24 October 2011

SERGIO LEONE AND THE HALLOWEEN QUESTIONNAIRE

I have never taken part in any of the awesome semi-annual movie quizzes presented by Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, though I have very often started on one before this or that or the other thing got in the way. But I had to put in the effort for his first-ever Halloween themed quiz, particularly with its charming tribute to Dr. Anton Phibes. Thanks to Dennis for putting this and all the rest of these together! Be sure to jump over to his place to play along.

1) Favorite Vincent Price/American International Pictures release.
Perfect timing, what with the AIP Poe-a-Thon going on here now (some of which I've seen, some of which are new, all of which are awesome). For purely sentimental reasons, though, I have to go with the film that was both my first Price movie and my first AIP production: the robustly overcooked The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

2) What horror classic (or non-classic) that has not yet been remade would you like to see upgraded for modern audiences?
Given the batting average of horror remakes, I'd much rather not go there, but in the spirit of fair play: I should very much like to see one of those giant monster pictures from the '50s done with top-shelf CGI, and since Them! is my favorite of that subgenre, I will go with Them!

3) Jonathan Frid or Thayer David?
Pass, on account of complete ignorance of Dark Shadows.

4) Name the one horror movie you need to see that has so far eluded you.
I actually just last month plugged one of my biggest gaps, Carrie. I suppose I'm missing my fair share of classics, but the one I'm most excited about seeing is the new-to-Criterion Island of Lost Souls.

5) Favorite film director most closely associated with the horror genre.
Dario Argento. His miserable decline over the last 25 years is certainly not the sort of thing to inspire many good feelings, but he has an unparalleled run of movies in the '70s and '80s that contain within them some of the most individually perfect images in all of horror cinema.

6) Ingrid Pitt or Barbara Steele?
Barbara Steele, no contest.

7) Favorite 50’s sci-fi/horror creature.
Everybody at SLIFR went with Godzilla, and though that would be my real answer, I want to be more creative. I will thus go with my runner-up, the brain creatures from Fiend Without a Face.


8) Favorite/best sequel to an established horror classic.
I can't help but feel that Dawn of the Dead is a total cheat, but there you have it. I suppose I could meta-cheat, and go with Zombi 2 instead.

9) Name a sequel in a horror series which clearly signaled that the once-vital franchise had run out of gas.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. NOES 2: Freddy's Revenge was a stumble that the series recovered from, but with Dream Master, it sank irrevocably into asinine visual puns and hugely derivative slashering, guided by the hackulent Renny Harlin.

10) John Carradine or Lon Chaney Jr.?
Carradine is an objectively better actor, and somehow, watching Chaney's descent into Poverty Row and lower just makes me incredibly sad.

11) What was the last horror movie you saw in a theater? On DVD or Blu-ray?
The Thing remake in theaters; Cheerleader Camp on DVD. My thanks to Kevin Olson of Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies for putting me onto the latter.

12) Best foreign-language fiend/monster.
This time, I am obliged to go with Godzilla.

13) Favorite Mario Bava movie.
Considering how much I love everything I've seen of his, it's actually not even close: Twitch of the Death Nerve aka Bay of Blood is a black comedy delight, and my favorite "pure" giallo. Worse still: number 2 isn't even a horror film, but his Eurospy adventure Diabolik.

14) Favorite horror actor and actress.
Is Peter Cushing a "horror actor"? Let me then be safe and say Christopher Lee for actor, Linnea Quigley for actress. Not too late for them to collaborate!

15) Name a great horror director’s least effective movie.
Too many John Carpenter films to pick from! But I shall go with Ghosts of Mars, even though I have not yet seen it all the way through.

16) Grayson Hall or Joan Bennett?
Since question #3, I have still not seen Dark Shadows, but I am at least somewhat aware of Joan Bennett.

17) When did you realize that you were a fan of the horror genre? And if you’re not, when did you realize you weren’t?
Want to see me lose all of my credibility ever? It was in 2007.

Before then, I had liked good horror movies, but being a horror fan means you also like bad horror movies, or at least you seek out and enthusiastically watch movies you know that are going to be completely unsatisfying. That year, for the inaugural Summer of Blood, I watched every single Friday the 13th, coming to them from a love of bad '80s movies, not a love of slashers. I emerged the man you know today, an unabashed lover of the foulest excesses of the genre.

Looking over my reviews from before that point, I suppose I was actually a horror fancier long before then, and certainly my love of zombie pictures goes back to sometime in college, but I can't help thinking that I became an expert as a result of that trial-by-fire.

18) Favorite Bert I. Gordon (B.I.G.) movie.
With some measure of reluctance, for I haven't disliked any that I've seen, I think I need to go with Earth vs. the Spider.

19) Name an obscure horror favorite that you wish more people knew about.
Traditionally, I am terrible at judging what's an "obscure" movie. I think that I would force every person with any interest in cinema to see Dreyer's Vampyr, but for a 1932 German/Danish picture, that's practically a blockbuster. I recently had a chance to see Ghost Story of Yotsuya, which Nakagawa Nobuo made the year before Jigoku, and I thought it was as beautiful and visually arresting as any Japanese horror film I've seen.

20) The Human Centipede-- yes or no?
I haven't seen it. I suppose that means "no".

