Honesty is the Best Policy: Let’s Talk About Scream

Scream (2022) - IMDb

As I stated in my article last Friday, I am really looking forward to some honest criticism about Scream. If I want to see it, I might as well contribute. I was part of the super hyped group that saw it opening day. While it met my expectations and exceeded some, there were a few fatal flaws that looking back on it–I wish there was a little more effort. Don’t get me wrong, the legacy cast killed it and I did appreciate and like the new cast of characters, but the story that revolved around them has quite a few plot holes and went weird directions.

Time has passed, so I think that it is now time to talk about it. If you haven’t seen it, stop here and go watch it, as this review will be chock full of spoilers. The twist worth the watch, as it is done pretty damn well. Nevertheless, let’s jump into 2022’s Scream.

The Opening Scene: what a bummer

Don’t get me wrong, the opening scene in Scream is intense. However, having it not be a kill really breaks tradition for all of the Scream films, as these openings are known for taking risks and killing off either very important characters or A-list actors. I guess the zinger was that she was still alive after all of that, but it just communicates that we might not have a as sinister and strong killer as we did in the past.

Scream (2022) - Plugged In

I think this movie would’ve benefitted from an event flip. A shocker to the audience would be the double kill that occurs about twenty minutes into the movie: Judy and her son Wes. It’s in the broad daylight–which had been done only once before in the franchise–plus a beloved character and the top theorized killer due to his namesake and the casting of Dylan Minnette. I don’t think this would’ve changed the events of the film, as after the opening credits, we can jump right into the scene with Tara, involving the new characters. It also involves the original characters a little earlier into the film and is the hard cutoff from the fourth film, as Judy was the only overlapping character that wasn’t one of the legacies.

Let’s Talk new Characters

Scream 5 Video Introduces The Franchise's New Characters

Of the ones that survived this new reign of terror, I do appreciate the sister power we have as our new “Sidneys.” They’re not meant to replace Sidney, obviously. However, I can definitely root for them for a few more films. However, I have a bone to pick with our lead, Sam. It’s not her fault, it is most definitely the writers reaching for straws, but we need to talk about the hallucinations.

I Love Skeet Ulrich, but…

Of all the past killers to bring back, they brought back Billy. Also, the timeline lines up for Sam, but also it is very narrow amount of time, with it only making sense that Billy slept with Sam’s mother the night of Stu’s party or somewhere within those days of the killing spree. Also, trying to turn him into a near anti-hero in the end and Sam mimicking his blade wipe–that did not leave a good taste in my mouth. Billy Loomis is bat shit crazy and took his need for vengeance a little too far. We don’t need to redeem him. However, I did enjoy Sam other than her daftness about going to Stu Macher’s house as if she did not grow up in that town immediately after the events took place. Most of all, I loved her as a team with her sister.

Siblings not done dirty
Scream (2022): This or That? : r/Scream

Finally, the Scream franchise is kind to siblings and doesn’t kill them off in brutal ways or make them wacko killers. We see Sam and Tara Carpenter as sisters who kick ass despite their shared trauma that separated them all of these years. Sure, the way they reintroduce each other in the hospital room was a little rushed and messy, but in that final showdown, we see the potential of what they can be, and when they put their brains together, they manage to make it out alive.

While Tara and Sam really delivered in a dynamic duo of final girls, it was Randy’s niece and nephew, Chad and Mindy Meeks-Martin. There was finally some relief from the pain of Randy being gone, as there is no doubt that he is their uncle. It is almost as if he has visited them beyond the grave and bestowed his witty wisdom. I think their inclusion as well as their survival (I was really worried about Chad there for a second) really felt like the apology for killing Randy so early and abruptly. I am excited to see them in the sequel, but as their uncle said, the stakes are higher in a sequel.

Let’s Talk about the Killers

Alright, I saw Jack Quaid being the killer from a mile away. However, I thought he would be the one to provide the tie to the original killers. It would’ve been so easy, as Stu was quite more of a sex maniac than Billy it seems. It would mean Richie actually being Stu’s son instead of the hallucinations and the Billy stuff. They could’ve found another way to bring Skeet back, but we all really wanted Stu back. Even Matthew Lillard wanted Stu back. Maybe they’re saving it for a rainy day. The man could’ve survived a TV to the head, it’s a horror movie for god’s sake, it doesn’t have to make sense.

