October 2017 Recap

(image via Vice.com)
 As I mentioned in my last post, October has been a busy month. Lots of shifts at work, lots of classes and schoolwork . . . It's all been pretty overwhelming, and I'm definitely looking ahead to December when I'll have a break. From the school part, at least--the number of shifts is definitely not going to improve in the wake of Star Wars: The Last Jedi coming out! Despite the busyness, I did watch a good number of films this month--38, the exact same number as in September, actually--and a lot of them were quite good. I didn't watch as much horror as I would have liked, but I did manage to finish off Val Lewton's horror filmography, and I watched two of the big horror releases of 2017, all of which I enjoyed and got me suitably in the mood for the holiday. I also re-watched some great movies in my film class, Pan's Labyrinth and Blue Velvet, both of which--while not exactly horror--felt appropriate to the season. All in all, a good month for movies.

First-Time Viewings: 35
Re-Watches: 3
  1. Dracula's Daughter (1936)
  2. It Should Happen to You (1954)
  3. The Bat (1959)
  4. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
  5. Scarecrow (1973)
  6. Re-Watch: Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
  7. Ladies of the Jury (1932)
  8. On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970)
  9. A Star is Born (1976)
  10. The Prince of Tides (1991)
  11. Re-Watch: Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
  12. Cat's Eye (1985)
  13. Wag the Dog (1997)
  14. The Seventh Victim (1943)
  15. Re-Watch: Blue Velvet (1986)
  16. The Ghost Ship (1943)
  17. Isle of the Dead (1945)
  18. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
  19. Coming to America (1988)
  20. Seven Days in May (1964)
  21. Colossal (2017)
  22. It (2017)
  23. Five Miles to Midnight (1962)
  24. Bedlam (1946)
  25. The Body Snatcher (1945)
  26. Willard (1971)
  27. Ben (1972)
  28. Carnival of Souls (1962)
  29. Man on Wire (2008)
  30. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
  31. Pretty Poison (1968)
  32. The Nanny (1965)
  33. Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
  34. A Monster Calls (2017)
  35. It's Alive (1974)
  36. Happy Death Day (2017)
  37. Diary of a Madman (1963)
  38. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
By Decade:
  • 20s: 1
  • 30s: 2
  • 40s: 5
  • 50s: 2
  • 60s: 6
  • 70s: 7
  • 80s: 7
  • 90s: 2
  • 2000s: 2
  • 2010s: 4
Dracula's Daughter (1936) (image via TCM.com)

Last year I watched through a whole bunch of Universal monster movies, many of them for the first time. Unfortunately, this is the only one I got to this time around, but it certainly didn't disappoint. While the original Dracula was one of my least favorites last year because of its clear stage origins, this film brings a lot more to the table and is ultimately so much more interesting, even with the unfortunate absence of Bela Lugosi. Gloria Holden is mesmerizing as the Countess--how did she not become a big horror star after this?--and the scene that has led to all of the lesbian readings of the film, in which she lures a beautiful young model to her apartment, is perhaps the single greatest cinematic moment I witnessed all month. It's executed perfectly, and it's no wonder why it continues to garner so much attention. While the rest of the film doesn't operate at quite so high a level, it's definitely worth a watch.

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) (image via Cineplex.com)

Barbra Streisand is one of my favorite actresses, and this month I spent a really enjoyable weekend on a triple feature of her films. This is the one I started with, and it wound up being the best of the very flawed--but nonetheless entertaining--group. This is one of those bizarre movies that feel incomplete--there's so much stuff going on and clearly there's a piece missing that would otherwise tie them all together. I believe I read the original cut was about 3 hours long, including a much more substantial part for Jack Nicholson? Yes, that's right, this film has Streisand, and Nicholson, and Yves Montand, and it's a Minnelli-directed musical about hypnotism and past lives. It's all very odd and so 1960s, but I had a lot of fun with it. And how can you not love that ridiculous title?

