Sunday, 25 October 2020

Movie Review: Tales of Halloween (2015)

Tales of Halloween (2015) is an anthology movie in the style of 2007's Trick 'r Treat. In Tales of Halloween, ten short stories are woven together over the space of Halloween night. It is a little (if I had to guess, deliberately) hokier and a lot funnier than the darker Trick 'r Treat, but every bit as enjoyable. Fans of one should definitely check out the other.

The stories told during Tales of Halloween follow a loose timeline that's easily followed by the children trick-or-treating through the film as well as Night of the Living Dead playing on the various televisions throughout. There are many homages to other classic horror films as the film goes on, starting with Adrienne Barbeau as the husky-voiced radio host - a nod to her role in 1980's The Fog. You may also spot a candy bar named after legendary horror director John Carpenter in "Sweet Tooth" and Evil Dead's Necronomicon hiding in the background during the "Friday the 31st" segment. 

Tales of Halloween starts with a stylized animation that takes you on a tour of the town and introduces the stories you're about to watch. It ends with a brief return to the same animation, which wraps things up nicely. The ten stories that take place in the interim vary in style, ranging from creepy urban legend to alien abduction, but fit together perfectly regardless of their differences. They all have have brilliant imagery - whether it's the dancing flames in "Ding Dong," the ultra gore in "Sweet Tooth," or the creepy fog in "Grim Grinning Ghost," Tales of Halloween is a visually pleasing film. 

There are witches, demons, creeps, and monsters galore in this one. They're all very well done, too, even if some of them do lean toward hilariously cringe-worthy. (I'm referring, of course, to the claymation alien in "Friday the 31st.") The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes style jack o'lantern rampaging through the town in "Bad Seed" is a favourite of mine, as is the revenge-driven demon in "The Weak and the Wicked," which is my favourite story of the lot. 

Although each of the stories are very different from one another, they do have a few things in common, starting with their humour. (Tales of Halloween is billed as a comedy/horror, after all.) But they all do a great job of subverting expectations as well. None of the stories go exactly where you expect them to so, by the time you get to the end, you find yourself wondering just what the fuck to expect. Add a healthy dose of fakeouts and jump scares and you've got a must-see Halloween movie that's just plain fun. 

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Witchy Reads: Hoodoo For Beginners: Working Magic Spells in Rootwork and Conjure with Roots, Herbs, Candles, and Oils by Angelie Belard

Hoodoo can be an intimidating subject, even for people who've practiced witchcraft as long as I have. It's something I've never wanted to get too involved with because of how dark it's perceived to be. But since I've been slowly making the transition from Wiccan to plain old witch, reading this book seemed like a good move toward shaking that three-times-three mentality I learned as a kid.

Hoodoo For Beginners: Working Magic Spells in Rootwork and Conjure with Roots, Herbs, Candles, and Oils by Angelie Belard shattered a lot of long-held illusions and made hoodoo an accessible path, something I can see myself studying further. I was disappointed when I finished it because I wanted to really delve into hoodoo some more.

Honestly, I was a bit iffy about starting this one. I worry with books like these (especially anything you'd find in the "New Age" or "self-help" sections) because, too often, you end up spending most of the book reading about how great the author is and very little time taking in useful information. Hoodoo for Beginners was perfectly balanced, with anecdotes used to show the usefulness of the practice, rather than the ability of the author. I really appreciated that. 

Hoodoo for Beginners is easy to read, easy to follow, and full of useful information. It's a must-have primer for anyone considering the path. I'd love to have a paperback copy of this one on my reference shelf and I'll be coming back to it as I find my feet because the spells are easy to follow and don't require ingredients I'd have to spend weeks chasing down. Even a beginner witch or hoodoo practitioner should have everything handy for these spells. It is a primer, though, so don't expect it to delve too deeply into any given subject. 

As far as I know, this is Belard's first book, which is actually a little surprising, considering how well-written it is. (Sorry, but you know what I mean.) I hope she continues writing because I'd love to see what else she has to offer.

Monday, 12 October 2020

31 Days of Horror Remakes: The Crazies 1973 vs 2010

 Me: Okay... Um, so before we talk about which movie was better, I kind of want to talk about how interesting the premise of The Crazies is. Especially now, when there's a pandemic running rampant across the globe. It feels really relevant. 

Jay: Yeah, it really does. I mean, I don't suppose when they made The Crazies they realized that... well, you know... 2020. 

Me: Hah. Right. Of course, there's one big difference: the people who are sick in the movie are the crazy ones and in real life, the crazy ones are the ones who aren't.

Jay: Unfortunately, that's pretty much spot on.


Me: You know I can't stand the original The Crazies for so many reasons. What what do you think, though? Which version do you think is better? 

Jay: Well, I think the remake of The Crazies was excellent but you've got to put it into context. This was George Romero's third, maybe fourth film. It was raw, unpolished - but clever.

Me: I see the potential it must have had at the time but it's hard to watch now.

Jay: Of course it is. Part of that is the money behind the remake and the lack of money Romero had when making the original. Even without much of a budget, he did have a great story. I mean, it just goes to show you what could have been done if he'd had the funds.

