the mistake of letting her watch the final fly-in-the-spider-web scene--despite her protests.


Item No. 5: THE CRAZIES


I also managed to watch the recent remake of "The Crazies" (2010) on Monday. Before it was released I watched George Romero's original version from 1973 for the first time. I guess I thought I might get a chance to see the new one in the theater and figured I should have a frame of reference to the original. Well, I never got around to watching the new version until now. Turns out it was worth the wait! Despite fears of it stinking since it was yet another in a long line of unnecessary remakes (and "reboots") that are the current trend in Hollywood, I thought it was a very serviceable horror movie. It kind of took the idea and went in its own direction without having to soil the memory of the original by pretending to be an original idea that simply rips off the title of the source material to make a few bucks on it. It ended up being better than I expected!


OCTOBER 4

Item No. 6: EEGAH


Tuesday brought more rainy weather to our area. After picking up The Little Monster at the bus stop after school I figured it was a good time to settle down with one of our favorite father-daughter movies: "Eegah" (1962). I first fell in love with this movie back in the 90s when I saw Mystery Science Theater 3000's treatment of it. In fact, I had never even heard of "Eegah" before that. To this day it's still my all-time favorite episode of MST3K (though I haven't seen all of them). While I originally only thought of it was being watchable in the MST3K format, I now enjoy watching the movie by itself too. Today we did watch the MST3K version though. I introduced The Little Monster to "Eegah!" a few years back, and it was one of her first favorite movies for a period of time back then.


Item No. 7: CONTAGION


Our local multiplex theater chain has bargain Tuesdays, where tickets to all movies are only $6.00. I was lucky enough to get a chance to go tonight and ended up seeing the new Steven Soderbergh infectious disease movie "Contagion" (2011). It's not really a straight-up horror movie, but I think it's close enough for my list. I'd imagine that it would most certainly be considered a horror movie by anyone who's a germophobe though. Either way, I got a semi-rare opportunity to go out to the movies (for cheap too!) and this was the closest thing to a horror movie that was out that I had interest in watching. I thought it was pretty danged good too! In general I'm not a huge Soderbergh fan, but this really was a very entertaining film.

OCTOBER 5

Item No. 8: "BIGFOOT LIVES"


I'm a big fan of Bigfoot, and "Bigfoot Lives" (2007) is the first BHM (Big Hairy Monster) movie of the month for me--though probably not the last. I had this one in my Netflix queue for some time and mistakenly thought I had already seen it. This one is a documentary-style film by well-known Bigfoot investigator Tom Biscardi. I have to confess to not being terribly familiar with Mr. Biscardi. There was a big, messy Bigfoot hoax a few years back and I recall Tom Biscardi being involved in some way. In the fallout after that incident I heard quite a few negative things about the man and the way he goes about his business. I also saw another documentary (which I mistakenly thought was this one at first) where he had some small involvement--in a negative way. Anyway, I thought that "Bigfoot Lives" was actually pretty good. It might sound like faint praise in this current age of crappy Bigfoot horror movies with terrible CGI special effects being churned out at a staggering pace, but for what it's worth, "Bigfoot Lives" is probably the best overall Bigfoot movie that I've seen since "Harry and the Hendersons" (1987), and the best Bigfoot documentary since the classic ones from the "golden age" of Bigfoot back in the 1970s.


OCTOBER 6

Item No. 9: "TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING"


Not to be confused with "The Thing" (1982) or "Teenagers from Outer Space" (1957), I watched a little semi-obscure film called "Teenagers Battle The Thing" (1958) today. It was one of the Public Domain movies offered on one of the free movie channels on our ROKU Box. I had never heard of this one before, but the plot (consisting of a group of students going on an archaeological expedition and finding an ancient monster that comes to life) sounded suspiciously familiar. It only took a few minutes for me to figure out why it seemed so familiar...


Item No. 10: "THE CURSE OF BIGFOOT"


The makers of "Teenagers Battle The Thing" cashed in on the Bigfoot craze of the 1970s by taking their old movie, adding about a half-hour of new footage at the beginning, referring to the monster in the film as a Bigfoot instead of a mummy, and then re-released the movie as "The Curse of Bigfoot" (1978) to make some money off of it. I didn't know until today that the original movie was available to watch--or that it was even called "Teenagers Battle The Thing" for that matter. "Teenagers Battle The Thing" was in black & white and "The Curse of Bigfoot" is in (not very vivid) color. Believe it or not, I basically watched the same movie (under two different names) twice today. Once I saw "Teenagers Battle The Thing" and recognized that it was the basis for "The Curse of Bigfoot" I simply had to watch that one too. I actually have a bit of a history with "The Curse of Bigfoot" that goes back to the early 1980s when my sister let me watch it very late one night while sleeping over house as a kid. That incident is chronicled in the blog Movies My Sister Made Me Watch. In the early 1990s I bought the movie on VHS tape without realizing it was the one I had watched at my sister's house. Last year I bought it once again, as part of a double feature with "Cathy's Curse" on a DVD from Alpha Video (which is what the image above is taken from). It's not a very good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it was kind of fun to watch the original version by itself. It also gave me a good excuse to add another Bigfoot-related movie to the list!