Scream 5: All The Clues To The Killer Identity Twist

Speaking of things not making sense, how did Amber manage to lift Dewey into the air above her head? I think that was Scream‘s way of tiptoeing towards an invincible, super strong killer like the rest of the franchises have adopted. I mean, it took a lot to kill both of them in the final act. Mikey Madison even relived some of her stunts that she pulled in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, except it was a stovetop, not a flamethrower. The thing that I liked about Scream’s killers was the human element. The crazy, unhinged human element. It sets them apart from previous killers, and not in a good way. However, they were on that same level of batshit crazy, so their actions around their oddly super strength demeanor sold them over all as Ghostfaces.

Finally: THe Legacy Characters of the Scream franchise

Oh, Dewey. I bawled in the theater due to Dewey’s death, as it felt like they ripped out and stomped on the heart of the series. However, I knew that is what would have to happen for Sidney to even come back to Woodsboro, and the movie laid it out as so. It was so good to see all of them again, however. I also like how their lives ended up, as they are very human and very unpredictable. Sidney ending up with Kincaid was a good little easter egg and made me happy that she found happiness and trust in a partner again. The first two movies made us think that would never happen, and it would be justified.

Scream 2022 Ending Explained - FandomWire

Gale is in the best position that Gale could be in, and I was grateful that she wasn’t the bad guy that ended things between her and Dewey. This allowed for no bitterness between them in their final moments and nothing but mutual love without the will-they-won’t-they element. I think that drama that was present in the previous films would’ve taken away from how gut-wrenching it was to say goodbye to Dewey, for both the audience and Gale.

It wouldn’t go without saying that I wish that we could’ve seen more of them, and they had more driving forces in the story. However, if the Scream franchise is going to continue, we have to say goodbye as we can’t watch another one of them die. It is a salute to both Wes Craven and Sidney Prescott from the horror genre. Together they revolutionized the final girl and broke down all of the rules that they had to abide by.

In Conclusion: Scream is worth your time

If you are a horror fan and love Wes Craven as much as I do, please watch the newest Scream if you haven’t already. While there are some plot holes and it might not have the payoff that some of us were wishing for after all these years, it is still a wild ride that is worth the experience at least once–it definitely isn’t as rewatchable as the others are. It is heartfelt at times, nostalgic in others and reads as a love letter to its creator, gone seven years now. The horror family misses and loves you, Wes.

Do you agree with the critiques marked in this review? Let me know your thoughts either on Twitter @OfCelluloid, Instagram @TheVoidofCelluloid, or on Facebook under the page The Void of Celluloid. Make sure to follow and sign up on the mailing list if you would like to receive more content of the sort and I will catch you guys in the next void. See ya soon, Spelunkers.

The Week of SCREAMS: Revisiting the Scream Franchise

Scream 5 Review: Ghostface Feels As Sharp As Ever

Hello everyone–I just watched the new Scream. It is a brilliant addition as well as homage to its predecessors. During its viewing, I took a trip down memory lane and it’s time to revisit Scream: my favorite quirks and moments in the Scream franchise. It truly is a unique and essential piece to the horror universe–one that many horror fans are proud of. For most horror fans, young and old, Scream just gets you. It knows how you tick, what excites you about horror movies and holds up a mirror and hands you a thank you card.

I cannot think of any fandom who doesn’t like their ego stroked–but we’re stepping away from the meta-ness. Each of these films in the franchise has a gleaming trait that always draws my attention and has me theorizing a lot of what-if scenarios. So, without further ado, I am going to go through some of my interpretations and observations of this brilliant series that Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson has blessed upon us.

Billy and Stu: The Queer Subtext

I have seen the first Scream several times, and it is for three people: Stu, Billy and Randy. That is not a diss towards Sidney, Gale or Dewey, but we get significantly more time with them as the series goes on. Randy is obviously the shining star as well as the most relatable character–horror movie aficionado and a constant hard-on for Sidney Prescott (I mean, same, my dude). He’s not my focus point here; it’s the two murderous lovebirds.

Scream's Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard: Billy and Stu Fell 'in Love'

There is a certain intimacy between Billy and Stu, and it mostly falls on Matthew Lillard’s performance and portrayal of Stu. Even Matthew Lillard has confirmed he meant to convey it this way, which you can read more about in this brilliant essay from FilmDaze: The Lifelike Misogyny of Scream’s Stu Macher. Kevin Williamson confirmed this. He himself is proudly out and confirmed that he based the characters on Leopold and Lobe.

Lillard conveys Stu’s ferocity and passion towards Billy with intense eye contact. It is also implied that it didn’t take much convincing on Billy’s part for Stu to team up with him in this killing spree. Considering the killing spree included offing Sidney and making Billy painfully available–that was a bargain that one so madly in love couldn’t resist. It’s hard to deny that this isn’t about passion. The more I watch it, the more it comes through to me. On top of that, everyone that I’ve mentioned this theory too can’t unsee it, so I suggest giving Scream another watch and try to lean into the queer point of view. You’ll only appreciate Matthew Lillard’s performance more and more.

