Halloween is a great time to celebrate genre films. The first two movies I recommend are homages to the exploitation horror films of the ’70s and ’80s. In both cases, it is easily recognizable that the directors are connoisseurs of film, with references dating back as far as the silent film era and the Marx Brothers. True to their genres, they both share the very clich’, yet wonderfully gratuitous, shower scene.
The Curse of El Charro was just released on DVD this month after its circulation through the film festival circuit. In the tradition of horror, the film is low budget (made under $300,000), yet it maintains remarkably high production values where it counts. Director, Rich Ragsdale and his brother Kevin Ragsdale, Producer (originally from Nashville, TN) paid close attention to detail.
Included in the picture are: Andrew Bryniarski (Leather Face), Lemmy (Motorhead), Calico Cooper (Alice’s daughter), Danny Trejo (voice of El Charro), Gary Bullock (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me), and Tabitha Stevens (porn star!).
The Curse of El Charro delivers the goods with stylistic/gothic dream sequences, surreal bar scenes that would make David Lynch proud, campy ’modern’ dialogue, an intense orchestral soundtrack, and a retro silent- film back story. Should I dare to mention the dark religious imagery, tattoos and midgets? The movie also introduces the creepy artistic stylings of LA music maker, Scott Greenall.
At the very least, Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects should have been nominated for Best Picture of 2005. Why am I in a minority here?
This is the follow up to Zombie’s somewhat chaotic, House of A 1000 Corpses. The difference is that Devil’s Rejects (in my book) is fully realized. It professes: a family that slays together, stays together. The look and feel of the 1970s is dead on. There is an extreme amount of harsh content, harsh dialogue, and yes, it is everything that it is supposed to be.
I knew I was in for quite a ride with the editing of the brother and sister’s escape, set to the Allman Brother’s, ’Midnight Rider.’ The other choice songs in the soundtrack offer just as much weight.
Although blood and exploitation are great ways to honor the holiday, genuine scares of the unknown are also Halloween definitive. In that ’spirit,’ I offer two ghost stories, which are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
A little dated at first, The Entity (1981) evolves into a truly frightening experience to watch. Barbara Hershey is phenomenal as a single mother terrorized by evil entities. Supposedly based on a true story, her will and determination to fight back are championed, in spite of the skepticism of friends and professionals. It is hard to resist being emotionally drawn toward her plight. There is one scene in particular that is unshakable. Turn out the lights, but have someone close.
The great American film director, Robert Wise was responsible for The Haunting (1963). He masterfully executed camera, lighting, suspense, atmosphere, and restraint in a way that has been seemingly lost today. This is a great example of classic filmmaking at its finest. The result is a creepy tale about a haunted mansion, which is still just as effective today as it was over 40 years ago. It proves that what you are not shown can have even more impact than what is displayed in graphic detail.
Until next time, I hope you have a great viewing experience. Comments are welcomed at cinespire@gmail.