Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A few colorful horror movie picks for Halloween

This week the Internet is knee-deep in Halloween horror movie lists, and TCM is running its annual marathon of classic horror, so the world is very much where I like it to be right now. I feel compelled to join in the list-making, but I don't have a definitive favorites list, really. If I was asked, I'd say my favorite horror film visually is "Shiver of the Vampires" by Jean Rollin and my favorite "serious" horror film is "The Shining," but any attempts to make a top ten list just fragments into endless sub-lists by genre.

What do I like? In a sentence: visually compelling 1960s and 1970s gothic horror with lots of color and psychedelic flourishes, and a great soundtrack. To be clear: things like plot and acting are not important to me. I don't need things to make sense. I just like the progression of haunting imagery from certain times and places, and the atmosphere these films create. Decrepit mansions, haunted castles, ruins, lush decadent interiors, gorgeous gowns, statuary and portraits, forbidden rituals. I do not think these films are "funny" or "cheesy." I love them deeply as moving works of psychedelic gothic art and I love the dream logic present in many of them.

Here is a random handful of a few colorful favorites of mine. I'm not going to try to write a plot synopsis or a review...not this moment, anyway. For me, just seeing a still image from one of these was enough to make me want to see it, so that is mostly what I'd like to share right now.

Curse of the Crimson Altar (The Crimson Cult) - 1968 

 This image right here is pretty much all I need to know, to want to see this. Barbara Steele is blue, and has a rams-head headdress? Why yes, I'd be interested in that.

And things just keep getting better. Christopher Lee is a reason to see any film, but the promise of occult rituals and masks in a film from the 1960s is irresistible. Not pictured, incidentally, Boris Karloff also appears in the film...his last film appearance, if I'm not mistaken.

Once you have people in animal masks, I am pretty much there. This film is supposedly based on HP Lovecraft's "Dreams in the Witch House," as it involves dreams of a witch cult, but the connection is pretty tenuous. Tigon released it, so if you enjoy British horror, this might be one you haven't seen before. It is on Youtube as "The Crimson Cult," which was how I initially saw it on late night cable, some years ago.

Vengeance of the Zombies / La rebelión de las muertas - 1973

One of the many fantastic Paul Naschy/León Klimovsky films. I'll just go ahead and append the imdb summary, as it gets the job done: "An Indian mystic uses magical chants to raise women from the dead, then sends them out to perform revenge killings for him." The main thing that I retain from my viewing of the film are Paul Naschy's bizarre roles here. First we have, well, the devil. And he plays the Indian mystic, of course, because...for whatever reason, movies did things like that in the early 1970s. It's worth suspending your disbelief, in this instance.

You also get these lovely ladies.

The film also had a jazzy score that seemed out of place, but added to the charm, if I recall. While "The Werewolf Vs. the Vampire Women" (aka Werewolf Shadow) is probably my favorite Paul Naschy film, this one made quite an impact on me as well and I need to go back and view it again.

Fascination - 1979

 My favorite director, Jean Rollin. It might be his best, although it's not my tippy-top favorite of his films (Shiver of the Vampires gets that distinction) or the most visually out of control (La Vampire Nue might be that one), this image, among many others, has made a lasting impression. It has one of the most fantastic movie posters of all time as well.

Set just after the turn of the last century, a group of women lure men into a fog-shrouded chateau and drink their blood, amidst lush, decadent and surreal surroundings. Trying to write one or two sentences about the complete aesthetic experience that is a Jean Rollin film, may be beyond my abilities, but Halloween would not be complete without a re-viewing of one of his films.

Murderous, bloodthirsty Victorian women in white, in a foggy chateau, or waltzing on a stone bridge to the tune of an old phonograph...Rollin is simply the master of atmosphere.

Messiah of Evil -1973

Another dreamlike film, this one American -- and for some reason it took me forever to get a DVD copy that didn't have a flaw that caused the film to stop a little over halfway through. Remembered perhaps most for its scene of zombies in an eerily empty supermarket, gnawing on meat, or filling in all of the rows in a movie theatre around a single living patron, one of my personal favorite things about the film is actually the weird setting in an artist's house full of pop art murals on the walls.

I called them zombies but they're not zombies the way we normally think of them. They are denizens of this strange town, under the malevolent influence of the Blood Moon.

Above, one of the interesting murals, this one on the bathroom wall. Whenever a horror movie has an artist as a part of the plot, it is extra interesting, because you have a chance to see some really interesting artwork. See also: Juan López Moctezuma's "Mary Mary Bloody Mary" which contains artwork by the surreal artist Rosa Rosenberg. Here is an example of her work....very grateful to that film for making me aware of her!