Oh, Randy: The Biggest Mistake in the Franchise

Now back to Randy–and yes, I’ve mentioned this before. Randy’s death in Scream 2 is truly devastating. As the franchise goes on, it sinks in more and more that the death of Randy might have been the biggest mistake they made. The Scream franchise was never afraid of broad daylight kills, but the fact that the character with his head screwed on so tight gets yanked into a van, sliced and diced with Gale and Dewey within earshot–that’s just cruel.

Scream Creator Kevin Williamson Explains Why He Killed Off Jamie Kennedy's  Randy | Cinemablend

It’s even more cruel due to Scream 2 showing Randy thriving in the college environment. Always being outcast by his peers in Woodsboro, he finds his niche and can discuss and evolve his knowledge and opinions all day long. This seemed like a step towards him growing with the rest of them and able to assess the surroundings and deliver appropriate ‘isms at perfect times. I understand that would’ve been the easy route.

I do respect the out-of-the-blue return of Randy in Scream 3 through VHS, but I feel as if the franchise is also realizing it was a bit of a mistake to kill Randy off so soon. His death would’ve been more firmly placed in Scream 3. Randy’s death in Scream 2 signaled no one was safe. However, there were no other major deaths of the legacy characters in Scream 3 and 4. Therefore, his death was a missed opportunity to take some more controversial steps and just kind of leaves a sad pit of what we could’ve seen from an older Randy.

Definition of Camp: Scream 3 isn’t a bad movie

Days before I watched the newest Scream, I rewatched Scream 3. I never am really excited to rewatch this one, however I saw it through fresh eyes for whatever reason lately. If Scream 3 sold strictly as a spoof and a comedy, I firmly believe critical panning would decrease. It is honestly the funniest installment in the series, and the absurdity of the plot and dialogue is what makes it.

Parker Posey talks Scream 3, her character's legacy

I realized that the opening scene of Scream 3 does not set the tone for the majority of the movie, but rather the more serious final act. Therefore, to go from the sinister nature of Cotton Weary’s demise to cooky Gale-Dewey Hollywood banter feels kind of like whiplash. I can see how that radical tone shift left a bad taste in people’s mouths. However, separating that, the rest of Scream 3 is delightfully campy with a whole bundle of wacky characters who happen to play the characters from the series. It’s extremely meta, which is what the Scream franchise is all about.

The character that sells on the campiness and meta-ness is 100% Jennifer Jolie, played perfectly by Parker Posey. Scream 3 deals a hard bargain on the actors in it–they have to play their characters as well as caricatures of themselves. I think that Parker Posey nails this balance, and focusing on her, Gale and Dewey’s storyline in the middle of the movie definitely is what sells it as a viable end to the original trilogy. I definitely recommend anyone to rewatch Scream 3 and treat it like it’s a “so-bad-it’s-good” movie–you’ll see the comedic genius and expert portrayal in camp in it.

Questionable Characters: Scream 4’s Bloodbath

Eleven years have passed, the original cast is either dead or older. 2011’s Scream 4 was an attempt to pass the torch onto a popular, younger cast and ended in a bloodbath instead. Almost every new character introduced in Scream 4 died by the movie’s end and for that, I am sort of grateful.

With the exception of Kirby, played charismatically by Hayden Panettiere, the new characters weren’t very likeable. Now having watched the newest Scream, I am so grateful they didn’t go with this ragtag group. Most of the characters didn’t have much character development, with Jill being the only one that got a backstory and link to Sidney. On top of that, they feel like hollow shells of a person rather than actual humans. All of the complexity vanished.

Hayden Panettiere's New Haircut Has Scream Fans Freaking Out | Cinemablend

I attribute part of this to the time jump and dealing with a different generation. A lot of characteristics from these new characters felt very tropey and out of place, with some of them seeming like they stepped out of coming-of-age rom-com. As I mentioned about Randy, this film definitely tried to make up for Randy being gone. While Kirby was extremely likeable amongst the trio of movie know-it-alls, the shoes of the Randy character were not filled. Despite my complaints, however, I really do like Scream 4 a lot. I feel that this newest Scream however took it down a few pegs in regard to likeable characters.

