This year, we formally kicked off No Sleep October with another Fuck, Yeah! Film Festival. Fellow Yapper Nick Rogers graciously curated a selection of horror classics and contemporaries for us to watch; Here’s a rundown, with some quick reviews for each of them.
The Lost Boys (1987)
“The Lost Boys” is an amalgamation of several popular movie styles from the late 1980s and a surprisingly in-depth exploration of Vvmpire lore.
Brooding teen Michael (Jason Patric), his fashionable heartthrob brother, Sam (Corey Haim), and meek mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest) move to Santa Carla, California, a small seaside town where most of the kids end up on milk cartons. They’re quickly pulled into the city’s underground vampire community led by David (Kiefer Sutherland), whose pack of mulleted, leather-clad bloodsuckers haunt the boardwalk and make-out mountains each night.
Michael’s initiation comes swiftly, as he’s seduced by the beautiful Star (Jami Gertz), a groupie in David’s clique. Sam, meanwhile, befriends the Frog brothers — Edgar & Alan (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander, respectively). The Frog family’s comic book store is a front for their leadership of the anti-vampire resistance movement. After Michael becomes a half-vampire, Sam and the Frogs set out to find the head vampire so that they can end the infestation and save his brother’s life.
There are elements of Amblin, Brat Pack and Hammer Horror movies all smooshed in “The Lost Boys,” and it’s a surprisingly effective mix. It’s endlessly enjoyable, absurd. The final scene of the movie is a punchline? Odd.
While watching it, I started to consider the more recent horror movies and how Michael’s story – of a brooding guy falling in with a rough crowd, casting away his parent’s concerns and coming into conflict with his younger siblings – feels as dated as the rest of the movie. That “troubled youth” narrative feels absent from contemporary popular culture. It’s a definitive Gen-X, grungy story, I guess. That’s not to say we don’t have stupid kids, but I’m not sure those stories are told without a social message anymore. It would be hard to claim “The Lost Boys” has any kind of message at all. It is the purest pop.
Great saxophone solo, though.
The Fly (1986)
Likely the single most heartfelt horror I watched all month, “The Fly” has it all: slowly decomposing human flesh, hot lovemaking, weird science, weird-hot Jeff Goldblum, genitals in a jar, cute baboons, those same baboons turned inside out. The list goes on!
Most of all, “The Fly” is a well-rendered horror metaphor on watching someone you love fall into drug addiction or an equivalent debilitating illness. Geena Davis played Veronica Quaife, a science reporter who meets Seth Brundle (Goldblum) at a party. Brundle invites her to his private lab, where he is inches away from completing a teleportation device that will change the world. She agrees to document his studies and the two fall into a deep, real love. But in a night of drunken, misplaced jealousy over Quaife’s previous flame Stathis Borans (John Getz), who is still her boss, Brundle decides to test his device on himself. Unbeknownst to him, a housefly hops into his teleprompter with him. Slowly, Brundle changes…
The visual horror of “The Fly” comes from director David Cronenberg’s signature body horror. Quaife is the main character of the movie, and each time she visits Brundle he has metamorphosed further and further into someone — and something — new: the Brundlefly, which eats like a fly (secreting a liquid to break down solids into liquids, which he then ingests), socializes like a fly (territorially), fucks like a fly (endlessly). There’s still some Brundle in there, observing himself with awareness, terror, depression.
It’s that bit of Brundle that asserts itself when Quaife visits him, and that bit of Brundle that maintains the fundamental tragedy of the movie. Goldblum and Davis (who were in a relationship at the time) are spectacular. Sure, one could argue that the ending renders the central metaphor pessimistic and a bit questionable, but, uh – nah. This movie’s great.
The Mothman Prophecies (2001)
“Mothman” is an understated, atmospheric take on the Mothman folklore. In some ways, it’s the odd man out of this FYF because the terror is primarily psychological and character-oriented. Richard Gere plays John Klein, a reporter whose wife, Mary, died of brain cancer two years before the main events of the movie. He ends up inexplicably lost in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where he is drawn into strange events occurring there — citizens haunted by strange phone calls, bad dreams and sightings of a large man with red eyes and moth wings. This man’s form matches drawings Mary made on her deathbed.