And don't forget that he was still finding his style.

Me: Yeah... in 1973, I think Romero's style was a hot mess.

Jay: I was too young to watch it when it first came out. I was about ten when I saw The Crazies and it was a bit... heavy for a ten-year-old. I didn't really get a lot of it at the time but it stayed with me. 

Me: I'm not surprised. It's hard to follow. That quick cut from one scene to another is really grating. 

Jay: They didn't do a great job of explaining it, either. They do a much better job in the remake. You see the plane and learn that it's crashed with a virus on it. 

Me: I like that they actually showed the plane in the remake. It's a stunning visual, stretched out under the boat like that. 

Jay: Right. There's also the makeup. In the original, you know that they have this disease, this Trixie, but you can't really tell. The remake gives them an almost zombie-like look. 

Me: For a long time. I love that you can't tell at first that someone has it but it becomes more and more evident the sicker they get. It works better than that instant change you get from some zombie movies.

Jay: They're not zombies.

Me: Sorry, infected. 

Jay: Better. 

It's good with that transfixed look they get, like the guy in the jail cell. He's gone but they can't work it out. It's very effective. 

I also really like the fake-outs, like when the mother is standing in front of the combine harvester and you're just waiting for it to start and plow her down. You think, phew, she made it - but what she really did was seal their doom. 

Me: That was a really sad part. The movie is actually pretty heavy - but still way more enjoyable than the original, which was just depressing. I mean... there is a difference between heavy and depressing, as weird as that sounds.

We were talking earlier today about the way the disease moved through the water through the town, which the remake made a lot clearer. I love that the sheriff goes to the uh... is it a mayor?

Jay: Yeah, I think it was the mayor.

Me: So, he goes to the mayor and he asks him to shut off the water but the mayor refuses. It reminded me of that bit in Jaws when he's trying to get the mayor to shut the beaches and he refuses. Same vibe. 

Jay: Right. But he just goes straight to the source, shuts it off, and breaks it so no one can turn it back on. Brilliant. Too bad it didn't help. 

The sheriff is good but his deputy is a great character too. 

Although he was starting to go mad from the disease, even though he was becoming one of the crazies, he fought it. You didn't really get that in the original, that last heroic act. 

Me: I'll tell you what the original also didn't have... Richard Liberty snogging his daughter. Just... eww. I thought it was completely unnecessary. 

Jay: I don't know why they went there. I think it was to show the disease was taking effect. But, yeah, unnecessary. 

The remake was cleaner, slicker. The music was better, more ominous. It was just a better production. 

Me: I'm not going to argue with you here. 

First of all, I hated the way the original would flash. It constantly flashed between two different scenes. They'd be like we're gonna call in the military and then you get boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. All these images of the military and - oh. My. God The military. Groan.

That military drum beat every fucking time you saw a soldier. That is so tedious. 

Jay: Yeah. Okay, there was no need but again, like I say, it was 1973. It was low budget. 

This is one of those rare breeds where the remake is actually far superior to the original, and it's not a little bit better. It's far superior to the original. A lot of that is down to the actors but it's also just slicker and cleaner. The sound is so much better too.

Me: Oh, the music! The music in the first one was just dumb. The score wasn't good at all. The remake was so much better. It was dark. It was ominous... it almost had that 28 Days Later feel, kind of sad and mournful. I really really liked that. 

Jay: They also used the technology of today well, like using the drone and satellites to tell the story. Even at the end, where they could see that somebody managed to escape the town and the next city was now going into lockdown. 

Me: That's the best part! You're rooting for them to get away but, because they do, they fucked a whole other city. It's kind of heart-breaking, if you think about it. You want them to make it, but you know that if they do, they're dooming others. We should want them to fail - but we don't. It becomes especially relevant when you think about the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Jay: It does. You see the selfishness of people today. That's the thing we've learned over the last eight, nine months: people are just selfish. They don't give a shit about anybody else. It's I'm all right, Jack and screw you. 

But anyway, go back to the movie. 

Me: So... bringing the pandemic into it, you have to look at the military involvement as well. In the remake military is a slick operation. It didn't even come into play for ages. They come out of nowhere in the middle of the night - unlike the military in the original, who stomp in all hectic like and make a mess of things.

Jay: And don't forget those stupid jumpsuits. 

Me: Right. Cringe.

The point I wanted to make with the pandemic was that the first movie, unfortunately, is closer to what we got. Like, you would hope that in the midst of a pandemic you get that second, well organized military. They're swift. They know what they're doing. But no, we got the fucking white jumpsuit guys who don't have a clue what's going on. They don't know how to contain it. They're not getting the support. That's what's happening.

I keep thinking that, really, in both films if the military had just stopped and explained what was going, they wouldn't have gotten so much resistance. Maybe they would've been able to actually contain it.

Jay: I don't know about that. If they'd come in and said, "We're containing you for your own good," do you think anyone would have actually gone quietly? I doubt it.