Scream Lives on through the newest installment

To wrap this up, I cannot stress how badly I want everyone to go and watch Scream. It is truly amazing, hilarious, and brutal. My overly emotional self even cried a bit. I adore the new cast so much and am already looking forward to a sequel, which they plan on doing. The directors behind this new one also did Ready or Not, so if you are looking for some more horror comedy with badass women, I suggest either watching or rewatching that one (I’ve seen it at least five times). I will never stop talking about Scream and singing its praises, so if you want to hear more from The Void of Celluloid, be sure to follow this blog and our social medias linked on the homepage. See you next time, spelunkers.

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Mother of the Void Presents: Haxan (1922)

For my film this week, The Void has chosen the 1922 German silent film Haxan. This has been lovingly restored for the Criterion Collection, and is available for streaming on HBO Max. This will be a shorter dissection than my previous submissions. Don’t get too excited.  It really is not possible to go into too much of a story analysis.

Haxan - Rotten Tomatoes

You can check out my last post on Suspicion here, if you want to see a heated review. Nonetheless, let’s get into it.

Summarizing Haxan: The first stories

This film tells the story of witchcraft through the centuries. It is told in chapters with the first telling a history or how the Devil and witchcraft are connected and the preceding chapters telling dramatizations of witchcraft being practiced and the impact on innocent victims. 

New book examines 1922 silent film that billed itself as a "documentary of  witchcraft" | Hub

Many of the movie tropes we see today can be traced back to Haxan. The depiction of witches being ugly, old hags for one. Even in the story when the beautiful young woman is the witch, it is quite easy for her to frame a woman fitting this description as the witch and divert attention from herself. 

In one of the first stories, what we have come to know as the early zombie walk is depicted. Arms straight out, walking aimlessly. The woman in question is young and beautiful, and stark naked. I don’t think I have ever seen shadows used so skillfully to maintain modesty.

German Macabre in Haxan

As the dramatization progresses there is a stunning scene of witches flying on their broomsticks, to dance with demons. I want to add that the witches are able to fly because of the ointment that they rub on each other’s back. I wonder if that could be where the concept of Pixie Dust came from? 

The Devil's Work: Benjamin Christensen's 'Häxan' and the Limits of  “Director as God” - Split Tooth Media

There were a number of laugh out loud moments for me, but I am not sure they were intentional.  It could be the fact that, at times, I have the sense of humor of a 13-year-old boy. When the title card suggests that witches have to kiss the devil’s bottom and then showed an illustration of this act, I found it quite amusing. I must also say that my laughter was that of being delighted by the images, which were highly imaginative and way ahead of their time. The Germans have a special quality in their depiction of the macabre, especially during the 1920s.

FInal Thoughts

The film is in black and white, but the filmmaker also used a sepia color, often indicating either firelight, or hellfire. The use of shadow, as I previously mentioned, was masterfully done. It allowed the provocative to be present, but maintained the film’s modesty. 

I am recommending this film, especially to those who love the process of filmmaking. To those, it is almost essential viewing. Also, those of you who are Pop Culture addicts like me, you might want to watch to see where Tenacious D and Dave Grohl found their inspiration for their version of the devil in “The Pick of Destiny.”

While this take was short and sweet, I will be back with whatever The Void decides to throw me. Hope all of your 2022 are magical…with no devil butt kissing included!

The Mother of the Void Presents: Suspicion

I would first like to welcome The Void back! She chose this movie for me during her hiatus, so I have watched it, had time to stew on it, and here goes my dissection.

For this outing, The Void has chosen the 1941 Alfred Hitchock movie, “Suspicion”. She told me upon discussing it with her after my viewing, that she picked this for me because of how swooned over Cary Grant in “Notorious”. Unfortunately, without giving too much away, this film has slightly tarnished not only my opinion of Mr. Grant, but of Mr. Hitchcock as well. I have never had a problem liking flawed characters, just look at my past dating history, but as I get older, I have come to differentiate between flawed and defective. But let’s get into the nitty gritty shall we, and I hope to explain what I mean. I hope you will join me for my take of 1941’s “Suspicion”. You can check out my last Hitchcock review here.

So It Begins: Suspicion

The film begins with a black screen and Johnnie (Cary Grant) apologizing to someone unseen, explaining he didn’t realize they were going to go through a tunnel and he thought the compartment was empty. When the light fills the compartment, we see Lina (Joan Fontaine), book in hand, looking slightly annoyed at Johnnie as he is putting his things on the shelf above the seat opposite her. He complains to her that he had to switch compartments because of the cigar smell next door. He asks if she smokes and explains how relieved he is when she says no because he apparently had quite the evening the night before. When he asks her if she understands, he surveys her more conservative appearance; her sensible shoes, child psychology book, high buttoned coat and hat, and he conveys a look of ‘well maybe not’. 