Item No. 11: "MAD MONSTER PARTY"


"Mad Monster Party" (1967) is a movie that I had never heard of until a few years ago. A friend suggested it to me after watching it from Netflix. I put it in my queue and let it sit there for a couple of years until I recently saw a blog about the movie which reminded me that I should see it. The October Horror Challenge was the perfect excuse to finally go ahead and do so. I'd heard some different opinions about whether this flick was appropriate for kids or not and decided to check it out before showing it to The Little Monster. "Mad Monster Party" was produced by Rankin and Bass--the same folks that brought us "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and all those other great stop-motion Christmas specials. This pretty much means that it is perfectly fine for little ones. Like some of R&B's lesser-known and less-cherished titles this one could be faulted for going on a bit too long and being rather dull in a few spots. It's amazing to think about how much time and effort are required to make a stop-motion animated film and yet you can watch something like this and wonder about how they could have easily tightened it up and made better. Anyway, probably the only thing really questionable for kids is a short segment where Dr. Frankenstein's secretary and the monster's mate (voiced by Phyllis Diller) get into a cat fight--complete with dresses being ripped off and screeching cat sound effects (!). The Little Monster did end up watching most of the second half of the film with me when I finished watching it on October 7. She was kind of interested in it, but had missed the beginning. So it was understandable that she didn't seem to be able to sit still through it.

So, I'm glad that I was able to get ahead of the one-movie-per-day pace for a bit. We're going to be spending a couple nights in a cabin in the woods this weekend. That is perfect for thoughts of Bigfoot attacks and crazed slashers running around, but probably means that I won't be watching any good scary movies for a couple days. Until the next update...

SCORE:
Monster Dad - 11
October - 6



TO BE CONTINUED...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

2011 October Horror Challenge (Part 1: Day 1)

Today is Saturday, the first of October. It's a chilly, raw, rainy day in New England. This kind of early Autumn day gets one thinking about the impending celebration of all things Halloween at the end of the month. Of course there's still some 30 days until then, so it's a good time to start a project that looks forward to the 31st as we count down the days...

Last year I embarked on my first attempt to watch 31 horror movies or shows in the 31 days of October. That one ended up being a success. The details of that challenge can be found in the blogs An Absolutely Horrible Month, and The "October Horror Challenge" Post-Game Report. I do realize that I had a very loose definition of what kinds of things I considered to be "Horror" for last year's Challenge. Fans of hardcore horror might have a legitimate beef with things like "Young Frankenstein", "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" and a Halloween episode of "The Love Boat" that I counted last year, and that's fine. When you get right down to it, this is MY blog, so I reserve the right to define what I can watch and count toward this Challenge. First off, it HAS to be something I actually want to watch--and I'm not really so much into modern, hardcore horror movies as I am into stuff from the past. Also, remember that I am a "Monster Dad", and I want to be able to share some of this stuff with my Little Monster. I'm not about to show her something like "The Shining" or "My Bloody Valentine" (both of which are films I like, but which are obviously not appropriate for a five-year-old). With all that in mind, I've decided to go ahead and undertake the October Horror Challenge for a second year!

Last year was the first time I undertook one of these projects. I didn't realize at the time how common these things are in the Blogosphere (especially in October). As such I didn't really know how to "correctly" report the results. I basically just wrote one main blog that that was edited every day with the latest results. Instead of doing it that way this year, I'm going to write a series of updates every few days. By the end of the month I'm hoping that all the stuff reported in the updates will add up to at least 31.

And, now it's time to start the challenge...

OCTOBER 1

Today is Saturday. As I mentioned, it's a rainy and raw day in New England. I'm sort of stuck inside, and it's a perfect day to start the challenge. I have more than enough stuff in my DVD collection that I could watch one movie a day for the entire month that I've never even seen before. But I do have some favorites that I'm going to want to watch for the second (or thirteenth) time. Also, you never know when something good is going to show up on TV. Today is one of those days. Part of the reason I'm even interested in doing a project like this is because I grew up watching Boston-area television back in the 1970s and 80s. Even before my little hometown finally got cable in the mid-80s there was plenty of good stuff to watch on the handful of channels we could pull in through our antenna. In addition to the three (yep, only three back then) major networks, we were also able to pick up some great independent channels like WXNE 25, WSBK TV38 and WLVI 56 out of Boston, and WSMW 27 out of Worcester.