The real problem they had, in both movies, is the same problem America and Britain have now. Piss-poor leadership. It's like when the sheriff asks about the plane and the guy they catch shows no remorse, no empathy. Sound familiar?

Me: Too familiar.

Jay: I'll tell you the one thing I thought the original did better.

Me: What?

Jay: It's two-pronged. Firstly, there's the doctor who's been working on a cure. He's found it but the soldiers just lump him in with everyone else and he gets killed. The vials get broken. 

Secondly, there's the man who's immune. They're so desperately trying to find a cure but, by the time they bring in the immune guy, they're so overwhelmed that they don't bother testing him. They had two chances at a cure and they ruined them both. It was a nice touch, very dark.

Me: Like I said, heart-breaking. No... it's... hopeless. It's funny that a movie so poorly made could invoke such a powerful emotion.

Right. I've gotta wrap this up because it's past my bedtime. This is your last chance to add anything.

Jay: Not a lot, except that Romero had a good story but not the money to back it up. The remake had both. It a more complete movie. It had horror, romance, and action. It was the complete package. 

Sunday, 11 October 2020

31 Days of Horror Remakes: Child's Play 1988 vs 2019

Me: Okay, I'm going to ask you some questions about Child's Play

Jay: Okay. 

Me: So... do you prefer the original or the remake?

Jay: Definitely the original. 

Me: I figured you'd say that. Why?

Jay: It was a better story. The voodoo aspect added something really special to it. It's not just some disgruntled employee, it's a fucking psychopath who's trying to save his own skin. 

Me: I thought it was less a disgruntled employee and more an issue of systemic abuse. Like a sweatshop, you know? Plus, it made it so much more realistic. Reprogramming an electronic doll to remove its safeguards is a lot easier to believe than someone pulling off a complicated voodoo ritual while dying and being hunted by the police.

Jay: That's what I love about you, you take the fun out of voodoo.

Me: Well, I mean... come on. People who really practice voodoo don't fear death so the guy who taught Charles wouldn't have given up the deets on how to move into the boy.

Jay: Do you ever just sit and enjoy a movie?

Me: I did enjoy Child's Play! I enjoyed the remake more, though.

Jay: Meh... They had thirty years to come up with something better than the original and they didn't. An angry employee? That's the best you can do? I mean... I get that you want to do something new, but you could've come up with something better than that. 

I don't know. Maybe if I hadn't seen the original, I would have enjoyed it - but I had. I mean, I did enjoy it, but I didn't enjoy it more - and that's the point of a remake, right?

Me: They did a great job of bringing it up to date, though. The original does feel pretty dated now.

Jay: A lot of things are the same. You've still got an overworked single mother living in an apartment with her son. In the original, though, you've got a better reason for Chucky's determination to kill Andy. 

Me: You mean other than "imprinting" on him? (Which kind of feels a little Twightl-y, but okay.)

Jay: Exactly. 

So Charles is stuck in this stupid doll and he wants out. The only way he can do it is to take over the kid's body. There's a reason for his obsession. 

You know the original was better because of its longevity. It's still relevant today and has spawned... seven sequels?

Me: A lot. There have been a lot of sequels - and they're all pretty good. Especially some of the newer ones.

Jay: Right. Has there been any talk of a sequel for the remake?

Me: Actually...

Jay: Seriously?

Me: Well, not in so many words. They were talking about it but then, you know, the world ended. 

Anyway, let's talk about the rebranding. Goodbye, Good Guy. Hello, Buddi. What did you think of that? And, damn, that's a big doll. Freaking huge doll.

Jay: Alright, well, let me ask you a question. 

Me: Shoot. 

Jay: How many Good Guy Chucky dolls have you seen? 

Me: Loads. I actually had one. 

Jay: Of course you did. That's my point, though. Everywhere you look, you see the original version. You just don't see the Buddi version anywhere and that's because it didn't have the darkness that the Good Guy doll did. He looks kind of messed up, but not scary.

And, really, it's supposed to be a doll, not this weird animatronic thing that looks human. Well, kind of human.

Me: That's just changing to fit the new technology of the time. 

Jay: Yeah, but what I'm saying is that, with all the CGI available now, you could have made it so much more believable. The remake kind of fell short. It just... doesn't look right. It still just looks like a weird rubber doll. 

They really could have done some of the effects better. Chucky was better in the original, with fewer special effects available. 

The original doll was terrifying. There's that bit where she's threatening to throw it into the fire if it doesn't talk and then it goes nuts. That's a great scene, absolutely terrifying.

Me: Honestly, the fact that Charles Lee Ray was inside the doll, sleeping with the little boy in his bed... that was the terrifying bit for me. So much yuck.

Jay: I don't think it was intended to be sexual, just terrifying, knowing that danger was so close.

Me: I'm gonna stick with yucky but okay. 

What about the casts?

Jay: The original cast was far superior. I mean, there were some good actors in the remake but there were no Chris Sarandons. No Brad Dourifs. They were more or less forgettable. 

Me: Well, Chris Sarandon was definitely fun to look at, but I didn't like his character. He was just a douche-y cop. I'll give you Dourif, though. He's always amazing. 