Just then the porter enters asking for their tickets. Lina retrieves hers from her handbag, while Johnnie quickly goes from pocket to pocket, searching for his. Lina’s ticket is first class; Johnnie’s ticket is for third class. The porter explains he is in the wrong compartment. Johnnie accuses the rail line of ‘selling third class tickets at first class prices’. The porter gives him the total for the seat upgrade, and Johnnie asks if they will accept what he has, which is not enough.

The porter looks at him unsympathetically, and Johnnie asks Lina if she has any change. She starts to pull coins out of her purse and he reaches over, grabs what he needs and gives the money to the porter, who gives him a disgusted look as he leaves the compartment. Now personally, I don’t care how handsome or charming a person is, if they help themselves to my money, out of my hand, they are pulling back a bloody stump!

Johnnie acts as though he is trying to sleep, while Lina picks up the newspaper. She opens it to the society page, and there is her new, freeloading compartment mate pictured with an elegantly dressed woman. Lina looks from the paper to Johnnie as he looks out the window, annoyed by the sunlight. 

The Fox Hunt

We are now at the start of a very traditional English fox hunt. Bugles playing, horses antsy to get going and dogs barking. Johnnie is charming the ladies and a local photographer. In the distance he sees a horse being a bit cooperative and he instantly recognizes the rider as his unwitting travel companion, only this time, she is sans glasses, looking vibrate and RICH!. He asks the ladies he is with her name, because of course he didn’t bother when he was pilfering money out of her hand.  One of the women warns him that Lina is ‘not up his alley’. Johnnie replies he is ‘bored with people in my alley’.  He asks for an introduction and the woman who issued the warning refuses. Johnnie says he will just have to do so himself, as the ladies go to get ready for the hunt. 

With the hunt over, we now find Lina, back in her more mousey attire, casually reading in her home. Visitors arrive at her window and she greets them, inviting them in. They are the same ladies from the hunt, and Johnnie got the introduction he wanted. Lina instantly takes off her glasses and accepts the introduction, shyly. The girls tell Lina that when they saw her in the window, Johnnie insisted on meeting her. I am sure this was completely a coincidence (Wink Wink).  

Lina questions why Johnnie would care to meet her, and his answer made me gag a little. This man is so full of himself, he is going to need a bigger suit! Lina is more reserved than his other companions. He tells her that she should hurry so she is not late for church, which she was not planning on attending. When she inquires with the ladies if that was their plan, they are caught off guard, but Johnnie sees his plan working out as intended.

The three women extend an invitation to join them, and much to Johnnie’s delight, Lina accepts, with a bit of speculation towards her stalker in her voice. He asks her to put on the hat she had on the train, signalling to not only Lina, but the other ladies, that he remembers her and it is not their first meeting. Lina leave to make herself ready, while the ladies take seats to wait for her return. Johnnie pick up the book Lina was reading and as a bookmark , she is using his picture she saw in the paper on the train, much to his delight. 

A Deadly…Hair Fixing?

When they reach the church, Johnnie finds a way to separate Lina from the group and before entering the two leave together. We next find them struggling on what appears to be a cliff top. Lina is not amused, while Johnnie see this as all great fun. He inquires why she so aggressively fought off his advances, afterall, it wasn’t like he was trying to kill her. No means NO, even in 1941! He explains that he was not trying to kiss her, he was just trying to fix her hair, telling her that her hair is all wrong.

He then undoes her hair and makes it ridiculous. She tells him that she is much different than the women he is photographed with, he asks her how he stacks up against her horse. Interesting approach, at this point, I would compare him more to a dog…but anyway. Lina tells him that if she ever got the bit in his mouth, she would have no problem controlling him. That’s my girl! Johnnie then makes his move to try and kiss her, and she dodges successfully. It is at this point he bistoes his new nickname on her. Monkeyface. 

Suspicion

Johnnie walks Lina home, and as they approach, she asks him not to come further. He tells her he will come to ‘fetch her’ at 3:00. She tells him no, and he keeps insisting. She leaves him, and as she approaches the house, she hears her family discussing her. They are talking how she will never marry, how they will have to care for her, and that she is a spinster. Her father does praise her brains and character, but the damage is done.

Mom and Dad basically tied a steak around her neck and sent her to the wolf! Lina turns to see Johnnie standing there beside her. He is smiling, and it is uncertain if he heard what her parents said or not. Lina wraps her arm around his neck and kisses the wolf, I mean Johnnie. She quickly retreats into the house and joins her parents for lunch. 

Lina tells her parents she didn’t go to church after all, but went on a walk instead with Johnnie. Her father quickly remarks that Johnnie is wild, and when Lina asks, he tells her he was caught cheating at cards. She tells her parents she is seeing him again, and she no more gets the words out, and she gets a call that he has canceled their plans. She returns to the table, slightly defeated. 

