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.


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.

Night of the Living Spooktober

Last night’s Spooktober viewing was The Void, a Canadian film funded on IndieGoGo in 2016 for $82,000.  I’d heard good things about it, and I wasn’t led astray.

More than anything else, the film — with it’s reliance on practical effects over computer-generated imagery, it’s small cast and single location, and it’s riffing on Lovecraftian themes — reminds me of the Stuart Gordon films of the 80s, especially From Beyond.

The premise of the film is a simple one: It’s deep in the graveyard shift, and a cop stumbles across a blood-covered man stumbling along the side of a country road, in shock. He throws him into his patrol car, and races him to the local county hospital, staffed by a couple of doctors and nurses, tending for a few patients. And now we have our location and cast for the entire film.

Of course, it doesn’t take long for things to go completely Cosmic Horror, with _something_ in the hospital transforming people into hideous, tentacled monsters straight out of The Thing, giving our protagonist visions of endless stretches of space, a blasted, lifeless planet, and an ominous black pyramid… and, of course, as any Call of Cthulhu gamer knows: That’s when the cultists show up.

The Void is well worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of Lovecraft, Call of Cthulhu gaming, or the style of 1980s Indie horror films. It’s available on disc, and on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.