The Blood Rose - 1970

Let's make this a five-movie list and come back another day for some more. I haven't seen a lot of people talk about this film, but "La Rose écorchée" by Claude Mulot is as stunning and decadent as they come. Just look at this picture.

This scene is at a costume ball, but once you paint someone gold, you have my interest. The film is one of the genre wherein a mad doctor's wife is disfigured, and others have to die to restore her beauty. The madman in this case is a botanist/artist which is even better for my purposes, because that means we get: lots of plants and flowers, and a very arty environment.

 Oh yes, and you get these two guys...

And candelabras...

Oh so many nightgowns and candelabras.

This concludes my small attempt to capture a few images that inspire me from 1960s and 1970s horror films, though I would like to write a more proper summary and discussion of them other than "Oh my god there are so many candelabras in this movie, you HAVE to see it!"

But for a sampling of a few that probably aren't going to make the rounds on cable this year...look for these on Youtube, and some may still be available on DVD in some form or another.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Candelabras, jack o' lanterns and by the way I like horror movies

I'm watching giant dragonflies, and tiny lizards, all over the patio garden. The dragonflies are so large they seem almost prehistoric. The lizards, well, aren't quite as big as they used to be in the same era. I think the lemon tree is almost ready to start ripening, but I really have no idea when that is supposed to happen...I'm just thrilled at the idea that they are growing outside. So that is how I try to wrap my head around autumn, after a week in which it was in the 90s for a couple of days, and I lost my spooky momentum. This is the time of year that I should be watching candelabra movies (see my recent posts on Tumblr for a slew of those)... Typically, Jean Rollin & co., Mario Bava, the usual 1960s and 70s European horror suspects. it's finally feeling like candelabra weather.

 What I REALLY want to do right now is watch Dark Shadows, but all of my DVDs are in NJ and I can't remember where I left off. I think in the early 500s (volume 8 or 9 of the old DVD boxes). Adam was lurching around...I think Cassandra was in some serious trouble. At any rate, speaking of candelabras....this isn't from the series, it's from one of the movies, Night of Dark Shadows (1971) but WE SHALL NOT SPEAK of any later incarnations of the series, as I only live in the 1960s and 1970s, and very occasionally the early 80s.

Speaking of which, my tastes have gone a little bit more into the modern era recently. I've been feeling in the mood to watch early 80s slasher films. Basically, anything in which lots of teenagers don't fare very well. Nothing against teenagers, per se, it's just good fodder for a movie. The look and feel of 1980s things has acquired more of a vintage sheen now that the world in many ways no longer resembles it. When you watch something wherein everyone talks on land-bound phones; the hair and clothing are distinctly of another era; the music is synthesizer-based in a very specific way that you don't hear any more; and the clichés are being cheerfully driven into the ground....there is a certain charm in that. Even moreso in the Shot On Video VHS tape films like those I've been lucky enough to see at the Alamo Drafthouse recently ("The Abomination," et. al.). But more on that later perhaps.

I'm actually not here to talk about candelabras or horror films at all, I'm here to talk about jack o' lanterns. I have quite a few of them in the ol' Etsy shop and I try to use this blog to show off all that art stuff, so let's get on with it. Here is my most recent little Halloween painting.

It was done to be a part of a month-long Halloween jack o' lantern promo over here...

For an ever-growing assortment of jack o' lantern themed Halloween art and crafts for sale this month, check the link above...and visit the Halloween shop on the site as well. I have five originals and 15 prints for sale on that site, with postage included in all prices in the US...but there is lots of stuff by other artists as well!

There's lots of stuff newly available in the Halloween Artist Bazaar shop with the postage included in price, including 5 x 7 photo prints of one of my most popular paintings, "Dark Lanterns"... also available in my Etsy shop along with the original from which the prints were taken. The first time I did a version of this painting was around 2001, and I have had several custom commissions for it as well. I always take commissions for repaints in any size, or variations on previous paintings I've done...or completely new works that are within the scope of my themes.

"Guardian of Pumpkin Woods" available as a 5 x 7 photo print at the link above, and also at Etsy.

"Black Lantern Spell" available above postage paid, or at Etsy.

One more for now, "Alice in the Dark Woods" prints can be found above postage paid, and also at Etsy with variable shipping options as an original or a print.

Meanwhile, though it's only barely feeling like the end of summer now, we did get a bit of atmosphere in recently at the giant bug display at the Houston Zoo...needless to say my favorite critter was the tarantula. I miss having these little guys around!

More soon on other things of a creepy nature.