If the first two movies we watched were a solid A & A+, “Mothman” is something of a cleanly cut B-grade horror movie. Not so much in budget or tone or style, simply in overall quality. Director Mark Pellington and cinematographer Fred Murphy make their Point Pleasant (filmed in Pennsylvania) feel like a small, quiet, Appalachian town. The townsfolk are given substantial characterization, particularly Will Patton as Gordon Smallwood, the first person to spout prophecies of great death and destruction that start to come true.
Part of the fun of folklore is that it’s popular culture writ small, created in a call-and-response with the local environment. The Mothman myth is real – there’s an annual celebration of it in Point Pleasant – and to “Mothman’s” credit, it keeps the myth on that level. There’s no killer Mothman, no implication that his presence is a physical reality or his intentions malevolent. He exists in the minds of the townspeople and in Klein’s personal experience but he’s never explained. It captures the fun of folklore and cryptozoological phenomena. Unfortunately that creepiness and intimacy is ill-served by the finale, which features a massive CGI bridge collapse with zero dramatic impact.
Tonally strong. Creepy. Ill-served.
The X From Outer Space (1967)
“The X from Outer Space” was released by the Japanese production company Shochiku in 1967 in response to the popularity of the Godzilla franchise over at rival studio Toho. Everybody wanted a piece of that sweet, sweet, rubber-suited Kaiju pie. Thus Guilala, a giant chicken-like firebreathing monster, was born. He only ever appeared in this movie because good god, this film is just dumb as shit.
So anyway, you should watch it immediately.
Japan has been launching missions to Mars (suck it, America), but their best pilots and scientists keep getting completely fucked up by a mysterious UFO hanging out by the moon. So they load up the newest AAB Gamma – nicknamed the Astro Boat – with their best C-grade astronauts to investigate. The crew is staffed by Capt. Sano (Shun’ya Wazaki), Dr. Kato (Eiji Okada) and Lisa (Peggy Neal). Lisa’s a pretty white woman. After a rest stop by the moon they pick up more crew, including Sano’s girlfriend Michiko. Lisa and Michiko have a real connection and headcanon informs me the two of them are in a secret and forbidden cosmic romance. I’m not a horndog; there is legitimate subtext throughout the movie that implies such a thing.
Maybe it’s because they’re the only two characters who get shit done.
Guilala shows up at the end of the movie, smashing cardboard factories and eating radiation like the goddamn chicken-monster boss he is. The humans manage to discover a secret element – Guilalanium – that can destroy him, so they head out into space, retrieve it and then turn him into a giant pile of, uh, shaving cream (to be SFW).
“The X from Outer Space” is 88 minutes long. It occurs to me that a lot of popular television shows regular run at 88 minutes these days. This felt longer.
Great soundtrack, though!
The Descent (2006)
“The Descent” has an all-female cast, which is only one of the many awesome things about it. Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) is a wilderness hobbyist whose husband and daughter die in a car accident following a white-water rafting trip with friends Juno (Natalie Mendoza) and Beth (Alex Reid). Years later, Juno hosts Sarah, Beth and several other friends on a caving expedition in rural Appalachia. Juno’s a total piece of shit and lies to the other hikers, taking them into an uncharted and remote cave system. There’s a cave-in, and the women have to try to find their way out.
They also run into some cannibal monsters, because, like, duh.
“The Descent” manages to be terrifying long before the monsters show up because caves are horrifying. Writer-director Neil Marshall and cinematographer Sam McCurdy do a great job playing with tight spaces, dark caverns, bottomless pits. There’s only a small chance that they’ll make it out from the start, and you intuitively know that even as the characters continue crawling forward in false hope. The basic premise makes me uncomfortable. I had to cover my eyes.
Although taken after the film with the lights on for adequate illumination, this is how I spent the better part of “The Descent.”
Once the monsters show up, things take a turn for the more traditionally scary as they start to pick the hikers off one at a time. Juno proves to be particularly adept at killing them, and most of the others get their punches and stabs in, too. But it’s an exercise in hopelessness.