Jay: It's the mania he brings to the role. When he's fucking losing it, when he's laughing maniacally... the new Chucky didn't have that. The original was straight up evil.

Me: For me, the fact that the the new Chucky didn't really understand that he was wrong was so powerful. He didn't get that he was bad. I like the fact that they, the kids, kind of taught him to be that way.

It's like when Chucky watches Andy stab the knife down onto the wooden block, then you see Chucky mimicking it like... yeah. 

Jay: But why would he have learned that? Why would have chosen to learn to murder? There were so many things he was taught. Why did that stick and none of the rest?

Me: It's because that was what made Andy happy. (Which, by the way, creepy.) If, I dunno, knitting had made Andy happy, he probably would have learned that. Very different movie. 

Jay: It just seemed too sudden to me. Like, he goes nuts straight away. Charles Lee Ray had a reason, he was stuck inside this fucking doll and couldn't get out. That would make you crazy. 

Me: I can tell we're not going to agree on this one. I thought the remake was a great film. It had some good fake outs, some good jumps, and there was some great humor. Oh, my god. When Chucky kills the mother's boyfriend and the guy's scalp flies off - that was fucking great. 

Jay: I understood that kill but what about the old black woman? What was the point of her death?

Me: It was because she made a joke about Andy being her new best friend. Chucky couldn't understand humor, so he got jealous.

Jay: But... couldn't he? The fact that he was manipulating technology - cutting off the video feed at just the right time, that said to me that he understood perfectly well what he was doing. So which is it? Does he have the mentality of a child or is he intelligent enough to control all the technology around him? You can't have it both ways. 

Me: What would you have liked them to do with the Chucky doll?

Jay: I dunno... something different. So his eyes glowed, that's it. They could have done so much more, made him so much more. I'm not saying I want him break dance or something, just... I don't know. Switch it up.

That's how I feel about the whole movie. They could have changed the story in so many ways, really taken it in a new direction. But they didn't. Why not make Andy a spoiled little rich brat who got unlucky enough to get that doll? Do something different!

Me: Okay, decision time. I prefer the remake. It's more relevant and more believable. I have a feeling you're not going to agree with me, though.

Jay: Listen to that feeling.

Me: Hah. So you're picking the original. 

Jay: Definitely. They had a chance at taking it up a notch and they failed. They didn't beat the original.

Me: Another draw...

Saturday, 10 October 2020

31 Days of Horror Remakes: Poltergeist 1982 vs 2015

 Me: Okay, I kind of had to twist your arm to talk about Poltergeist because you said to me earlier that you were never really into either movie. 

Jay: No, not really. 

Me: Can you give me a little bit more? 

Jay: Well, Spielberg was a producer on the original, so that's always a good sign. And Tobe Hooper was director, which is also good. Even with both involved, the original Poltergeist was... okay. Not spectacular, but good. 

The really interesting thing about the original Poltergeist movie is the fact that its production was meant to be cursed, ending with the death of Heather O'Rourke, the little girl who played Carol Anne.

Me: Um, I think her on-screen sister, Dominique Dunne, died too?

Jay: She was strangled by her boyfriend, if I remember. But, there were other actors that died from the franchise too. It was a little surprising that they decided to do a remake, with as cursed as they believed it to be. 

Me: Okay, so I'll take a moment to point out that we don't agree on which movie, the remake or the original wins this one. You're staunchly for the original and I think the remake works better. Tell me why you like the original.

Jay: I found it very entertaining. The haunting bits were good, like the bit where the chairs move and then the slow build-up until you find out that the house was built on a cemetery and they never bothered moving the coffins, just built straight on top of them. 

Me: I thought you were going to say 'an ancient Indian burial ground' then and I was totally going to correct you. They actually joke about it in both movies, saying "at least it wasn't an ancient Indian burial ground!'" It made me wonder... when did that become part of our cultural literacy?

Jay: That's a good a question. I honestly don't know the answer.  

Of course, Poltergeist gave us a couple of classic horror lines. "They're here," and "This house is clean." 

Me: I'm glad you brought that up because 1. It's so much less annoying when the little girl says it in the remake and 2. I wanted to ask what you thought of Zelda Rubinstein and Jared Harris.

So, when Tangina comes into it, there's not really any kind of explanation or anything. She's just there and they're like, okay she's gonna do this now - and she doesn't even do it. Really, it's all the mom. 

But in the remake, you get a good build up with Carrigan, with the tv show and such. And they actually make him part of the story, give him his own story within it. You don't get that with the original. Tangina's character is just kind of throwaway. 

Jay: Well, Jared Harris is a tremendous actor - but if someone imitates that line from the movie, it's Rubinstein's character they mimic. 

Me: Fair point. But I still like Carrigan better. 

Okay, but characters I don't like. First of all, either father. They're both dicks, the one in the remake even more so. In the original, though, I got distracted by how very Conservative the family is and that just annoyed me. This election has got me so fucked up in the head that I can't even stand fake Republicans at this point. 