21) And while we’re in the neighborhood, is there a horror film you can think of that you felt “went too far”?
I was shocked to realise that I couldn't. The Italian cannibal movies dance right on the edge, but they pull back; most of the "extreme" horror pictures and torture pornos are not nearly as transgressive as they think they are. But even as hideous a sleazebucket as Joe D'Amato did his most notorious work outside of horror.

22) Name a film that is technically outside the horror genre that you might still feel comfortable describing as a horror film.
Ugetsu, which I would go so far as to call the best ghost story ever filmed, even if it's not particularly "scary" as such.

23) Lara Parker or Kathryn Leigh Scott?
Still haven't seen Dark Shadows.

24) If you’re a horror fan, at some point in your past your dad, grandmother, teacher or some other disgusted figure of authority probably wagged her/his finger at you and said, “Why do you insist on reading/watching all this morbid monster/horror junk?” How did you reply? And if that reply fell short somehow, how would you have liked to have replied?
I usually wave it off - it still happens with my parents - but when I do feel the need to respond, it's typically along the lines of "horror is the best way to understand what concerns and fears about the state of the world where prevalent in the culture at any given point, not in terms of men with knives but in terms of the social currents those men represent." Or I will just point out that typically, great horror pictures have the best cinematography.


25) Name the critic or Web site you most enjoy reading on the subject of the horror genre.
I am not at all comfortable singling one person out, but if pressed I would probably have to go with Neil Fulwood at The Agitation of the Mind, whose every last essay is a perfect combination of fannish enthusiasm, critical insight, and good old readability.


26) Most frightening image you’ve ever taken away from a horror movie.
In The Shining, when Danny is riding on his Big Wheel, and he rounds the corner and sees those two ghost girls. A famous coup du cinema, with its Steadicam and dynamic sound design, but mostly it's because I can never, ever think about that shot without all the hairs on my neck standing bolt upright, as they are right this very second.

27) Your favorite memory associated with watching a horror movie.
The day a friend and I greeted the release of Land of the Dead by watching all three of Romero's previous zombie movies right in a row, with Shaun of the Dead as a palate cleanser before we headed to the theater. That it all ended in Land of the Dead does not seriously detract from the sheer volume of zombie goodness.

28) What would you say is the most important/significant horror movie of the past 20 years (1992-2012)? Why?
There are three obvious answers: Scream, which forced every English-language horror picture for 15 years to adopt a very irritating knowing detachment; Ringu, which introduced J-horror to the world at large and created the first serious challenge to the slasher paradigm in horror since 1980; and Saw, which codified and legitimised torture films and splatter cinema. I'm therefore going to be a complete dick and say that it's Spielberg's War of the Worlds, which remains the very best cinematic treatment of the psychic dislocation and cosmic sense of dread in post-9/11 America.

29) Favorite Dr. Phibes curse (from either film).
From the original: the impalement by unicorn statue, first because it has a certain Italianate surrealism to it that I adore, and second, because what the hell biblical plague was that?!

30) You are programming an all-night Halloween horror-thon for your favorite old movie palace. What five movies make up your schedule?
A chronological tour: the eminently-watchable Nosferatu for the silents, the damn peculiar and fascinating 1933 counter-Universal picture The Vampire Bat for the early talkies, Donovan's Brain for post-War science/horror (and because you need a little bit of kitsch), Fulci's terribly under-appreciated Don't Torture a Duckling for Italy in all its guises, and Halloween, because the day just ain't complete without it.

7 comments:

Mr. K said...

C'mon, Joan Bennett, if just for her appearance in a billion awesome noirs and SUSPIRIA (she's the seemingly nice headmistress at the school).

Lucas said...

If one had never seen an Italian horror film, what would you recommend as a good place to start?

Kevin J. Olson said...

Great answers, Tim. Some specific responses:

5)Interesting that we both went the Italian horror route on that one.

8) I also thought about cheating a bit and putting Zombi 2 for this answer.

9) Again, I almost thought about going with that one, but I thought the misnomer of the fourth Friday the 13th movie killed the franchise...especially since every Friday movie that followed was AWFUL.

11) Hehe. I'm glad I can claim responsibility for you having seen Cheerleader Camp.

15) I'm guessing a lot of people went with John Carpenter. However, I kind of liked the goofiness of Ghosts of Mars. I know I'm probably the only one that liked it (and Vampires for that matter), but compared to something like Escape from L.A. or Village of the Damned I just don't think it's that bad.

26) One of my favorites, too, and I just showed that clip to my class when we were talking about film as a visual literacy. They all freaked out. Only a handful of my students (they range anywhere from 16-19) had seen the movie. It is a lasting image.

30) I'd go to that festival.

le0pard13 said...

Great answers to this quiz, Tim. Ah, those brain creatures from 'Fiend Without a Face'... there's something that's memorable from the 50s monster flicks. Great to meet another THEM! fan. Thanks.

Mr. K said...

Also, yay for Donovan's Brain love. A strangely effective film, for all the kitschy touches.

Will said...

I sort of hope someday that you can do a review of some Godzilla stuff. Not all of them, as down that road leads to madness, but at least a few maybe.

Tim said...

Lucas- Start with Bava, 100%. I'd say Blood and Black Lace, Twitch/Bay, or Black Sunday (aka Mask of the Demon, which is not the same as Black Sabbath, aka Three Faces of Fear). If you can get comfortable with the degree to which his films don't necessarily care about coherence, you should be ready for how Argento's throw coherence into the dumpster.

Will- Perhaps someday... certainly, the impending Criterion Blu-Ray deserves some kind of celebration.