The Ball

As time goes on, Lina tries to track Johnnie down. She inquires if he has been invited to an upcoming ball, checks her mail, and calls him home. No reply. The night of the ball, Lina’s mother comes to her room to find her crying, saying she is not going to the ball. A telegram arrives, stating Johnnie’s intentions on seeing her there. Suddenly Lina’s mood changes and she opts for a more revealing dress. 

At the ball, Lina is watching the others dance. She waits on the sidelines, anxiously watching the door for the wolf. A friend approaches her and they start to dance. LIna’s father is approached by the butler, saying that there is someone at the door. He says he is with his party, to which Lina’s father disputes ever extending an invitation. The matter is quickly dismissed as Lina sees him and the two begin to dance, leaving her stunned father and his other female admirers behind.

They dance their way out of the ball, and Johnnie helps himself to Lina’s family’s car, as she gleefully protests. They drive off, all smiles and he asks her if she has ever kissed in a car. When she says never, he remedies that situation. Their conversation reveals how much of a ladies man he is. He admits to her that he is honest with her because he can see that is what will get him results, to which she replies with a confession of love.

He is a cad and she is an idiot. Blunt I know, but it is one thing to be fooled by someone who is pretending to be something they are not. It is something entirely different, when they lay every ugly detail out on the table, and yet “but I love him”, is still your reply. I want to reach through the screen and slap her, just on principle. 

Johnnie tells her he is falling in love with her as well, and they make a stop at Lina’s house for a drink. Johnnie tells her how nervous he is and she says she is not, because she knows what she wants. He is taken aback by the painting of Lina’s father, admitting that he knows her father doesn’t like him. To his credit, Johnnie tells her, he is everything that her father says he is. Johnnie proposes and she agrees as they dance to a song of their own. 

Well That Was Fast: The Fatal Flaw of Suspicion

Lina is leaving to elope and she goes to tell her parents goodbye. Okay….I am going to be honest with you here. When I review the movies, I watch them once and then watch them again, pausing and analyzing the scenes. I can’t with this one. It just pissed me off. So here is the rest of the film in a nutshell.

Suspicion

Lina runs off and marries Johnnie, who, when they return home from a honeymoon he bought with credit, moves them into  a home they can’t afford. He is banking on the fact that her parents will give her money. The only thing that they give them is a set of antique chairs, that he turns around and hocks so he can go and gamble. Lina is upset and heart broken until Johnnie returns from the track with presents for her, and his lifelong friend, who is staying with him. He gives her the receipt for the chairs he bought back and all is forgiven. The friend mentions he has an allergy to brandy, and drinking it could kill him. 

Johnnie agrees to take a job with his cousin as a property manager. When Lina goes to visit him at work one day, she discovers they fired him for stealing $2000, the exact amount he “won” at the track. She does not confront him, but starts to pack, and once again “But I love him.” comes into play. She stays of course. 

Johnnie and his friend decide to start a corporation and go into real estate, but the land they try to buy is bogus. Lina’s father dies and instead of money, he leaves them the painting from the study.  Good job Pop!  The friend goes back to Paris to dissolve the corporation, while Johnnie goes to London. 

Johnnie’s a Little Sketch, But Why Does That Matter?

Later in the week police show up and tell Lina the friend is dead, someone had poisoned him with brandy. They ask where her husband is, and she covers for him. She calls the club where he was to be staying, and they said he left a few days ago. She instantly believes her husband killed the friend. 

Suspicion Final Scene

Then, there is a bunch of stuff with life insurance and Lina again believes Johnnie is going to kill her this time. She decides to leave him and go to her mothers, which he agrees to. There is a struggle in the car and confrontation and Johnnie reveals he was going to kill himself. That way, she could have the life insurance money and pay off the debt and get rid of him. Of course Lina responded with, “But I love you.” and they drive off into the sunset. 

Final Thoughts on Suspicion

I wanted to like this film so much, Hitchcock, Grant, Fontane….but it is just a pile of pretty people doing disgusting and stupid things and charming their way out of it. She never should have married him, and when he sold her chairs, she should have been gone. I love the players in this film, but not the film. I will not be watching this again, anytime soon. 

Am I angry about this? Yes. Do I recommend it? No. The Void has given an assignment from way back in time, and possibly the pits of Hell. As long as there are no chair stealing, pretty boys; I can handle anything but that!

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Mother of the Void Presents: Gaslight (1944)

The definition of gaslight is “psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perceptions of reality or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.”