Jay: Hah. Yeah, I don't think anyone else would even have noticed that. 

Me: Here's the other thing that bugs me about the original... Why the fuck did it just start happening? The houses all have a very lived in look and the neighbours all clearly know each other, which means they've been there for awhile. I think at some point they say it's been months, but I'm not sure. Either way, why wait so long to start shit? If I was an unquiet spirit, I think I would've fucked with that family the second they moved in.

The remake is better for me because it literally starts the moment they move in. It makes more sense. 

Jay: Hmm. I guess I assumed the family in the first one had just moved in too. It's been a long time since I've seen it, though. 

Me: I also like the family better in the remake, especially the older daughter. She honestly didn't seem important in the first one. I don't know why they even included her in it. Mini rant: I thought it was disgusting that the builders sexually harassed the older daughter and the mother just stood there and laughed. Eww. 

In the remake, the older daughter, Kendra, is actually part of the family. She's actually in most of the movie. 

Have I sold you on the remake yet?

Jay: Not a bit. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was okay. If I hadn't seen the original first, I might have enjoyed the remake as much as you did. But I didn't. I honestly don't know why they remade it. If you can't do it better, don't fucking do it.

Me: Except I think they did do it better. 

Jay: You're entitled to your opinion. The critics didn't particularly like the remake, though, so I think more people agree with me. In fact, they're talking about remaking it again. 

Me: Yeah, I'd heard that the Russo brothers wanted to get their hands on it, but I assumed it was more because they're such hot property that they can do whatever movie they want. 

Jay: Probably, but they should leave this one alone. There's no point in making another one because it won't be able to compete. 

Me: Well, thanks for talking about Poltergeist, even though it wouldn't have been your choice for today. (And you're wrong, the remake is better.)

Jay: You're welcome. (And no, it wasn't.)

Friday, 9 October 2020

31 Days of Horror Remakes: The Thing from Another World 1951 vs The Thing 1982

Me: The Thing vs The Thing from Another World. I'm not going to start by asking you which one is better because I want to compare them first.


Jay: I guess the first thing is the time. I mean, the age. The Thing from Another World was released in 1951 and I can only imagine it was terrifying at the time because it still holds up well today. 

Me: The original is fun, I'll give it that. I always enjoy watching it.

Jay: It is a lot of fun. But, this is a horror list and, like I said, we can't judge how scary something like The Thing from Another World was because we're so desensitized now. Things are so much more visceral these days. 

It's kind of like my nan saying she ran home after seeing the original Dracula and Frankenstein movies. It seems comical now but was reality then. So, the movie is fun for us - but was probably terrifying at the time. 

Me: Now, The Thing from Another World is... well, nice. It's super nice. And tame. You could let a little kid watch it now.

Jay: Well, all of the movies of that time seem really nice now. Even comparing it to The Thing, which was made nearly forty years ago now, it was tame. You could do thing in the 80s you couldn't do in the 50s and you can do things now you couldn't do in the 80s. It's just the way it goes.

Me: You mean visual effects and the like?

Jay: Yeah, but also in general. Things that were taboo then or deemed too scary to show are fine now.

With The Thing, there was a bit more effing and blinding, sure, and it was certainly more atmospheric thanks to effects, but it's more than that. It's more visceral, not as bad as some of the video nasties, maybe, but certainly more than anything from the 50s. 

Me: The remake is a whole new kind of horror. It's what we call weird horror, I guess. It's visceral but not really in a blood and guts way. I don't know if I'm explaining it right. The Thing is gross but not in a "I'm gonna throw up" way, more in a "Well, that's disturbing" way. Like, the bit with the two faces nearly merged together. Blegh.

Jay: That bit is actually really clever because they tied it into the prequel. Actually, they did a really good job tying the prequel into the The Thing. I recommend watching the prequel first, every time. It adds credibility to The Thing.

Me: You know, I forgot that the beginning of The Thing showed the space ship landing. I only remembered the helicopter and the dog. And, honestly, I'm 100% the idiot that would protect the fucking dog. 

Jay: Yeah, you and me both. 

Me: Going back to the original... I never really got why there was a whole military base up there. I mean... a science base, sure. But why this huge ass military presence?

Jay: You've got the Cold War to thank for that. In the 80s, when you were born and The Thing was made, the Cold War-

Me: Part one.

Jay: Unfortunately. But the Cold War was winding up. It was full fledged back in the 50s. Of course, you didn't have the technology so instead of a room in The Pentagon watching everything across the ocean, you needed people a lot closer. Hence the base in the middle of nowhere - but a whole lot closer to Russia. 

Me: That's a really good point. I'm glad you explained it because I didn't get it. Here's another thing... in the original, the base is perfectly tidy and everyone's enthusiastic and neat. In the remake, the base is a hot mess and all the people there are untidy and on edge. That seems more realistic to me.

Jay: It is more realistic. Drop the America-fuck-yeah from the original and you've got a bunch of people doing a shitty job because they need the money. Those kinds of jobs usually pay well because they're so horrible. You see that more in The Thing.

Me: Can we talk about the monster in The Thing from Another World?