A lot has changed since then, but one thing is startlingly similar--despite the fact that we have a relatively nice flat-screen TV, my household once again does NOT have cable. This makes the over-the-air choices much more limited. Luckily one of the channels we are able to pick up is channel 7.2 out of Boston. This channel is associated with WHDH channel 7 and is called THIS TV. THIS TV plays mostly movies. Sometimes they have very cool movies and sometimes they're not so great. But on Saturday afternoons they have a block of two movies called the "Flashback Saturday Matinee Double Feature", which shows movies that are exactly like the kind of stuff viewers would have seen on Boston TV back in the good old days. Today's Flashback Saturday Matinee Double Feature was an absolutely perfect way to start the October Challenge. At 1:00 they had "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy", and at 3:00 they had "The Incredible Shrinking Man"!


Item No.1: "Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy"



"Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy" (1955) is one of the great Abbott and Costello movies that takes advantage of the classic Universal Monsters (like "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein"--which will also likely be a part of this year's Challenge, just as it was last year). Since Abbott and Costello chiefly made movies for Universal, it was a perfect way for the company to take advantage of its rich monster history by combining some of the greatest horror names in history (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Invisible Man) with one of the leading comedy teams of the day. It's definitely NOT pure "horror" by any means, but it's a movie that I loved watching on TV as a kid, and one that I still love. I actually have this one on DVD (part of the Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection set), but the chance to watch it on TV like in the old days makes it just a little extra-special for some reason. Yes, it does have commercials and I can't pause or rewind it, but it just feels so nostalgic to watch it that way! I have showed this movie to The Little Monster in the past and wanted to start the Challenge by watching it with her today, but unfortunately she had a long morning and had to go down for a nap before the film started. Oh well, we'll still have plenty of chances to watch a lot of fun stuff together this month!



Item No.2: "The Incredible Shrinking Man"



THIS TV put "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957) on this afternoon as the second half of its Saturday Matinee double feature. I first watched and loved this movie on the old Creature Double Feature show on WLVI Channel 56 back when I was a kid. While it doesn't really feature any monsters (other than a regular sized house cat and spider that take on tremendous proportions as the title character gradually shrinks over the course of the movie), I was always deeply affected by "The Incredible Shrinking Man". It raises big existential questions about the human condition that apparently got to me--even through the science-fiction veneer of the story. Even as a child I remember always experiencing a strange feeling of helplessness and smallness after watching the film. It was fun, but also had a darker side. I suppose part of the reason it is so effective comes from the fact that it was based on a book written by the great Richard Matheson (who also wrote "I am Legend" and was writer on the original "Twilight Zone" show). Of course I didn't realize any of this as a kid-I just thought it was a great movie! Just like "Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy", I have this movie on DVD too (as part of Universal's The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection DVD set), but it is just so cool to see these great old movies on TV--just like I saw them so many times as a kid!

The Little Monster woke up in time to see "The Incredible Shrinking Man", and she seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. She watched the early part--which is of course a bit less exciting than the later parts. The big payoff (no pun intended) was the later parts where the tiny and still shrinking Grant Williams has his life or death adventures in the basement.

The Little Monster watches Grant Williams fashion a weapon out of a pin


And here's the spider from the climatic basement scene

video
Here's some video of the BIG spider scene!


Two great movies in one day is a nice way to start the October Horror Challenge. Hopefully there'll be more neat stuff like this on TV throughout the month. Of course, when there isn't, there's always my DVD collection, stuff I can find at my local library, DVDs through Netflix, and...my latest secret weapon: The Wife got us a ROKU Box for my birthday a couple weeks ago. Now we have all kinds of online streaming movies from Netflix available to us, ad well as quite a few free movie channels. There will most certainly be days when I don't get to watch anything that can be added to the Challenge total, but hopefully they will be few and far between. Only time will tell...


UPDATE:
Item No. 3: "End of the World"



Well, I unexpectedly got a chance to watch another movie later in the night. I was browsing through the free movies available on one of the channels on the ROKU Box when I saw something called "End of the World" (1977). I've always been a fan of end-of-the-world movies and this one certainly sounded like it was going to be in that vein. Unfortunately the description of the movie on the channel made it sound a lot like the Ray Milland flick "Panic in the Year Zero" (1962). I say unfortunately because I would have welcomed a plot like that of "Panic in the Year Zero". The description was a mistake though. Apparently one of the alternate names for "Panic in the Year Zero" is "End of the World" (as I discovered later on IMDb). Obviously someone didn't do their research before posting the description on the channel. Oh well. Anyway, the movie had Christopher Lee...and not much else. It did indeed culminate with the promised end of the world at the end of the movie, but it was pretty far from entertaining. In fact, it was pretty darned near unwatchable. If it weren't for the fact that I could add it to the October Horror Challenge I probably wouldn't have finished it... Hey, they're not ALL going to be gems, right?

SCORE:
Monster Dad - 3
October - 1