Gaslight (1944 film) - Wikipedia

The name for the term Gaslighting came from the 1938 play “Gas Light” written by Patrick Hamilton. It was made into a film in 1940, and it is the second adaption, 1944, that is my film for the week. Having been a victim of this abuse in two major relationships in my life, I think the Void is trying to give me some inexpensive therapy, and I appreciate it. So here we go with Gaslight, directed by George Cukor and starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten. If you want to read my last one, check it out here.

The beginning

The film open in London, as a young Paula Alquist is being led away from the scene of her aunt’s murder. A paper reveals that the murderer is still at large. There are many onlookers as a clearly distraught Paula watches the gaslights in her aunt’s house are extinguished. Her caretaker informs her that she is going to Italy to study singing with her aunt’s best friend. Paula is told this man will make her into a great singer, like her aunt. 

We now see an older Paula, studying her singing, and she is chastised for not taking her singing seriously and also for not singing like her aunt. As Paula assures her teacher she will try harder, the accompanist asks to be excused, and is granted permission. 

Paula discusses with her teacher that she knows she is not meant to be a singer. He tells her that she has been coming to her lessons happier than he has ever seen her, but as her happiness improves, it is having the opposite effect on her singing. He asks her if she is in love, and she affirms that she is. She tells him that she is happier than she has ever been, which is something she never thought would happen. Her instructor tells her that she should embrace this chance at happiness, she should free herself from the past. He asks to meet this man she loves, and instead of agreeing, she tells him goodbye. 

Paula hears her name called as she leaves her lesson. Gregory, the accompanist, is waiting for her. He pulls her into a secluded area and kisses her. He then asks if she told her teacher, and she says she didn’t have to, he knew already. Gregory questions why Paula hesitates moving forward with him. She admits she knows nothing about him, and he still asks her to marry him. . He questions if she is afraid of him, and she says no of happiness. Paula asks Gregory to give her time, and he says, “You will have all the time you need”. Paula confirms that they have only known each other for two weeks. She tells Gregory that she wants to go away for two weeks, so she can think about this on her own. He is supportive of her going. They have a very sweet parting. 

Paula’s Trip

Paula is now on the train with Miss Thwaites, who if she was alive today, she would be the biggest true crime podcast fan ever! She is reading a mystery novel, and she is very animated about what she is reading. She and Paula strike up a conversation. Paula tells Miss Thwaites that she is going to Lake Cuomo, and the old woman is shocked that she is traveling by herself. 

Miss Thwaites reveals that she is going to London and she lives in Thornton Square. This is the same area we saw Paula leaving at the beginning of the film. She tells the old woman that she knew people who lived there, and the amature sleuth begins to share the story of the unsolved murder that took place there years before. Paula becomes visibly upset, but the woman keeps talking. Much to Paula’s relief they reach her stop. As she exits the train, and Miss Thwaites continues to talk, a hand appears on her arm. It is Gregory, who has followed her. He says he hopes she is not angry, and she is genuinely relieved to see him. 

Now my younger self would have seen this and thought, “How romantic.” My older self, who has been in dysfunctional relationships sees this and thinks, “She asks for space, and this is his way of making sure she doesn’t get a chance to analyze what is happening in a healthy way, and change her mind.” To all you kids out there, respect your partner’s wishes. Time apart will not kill you! And if someone does not respect your wishes for space, RUN!

Newlyweds

We now see the beautiful balcony of the hotel where Gregory and Paula are spending their honeymoon, or at least I think it is their honeymoon. If not, this is really naughty for 1944. They are romantically talking about their future together. Gregory asks Paula where she would like to settle down. She suggests Paris, and he suggests London, which takes some of the joy from her face. All of a sudden, he has an idea.

He visited London when he was younger, and had always dreamed of having a home, “in one of the quiet little squares” asking her again if they could settle down in London. He then notices the expression on her face and asks what is wrong. She tells him she already owns a house in a square in London. Her Aunt left her the house. Paula confides that she knows nothing of her parents and lived with her Aunt until her death. She tells Gregory that she hasn’t been afraid since she has known him. Paula tells him that she can face the house with him by her side. She will give him his dream of a house in the square. 

We now see Miss Thwaites saying hello to flowers and it is revealed that new tenants are moving into Number 9, where the murder happened. She recognizes Paula and reintroduces herself. The solicitor opens the door to the house and they slowly enter together. Gregory begins to make his way through the house, but he has an intuition about the layout of the house. They go upstairs to the drawing room. Paula says the room smells of death, as Gregory opens a window, saying it won’t for long. Paula shows him a cabinet that displayed her aunt’s treasures. The glass was broken the night of the murder, but nothing was missing.