Jay: Very Frankenstein's monster-ish, wasn't it?

Me: It was! But here's the thing that bothered me... it was spawned from a freaking plant? How does that even work? How did they come up with that?

Jay: I don't think you're supposed to know. science and technology were advancing rapidly during that time, during the Atomic Age, and I think it's just one of those wild theories that scientists were coming up with at the time. Like the theory that all of our solar system is actually inside something the size of a marble. 

Me: With how nuts the doctor goes, putting everyone else at risk, I can see how that fits in. There's an element of playing God - or a warning against it, I guess. 

Jay: And also a fear of the unknown, of what could be outside our solar system. Who's to say what an alien is or how it's made? Growing from a seed might not be outside of the realms of possibility.

Me: What about the acting in the original? It was so... I dunno, aww shucks. That's what I'm going to call it, Aww, Shucks acting.

Jay: Oh, yeah. It's dated now, with all the jolly hockey sticks.

Me: I was also thinking that it must have been tricky to film, because of all the black and white. I mean... all that snow on black and white. That couldn't have been fun. 

Jay: I think it helped that a lot of it must have been done in a studio. Just look at some of those backdrops! Obviously painted.

Me: Hah. Obviously.

That changes in the remake. It's not all black and white anymore - and I don't mean that in the literal sense. The outdoor scenes seem very blue, which makes it feel even more unsettling. 

Jay: But it's also kind of natural. Not to that extent, but you do get that blue tint. If it ever snows again, look at the mountains. You'll see that blue hue.

Me: I know you love it when I do this but I'm going to do it anyway...

In the original, there were two women and no black men. In the remake, there were two black men and no women.

Jay: I swear, you're the only one who pays attention to these things. I can actually answer that, though, at least where the women were concerned. Carpenter did a lot of research and the research showed that it was unlikely women would be up there. He did catch a lot of flack for it, but it was realistic.

Me: To be fair, I liked the woman in the original.

Jay: Let's be honest, the blonde  woman was nonentity. 

Me: Actually, yeah. I didn't even notice her until about halfway through. 

Anyway, I loved... Nikki, was it? She was cheeky. She was take charge. She gave him hell. 

Jay: She was also saying things that you'd never hear back then. Like, calling him an octopus and drinking Hendry under that table.

Me: Yes! I love that. Hendry is cool, but a lot of the other men are just as sexist as you'd expect for that time, constantly talking getting women naked and the like. Yawn.

Jay: A lot of it is due to the times. They expected a certain amount of brevity from a film at the time, to keep it from being too dark. You know, otherwise people just lose their minds.

Me: I dunno... I have a hard time believing people were quite so fragile. I mean, we'd just fought a world war and all. Maybe the folks in charge of making movies wanted to believe that, but I'm not sure it's true.

I did want to ask about one more thing, though.

Jay: Shoot.

Me: In the original, the monster is radioactive. It's not in the remake. Do you think that has anything to do with a shift in fears?

Jay: Hmmm. Probably not. I mean... it's been buried for thousands of years, right? It probably would have lost a lot of the radioactivity anyway. Maybe, though. A lot of the monsters during the 50s were radioactive and you don't get that as much anymore, I suppose.

Me: One of the reasons that I like to compare the old and new films is because you can see a change in societal fears in action. In the 50s, we were much more afraid of outsiders, that represents in a lot of alien invasions. In the 80s, in the midst of the AIDS pandemic, there's a fear of something invisible being inside us, inside people we thought we could trust. If they remade it again now, I wonder how that fear would change again?

Jay: Spray tan and bad combovers? 

Me: Eww. No movies about Trump, please!

You can see echoes of The Thing in movies like The Faculty and The Host - but also in games like Resident Evil, with... was it the Nemesis?

Jay: You mean Burkin? With the eye on his shoulder? 

Me: That's right. The remake kind of transcends the original because of that reach. Because it's still relevant.

Jay: It helps that The Thing doesn't age. There's nothing, really, to age it, except maybe the lack of technology. Other than that, it still holds up remarkably well. 

Me: So... are we giving this one to the remake?

Jay: Without a doubt. 

Thursday, 8 October 2020

31 Days of Horror Remakes: Salem's Lot 1979 vs 2004

 Me: Wow. Salem's Lot. There's a lot to unpack here. Where do you want to start?

Jay: Where do you want me to start? 

Me: Um... first things first, which one's better? 


Jay: You know, I can't call that, arguing for each version for different reasons. Both the 1979 and 2004 versions are very good.

Firstly, the vampire is so much scarier in the first one. I love the Barlow vampire. That's not to say that the rest of the vampires were bad, it's just that the original had that Nosferatu thing going for it. 

Me: Hah. I was going to say the Nosferatu thing as well - but that's why I give it to Rutger Hauer's Barlow. 

Jay: Eh...

Me: Hear me out. It's like when you watch Dawn of the Dead and you know they're dead because they're blue. I don't like that. I like that Rutger Hauer could walk about in society and you'd never know. The rest of the vampires can, why not Barlow? Remake Barlow for me.

