The Spooktober Doll

Another disappointing one last night, I’m afraid — Annabelle, the first spin-off of the CONJURING series.

Even worse, it wasn’t horrible. It was just “meh.” At no point did it get bad enough for me to turn it off, I just kept waiting for it to become something other than mediocre, and it never did. Unfortunate.

I hadn’t seen this one yet, but I went into it with high hopes. I love The Conjuring films — I grew up reading accounts of The Warrens’ investigations in the seventies. I knew about the doll (although the actual Annabelle is a hand-made Raggedy Ann, not a creepy porcelain doll). And I’d heard that this film was a period piece, set in Los Angeles in the late 60s, a period ripe for cult-y shenanigans (what with Manson, et. al.).

And yet, with all that going for it, the actual film ended up as a wet squib. A shocking lack of good scares, even. I honestly don’t understand how you can have all of these great ingredients: a spin-off of a great property, an interesting period setting, hippy satanic cults, and a FREAKIN’ POSSESSED DOLL… and still not manage to make something so entirely unengaging. At least if it was actively bad, I would’ve given them credit for trying and failing. This was just… there.
 

The Haunting of Spooktober

The most recent Spooktober viewing was done over the past weekend, when Laura and I binge-watched all ten episodes of Netflix’s new series, The Haunting of Hill House.

TL;DR version: HOLY FUCKING SHIT.

To unpack that a bit more:

Shirley Jackson’s novel is one of my all-time favorite horror books. The 1961 film version, The Haunting is an absolute classic, and a terrifying slice of childhood trauma (I disobeyed my parents, snuck out of bed and caught a peek of it when they were watching it on TV, and it scared the bejesus out of me).

When the trailer first hit, I was mad — because it didn’t look like it had anything to do with the actual story.

I am pleased to report that while, yes, this is an entirely new tale — there is WAY more of Jackson’s novel in the series than I feared would be. A ton, in fact. Nice easter eggs for those of us who are fans.

And the show itself? I am not kidding: This is, hands-down, the best horror series I’ve ever seen, and in fact, I might even go as far as saying this might even be the best horror ANYTHING since the turn of the 21st century, and maybe even a bit further. Yes, it’s that good.

I will not say more — you deserve to go into this un-spoiled. My only recommendation is that you might be careful watching it…

…in the dark.

…in the night.
 
 

The House of Spooktober

Last night’s Spooktober viewing was a 1974 British horror flick that I’d never seen before — a rarity, to be sure. Vampyres (released in the US as “Daughters of Dracula”) is a film that sits precariously on the fence between contemporarily-set early-70s Hammer and Lesbian sexploitation softcore — which is why I’d never seen it, as it’s content kept it from the rotation of Crematia Mortem and the other late-night horror hosts. The film was cut massively for it’s theatrical release, and an uncut BluRay was finally released in 2016 (and is also available on Amazon Prime streaming). The plot is pretty thin, given the amount of time that is given over to the usual shower scenes and comically-bad naked bed-writhing, but it manages to still be pretty effectively creepy nonetheless.

Largely, this creepiness is achieved by the location shooting — misty English countryside graveyards in the early morning hours (as the two vampiresses rush back to their graves as the sun rises), and the woods, grounds and interior of the famous Oakley Hall — best known as a Hammer films location and the “Frankenstein Place” in Rocky Horror — as the main setting.

Also interesting and effective is the director’s choice to forego the usual fangs and sexy-throat-bite vampiric method, instead shooting his vampires engaged in violent slashing and stabbing of their victims with ceremonial daggers, followed by orgiastic frenzy as they cover themselves in blood, grasping and clutching like junkies desperate for a fix. It definitely plays against the somewhat tiresome titillation elements — you expect more of the The Vampire Sexy, and instead get a sudden shift from lust to disturbing violence.

I hadn’t seen any of the actors before (apparently, one of the vampire women was a Playboy centerfold from May 1973 — she’s the one who is given the smaller role, with the other taking most of the acting duties), although amusingly, one of their victims is a tedious, mansplaining “playboy” (credited as such), played by Michael Byrne (the Nazi Col. Vogel in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). It’s fun to watch him meet his end.

Overall, I recommend it. Set your tolerance for eye-rolling exploitative nonsense high, and there’s a nice little vampire film here.