Isle of the Dead (1945) (image via pinterest)

The group of Lewton films I watched last October and earlier this year would probably qualify as the "A" side, and the ones I watched now would be the "B" side. Even still, I enjoyed my journey through these lesser-known curiosities, and in particular I really appreciated Isle of the Dead. This one has Boris Karloff as a rigid General who visits the island where his wife is buried, only to wind up trapped there when its inhabitants show symptoms of the plague and he can't be sure if he's been exposed. Like Cat People, this film deals with beliefs in the supernatural, but instead of a young woman trying to convince others that she is the supernatural being, this film sees Karloff trying to convince the group that one of its members, also a young woman, is possessed by an evil being without even knowing it. It's a fantastic slow-burn suspense story, and I would definitely say it's among Lewton's best.

Colossal (2017) (image via RogerEbert.com)

I went just about 3 months without watching a film from the 2010s, only for this film to come along and break my streak. But what a film to break it! Colossal came out of nowhere--I had never even heard of it when suddenly I started seeing positive reviews cropping up--and knowing very little about it, chose to give it a watch. Too often I say a film is "unique", but it's because I really do strive to find those films that are, and Colossal? Colossal is really, truly unique. To say too much about it would rob the experience of seeing this incredible story unfold. Essentially, this is a film that takes the giant monster conceit and uses it to explore a number of very real, very human issues that are rarely portrayed with such sensitivity and authenticity in cinema. While perhaps not the very best film of 2017, if you see just one movie released this year, I would recommend it be this one.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) (image via IMDB)

When I was about 10 years old, I developed a weird hobby of reading film plot summaries on Wikipedia. I liked reading the summaries for strange movies that had some kind of unusual or controversial element to them--I had no ability to watch these movies at the time, and I found it entertaining to read about them. The stories of some of these films stick with me even to this day, and I make it a point to seek them out where I can. This is the case for The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. It's a very simplistic story, but with a pair of truly great performances, and an interesting exploration of intellectual superiority that kept me interested throughout despite knowing many of the plot points. This is a finely crafted little suspense film that deserves a lot more attention than it has received.

Adventures in Babysitting (1987) (image via IMDB)

I have a soft spot for 80s movies, especially the comedies. The one problem with them is how sexist they can be--this is a running trend throughout 80s films that can be hard to swallow. And so I was amazed to find that Adventures in Babysitting, with its female leading lady, actually sidesteps this issue almost entirely. Super wacky and as quintessentially 80s as it gets, this film is consistently hilarious and even oddly touching at times, and was the perfect viewing on one of the glum, stormy nights in October when I wasn't up for horror.

A Monster Calls (2017) (image via theatlantic.com)

A clear trend running through all of these films is that they're flawed, sometimes heavily so, but take chances with their narratives that make them intriguing and worthwhile despite the missteps. That's also the case for A Monster Calls, a film that is often over-sentimental and feels too streamlined given the difficult and often subversive elements at play in the story, but what it does right, it does so right as to make up for that. This is in that class of dark, impactful family films that are pretty rare nowadays, offering hard-earned lessons about grief that hit home regardless of age. It also contains a couple of truly magnificent storytelling sequences that utilize a unique blend of CGI and watercolor. Along with Colossal, this is a rather under-seen 2017 release that I expect will find a much larger audience as the years go by.

Happy Death Day (2017) (image via youtube)

I won't gain any favors by admitting this, but I liked this more than It. While a good movie, I found the constant jump-scares and excessive gore in that film rather exhausting--the much more playful, comedic tone in this film appealed to me much more, especially in the late-night theater setting in which I viewed both movies. This is a definite star-making role for Jessica Rothe, who by design has to carry the film and does it effortlessly, and while a bit tired, the Groundhog Day format is still a lot of fun to see applied to the slasher genre. This is essentially a slasher film and a rom-com mashed together, something I had no idea I wanted to see but which I'm so happy exists. This is a perfect Halloween season movie and well-worth going to see in theaters if you get the chance.

Looking toward November, I'm excited to be participating not only in my first Noirvember--I've been saving up some Noir Alley recordings for the occasion--but also my first blogathon, the Food in Film blogathon that begins tomorrow. I'm also going to try and get a good dose of Jimmy Stewart while he's star of the month on TCM. With over 50 of his films playing, I unfortunately won't even be able to put a dent in them, so I've decided to focus specifically on his westerns, of which I've seen none but have heard many good things. I'm hopeful that the presence of Stewart can help me to warm up to this genre that I often find myself avoiding. In the meantime, be sure to keep checking back--this blog has been pretty dead over the last month but I'm hoping to get some life breathed back into it over the next couple of weeks!


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