Jay: Original Barlow for me. Original vampires for me. They had those yellow eyes and it was far more effective.

Me: I have a feeling we're not going to agree on much here. I prefer the remake eyes. They had that sort of lit from inside quality. Also, it was almost kind of frosted over. You know, like frosted glass. 

Jay: Well, that's what happens to your eyes when you die, the frosted look, so that makes sense. Except Susan Norton, whose eyes turned red. 

Me: Yeah, and Marjorie Glick. Her eyes turned black, like a demon's. So there was some inconsistency there. 

Jay: This one really is hard for me to call. I mean, Salem's Lot will always have a place in my heart because of watching it as like a nine or ten-year-old. I was so excited to be allowed to stay up late to watch it - and it absolutely terrified me.

Me: Wait. I thought your Mom hated vampire films? 

Jay: Hah. She did - but it was love/hate. Kind of like the way I love zombie films but they're the only ones that still jump me. Or the way you love ghost stories, even though they make you cry. 

Me: That was one time.

Jay: I told you when it was going to be scary!

Me: Right, getting back to Salem's Lot...

Jay: We could talk about the level of stars involved, although that's pretty close too. I mean, David Soul was the hot property of 1978. 

Me: Him and his flares...

Jay: Mother will haunt you. 

Me: Sorry, sorry! Great pants. 

Jay: Like I was saying... a lot of the actors in the original Salem's Lot went on to have successful careers - but a lot of the actors in the remake did too. Remember that Salem's Lot was part of Rob Lowe's comback. But you also have Samantha Mathis, James Cromwell, Andre Braugher, and Rutger Hauer. That's not a small cast.

But it's more than just calibre of actor. Like the soundtrack, which was excellent in the first one. You also have to look at the story, which I think may have been slightly better in the remake.

Me: It felt like a fuller story, more rounded. 

Jay: Right. And it was closer to the book - like the priest, who was sort of an afterthought in the original but played a much larger role in the remake. 

Me: Here's the thing I love about the priest... at the very beginning, you've got Rob Lowe attacking him so you instantly mistrust him. All the way through, you're watching him, wondering what the hell he's up to - and he did look shifty as fuck.

Jay: You don't know if you can trust him but turns out, he's just another fallen priest, a drunk. I know I said I preferred the priest's role in the remake but, at the same time, I prefer the scene with the priest in the original.

Me: Yeah, we're we're definitely gonna have to talk about that. 

Jay: Well, in the original Salem's Lot, you've got James Mason and Barlow turning up. The master vampire turns up and smashes Mark's parents heads together, which was cool, then grabs the boy. Straker's very intense there. He's asking what the priest would do for the life of the boy. It's very powerful, that challenge to his faith.

Me: There were a couple of things happening in that scene that I liked. Okay. So, in the original I like the fact that they're sitting around talking in the lights flicker and it's that foreshadowing. Very cool. 

You don't get that in the remake, but I prefer the remake because rather than it going through his proxy, Barlow is issuing the challenge. That's the problem with the original vampire. He wasn't eloquent, couldn't because of those stupid teeth. He couldn't stand there and have the conversation himself. He had to have a proxy to do it for him. 

Jay: Here's my problem with that scene, you've got Rutger Hauer bumbling about on the ceiling. How is that scary? It makes him look stupid. That's the problem with the CGI in the remake. In places like that, it failed. I hated the way the vampires climb around on the ceilings and walls. 

Me: It struck me as being heavily influenced by things like Bram Stoker's Dracula and even Dracula 2000, same kind of movements. 

I still prefer Rutger Hauer, though, because he's not just a monster, not just this thing with fangs. He's also a person. 

Jay: I don't agree but I see where you're coming from. You know, you're talking with somebody that has probably got centuries of experience. You see that in the other faces he has when he starts to die. I like the way he challenges Mears. He says I'm not the vampire, you are.

Me: Hah. Well, as a writer, I can tell you that that's a little bit true. You take so much of everything that's happening around you and you feed it into your stories. And I think if the people around you knew half of what you took and put into your stories, they would not want to know you. 

Honestly, though? I was a little bi thrown by the ending in the remake when they kill Barlow because he starts flicking through all of the different faces that, like you said, that probably were his other lives. Then the ring falls out and... it's been like 20 years since I've read the book. So I don't remember the details, which frustrated me there. 

Anyway, so I know the remake fits the book more and I'm really glad that Rob Lowe narrates it from the book. You can hear Stephen King in it. (And I would love to have Rob Lowe narrate all of King's books.) They really needed to explain that particular scene a little, though, for those of us who've forgotten or never read it.

What about the extra bit with Susan?

Jay: What about it? 

Me: Which way did you prefer her story ending? 

Jay: The original. It makes more sense. In the remake, they just can't kill her and that's such bullshit. At least in the original they never find her. He says sorry to her as he lights the house on fire because he thinks she's there. He thinks he's killing her.  

Me: I have to agree with you there. It was dumb that they killed everyone else, including kids, but there was a chance to save her. That's lazy. 

