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September 29, 2009

The Mike's October Awesome Horror Movie Playlist!

Hey all, long time no type. But I hope to feed you all more horror goofiness soon.

To put it simply, October is here. And to me, that's always meant horror movies. And what's the point of watching 50 or so horror flicks without writing a little something about them?

I don't plan on keeping the same format as my past reviews, but I plan to at least give updates by day when I watch a horror this month, to get some thoughts out to you all. I've got a line-up that spans the last 8 decades, and an honor roll of horror directors from across the globe. The most famous stars, the most famous killers, the most famous boobs...they'll all be here!

Tonight is my "pre-party" to get October rolling, and I started out with a couple of horrors that come from two very different schools of thought.

To start the evening, while I was whittling away at what movies I should or shouldn't watch this October, I popped in Kevin S. Tenney's 1988 flick Night of the Demons. Tenney, whose other '80s hit was the Tawny Kitaen vehicle Witchboard, did a decent job making this one watchable, but there's little to the movie that makes it stand out. Aside from '80s scream queen Linnea Quigley's presence, that is.

The film follows the very simple "Kids party in an old abandoned house that turns out to be haunted" formula, and is full of the out of date stereotypes that '80s horror flicks were famous for. In fact, several of the characters seem straight out of another Quigley flick, Return of the Living Dead. That's a good movie, but the characters weren't exactly its strong point. The haunting takes a demonic turn (duh, read the title Mike!) that resembles some Italian horror films, leading to a pretty standard climax.

There are some good things to be seen in Night of the Demons, particularly in visuals and music, and it's definitely a fun movie to watch. I'd never recommend it as a "good" movie, but it's nowhere near as bad as I thought it was back when I first saw it. I'd call it a Time Burner on my grading scale.

Second up this evening is Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. If you don't know anything about The Mike, one of the first things I should tell you is that Shelley's book is my favorite thing I've ever read. This movie should sate my hunger for a faithful version of that book, but it never really hits on the full potential that it had.

The most famous bit of discussion about this film revolves around the casting of Robert De Niro as Frankenstein's monster. Comedians and critics have blasted the choice, but considering how Shelley wrote the character (and disregarding how Karloff and Whale presented the character), it works. The monster was always meant to be a beast that draws both our sympathy and our fear, and De Niro, with an assist from some great makeup, fits that role well. I'd easily say he's the best thing the film has going for it.

Trouble is, Branagh's direction, mainly reserved for Shakespeare adaptations at this stage of his career, is terribly melodramatic. There is no subtlety in the over two hour run time, and many scenes seem to change the tone of the film too greatly. This is most evident in scenes involving the doctor and his family, which play more like a Jane Austen adaptation than a horror film.

There is a lot to admire about the attempt at capturing Shelley's novel, but the attempts to be too "grand" a film seems to doom its pace and tone. As is, this is a Solid Selection for any Frankenstein fan, but I'll stick to the less faithful Karloff flick as my go-to Frankenstein on film.

That's all I've got for today, but stay tuned for more as October unravels. Until then, and with Halloween around the corner, I wish you all happy haunting.