This is the second year Oliver Reed’s shown up in my month of Halloween treats. Last year saw me reviewing David Cronenberg’s decent The Brood; this year, Reed and Karen Black play a couple living in a haunted house in Burnt Offerings. Burnt Offerings was followed by several other movies that cherry-picked elements and amplified them: madness brought on by a house (The Shining); a house that’s too good to be true (Amityville Horror); a woman tasked with taking care of an old woman (House of the Devil); a woman tasked with being a caretaker only to take on the role completely (The Sentinel); a near mute character associated with death (Phantasm). Sure, time dulls any film’s originality, and it certainly doesn’t take away from the creepier elements within Burnt Offerings, but it leaves the movie with few, if any surprises.
Halloween is upon us and that means witches rule the week (outside of a few backdated reviews I hope to get up). Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages is the oldest documentary I’ve watched and one of the most bizarre. For 1922 it was a methodical, scientific approach of reexamining witchcraft, and there are points that still ring true for modern audiences. High on creeps, there are a few laughable moments and often hard to maintain interest in such a clinical silent film, Haxan provides some intriguing sequences and racy material to get your blood pumping on All Hallows Eve.
I’ve pretty much thrown my Halloween schedule out the window after several movies were either available at a certain time or unavailable entirely. However, it wasn’t unavailability that’s delayed my review of The Clairvoyant. Unfortunately, this movie is a prime example to never judge a film by its cover. I assumed the ominous poster with a foreboding Claude Rains gazing into a crystal ball implied a horror movie when, truly, The Clairvoyant is more a mystery/drama. I’ll adhere to the schedule and review it anyway, but man I wish I knew in advance.
A very brief news post this week – gives me an excuse to have it up late – with a few new items coming to DVD and Blu-ray.
If you’re a long-time Journeys in Classic Film follower you know I’ve watched many a Mario Bava film courtesy of Kino Classics’ Mario Bava collection. I would never tout myself as an expert on the Italian gorehound’s work, but after watching Black Sunday everything I presumed to know was shattered. In spite Bava’s confusion on whether to depict vampires or witches, Black Sunday aka The Mask of Satan plays like Bava at his most serious, right down to filming it in black and white. The atmospherics, make-up effects, and luminous Barbara Steele, concoct a charming throwback to the golden era of cinema and retaining Bava’s over-the-top pathos.
We’re pushing the blog’s boundaries time-wise, but with two studio era stars in the cast I can count it, right? Martin Scorsese and Alejandro Amenabar both cite The Changeling as the scariest movie of all time; Amenabar used quite a bit from this for his own haunted house throwback, The Others. Because so many other directors have mined the movie for its elements there’s nothing particularly frightening for the average horror fan, regardless of great performances by George C. Scott and Melvyn Douglas. However, The Changeling is a tense mystery/horror film taking the audience down a twisted path reliant on the horror to move along the mystery.
Two new stars have been deemed worthy enough to win Veronicas this month: one of whom is an icon in almost every genre of film, and the other is the most beautiful woman of the Golden Era. Who nabbed a spot in the Hall of Fame? As always, you can visit the Veronicas section at the top of the page where past and current winners are listed, including links to any reviews of their I’ve written.