I still give it to the remake, though, because of the hunting thing. In the original, you get the feeling that they're running. Not in the remake. In the remake, they're hunting. I like that. I also love that the orderly is stunned at this point. He stares Mark in the face and says he doesn't believe them - but he still opens that door.

Jay: Oh, he believes them. He just can't say that he does, can't admit it. It would change everything he thinks he knows about the world. 

Me: One of the biggest things that I found different between the two versions is in the original, David Soul a hundred percent believes that they're vampires and he's trying to convince everybody else in the remake. Rob Lowe's like oh come on get real and it takes a long time for him to get on board with a Vampire thing. 

Jay: No, I disagree. I think with David Soul he knows something's going on. He knows, but he's trying to keep Burke from ending up in the looney bin. He warns him to let the machinery take over to protect his image and career. That's smart. 

Me: I think this is where we have to talk about the Glick boys.

Jay: Well, for starters, they're all friends in the original. I mean, they were rehearsing at Mark's place and looking at his toys. I mean you still sees it was models in a big way in the remake. The only time they're really together in the remake is that bit in the beginning where they get kicked off the bus together, and later, when they're causing trouble. They don't seem that close, though. 

Me: What about after they become vampires?

Jay: Oh, definitely the original. They're actually scary. The way he withdraws and the fog moves with him. Very cool, very slick. 

Me: I love when he goes to his brother in the hospital, in the remake. The way he moves around the plastic curtain is very effective. Very spooky.

Jay: Why, though? I mean, it's not his property. He can just go through it! I didn't understand that. 

Me: I guess it makes sense. Typically, it doesn't have to be a house, it's any place that human sleeps. 

Jay: Ugh. The mythology of the whole entry thing with vampires always gets changed to suit whoever's writing the story. 

Me: True. That's vampires for ya. At least they don't sparkle.

Jay: Eww. Right.

Me: We've been at it for awhile. Still refuse to pick one?

Jay: I do. I can't choose. I think they both have merits and that's why I won't say I prefer one to the other. There are parts of both that I liked. I like the original Barlow best, is all I'll say.

Me: I have to take a minute here to talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Jay: Buffy? Why?

Me: Yeah. Here's why... In the Buffy movie, Rutger Hauer is the vampire and Donald Sutherland is her Watcher, right? And in the remake of Salem's Lot, Rutger Hauer is the vampire and Donald Sutherland is his minder. How perfect is that? Don't look at me like that, it's brilliant. 

Plus, I love the bit in Buffy after Benny becomes a vampire and he's at Pike's window scratching in such a fun parody of the same scene from the original Salem's Lot

Jay: Have I ever told you that I worry about you?

Me: Every day.

There was a bit in Salem's Lot that we were talking about earlier. The bit with the rocking chair?

Jay: It's one of my favourite scenes. It's so sinister. So dark and twisted. That voice when he orders the teacher to look at him. I love it.

Me: I think I prefer the remake and here's why... in the remake, he's not sinister and dark. He's confused and afraid. That hits my feels harder.

Oh, I almost forgot about Larry Crockett...

Jay: You mean about whether or not that wig needed its own acting credit?

Me: Omg, that wig. Shudder.

No, I mean how much more twisted and wrong he is in the remake. There was no need to go for the paedophilia angle. Eww. 

Jay: Agreed. It was unnecessary. You already know he's a selfish bastard because he sells the town out, when he invites the vampires in. There was no need to take it that step further. 

Me: What I do like, though, is that scene at the end when he looks over the edge of the dump and you see the vampires scavenging.

Jay: It was really clever, because they would. Eventually, they would run out of humans and turn on whatever was available, even if that meant rats. I wonder how long it took to turn on their pets? That's a disturbing thought.

Me: With Ruth Crockett, though... can I just say how much I want that necklace? 

Jay: Hah. Well, you would

I liked Dud Rogers, especially when he became a vampire. Honestly, he kind of deserved it. And which one of us wouldn't jump at the chance to have all our illnesses cured and become extremely attractive? No, don't answer. You wouldn't give the vampire a chance to offer!

Me: Cheeky. But, yeah. 

I loved Duds as a vampire! He was so cool! One of my favourite vampires in the movie.

Oh, I almost forgot Straker! Pick one!

Jay: I don't know if I can. I mean... James Mason's voice sets him apart. On the other hand, Donald Sutherland's character really relishes the evil he's getting into. They're both tremendous actors and both brought something different to the role.

Me: I thought the same thing. James Mason was a little too shifty and nervous looking for me. I loved how much fun Donald Sutherland was having. If you're gonna be evil, so big or go home, right?

Jay: Hah. Right. Plus, he's very expressive. I liked the way they ended his character, too. The fact that they found him dead and hanging suggests that Barlow punished him for screwing everything up. That's a more fitting ending.

Me: It was a nice touch. Can't argue with that.

I won't say which movie is better, because I think it's took close to call but I know which one I enjoy watching more, and that's the remake.

So...

Jay: No! I won't be drawn into which I think is better! They both stand alone perfectly. 

Waiting For...