She shows her husband a single glove her Aunt loved, and as a child she inquired as to the whereabouts of the other glove, but was told that her aunt gave it away to a great admirer and that was all she knew. Gregory tells Paula that he wished he could have seen her, and she reveals her painting. A strange expression comes across Gregory’s face when he looks at the painting. Paula reveals the place where she found her aunt’s body, and that she had been strangled. Gregory suggests that they remove all the items that remind Paula of the tragedy.

A Home of their own

Paula heartily agrees and excitedly talks of the parties they could have. Gregory looks displeased and tells her that parties would come later because he wants them to have time to themselves. Paula tells him there is an attic where all her things are, and Gregory suggests they could put all the old furniture up there. Once they were done, they could board it up, so she would never have to look at them again. Personally I was thinking ‘YARD SALE”, but that is just my American coming out I guess. 

While Paula is showing Gregory her Aunt’s piano, she finds a letter and begins to read it outloud. When she says the letter was written by someone named Sergus Bower, Gregory becomes visibly upset and rips the letter out of her hands. He tells her that they need to get rid of all of these things because they are upsetting her.  Hello pot, I’m kettle. He tells her that while she holds on to her Aunt, there can be no happiness for them. 

Gaslight | CINEACTION

Some time has now passed, and Miss Thwaites runs into Elizabeth, Paula and Gregory’s housekeeper. It is established that workers have just finished boarding up the attic and Gregory doesn’t allow visitors because he feels that Paula is too unwell to be around people. 

When Elizabeth enters the house, Gregory is hiring another housekeeper (a very young and beautiful Angela Lansbury). He tells her she is never to bother Paula, and to always come to him. There is an obvious flirtation between the two. Paula comes downstairs and is introduced to Nancy, the new maid. Gregory gives Paula a cameo that he tells her that it belonged to his mother. He makes a point of pointing out to her that she has a tendency to lose things, and tells her he is putting it in her bag for safe keeping due to the clasp being broken. She tells him she won’t forget it is there, and they head out for a tour of the Tower of London. She is so excited that she actually gets to leave the house for the day. How nice of him to unlock her cage. 

The Gas Is turned on

While on a tour of the Tower of London, Paula realizes that her cameo is no longer in her bag. This sends her into a panic, and she leaves the tour group to search for it. Gregory quickly follows her and they go for a walk in the sunshine. While on their walk a man with his niece and nephew tips his hat at them. Brian’s niece tells him he looks like he has seen a ghost and he says that the woman reminds him of someone who is dead. Gregory get instantly jealous and contronts Paula about who the man is. She tells him she has no idea and was just being polite. 

Once again, to distract from his actions, Gregory tells Paula he is worried about her and the fact that she is so forgetful lately. Paula is confused about what he is talking about, and he tells her not to worry. Anytime she questions Gregory, he accuses her of being suspicious and makes her doubt her own mind. Paula wants to go home and Brian watches them leave. 

When they return home, Paula  inquires about seeing the room that Gregory rented to work out of. He tells her that is unnecessary, and sends her upstairs to rest. When she is half way up the first flight of stairs, Gregory asks for her cameo so he can have it repaired. She confesses to him that she can’t find it. He empties her purse and the cameo is missing. Gregory tells her he warned her he would lose it. When she apologizes he tells her it is not important, and when she asks him to confirm he put it in her purse, he questions her memory again. 

While getting ready for bed, Paula notices the gas lights in her room dimmed, and questions Nancy about who would have turned on a light in another part of the house causing this one to dim. She then hears footsteps above her. 

The Gas Lights

Miss Thwaites greets Brian outside Paula’s house. She tells him that Paula never leaves the house, and he looks over and corrects her when he sees Paula outside the door. She had forgotten her keys and had to have Nancy open the door so she could retrieve her umbrella. Nancy questions what she should tell Gregory is he asks where she has gone, and despite Paula’s answers, she continues to grill her, to the point where Paula gives up and goes back in the house. Miss Thwaites confides in Brian that the new maid, Nancy, has been fooling around with a policeman who walks around the house.

What is gaslighting? The 1944 film Gaslight is the best explainer. - Vox

We now see Brian entering Scotland yard. He is asking them to reopen the case. He explains that he met Paula’s aunt when he was 12 years old, and he thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. The detective tells him that there is no reason to reopen the case, but then he mentions that some jewels were missing. This sparks Brian’s interest, as he states there is no mention of jewels in the case file. The detective tells him someone “highly placed” gave them to the woman. That is the theory behind why she was murdered, but the jewels were too famous to ever be sold. Instead of Brian dropping it, this has sparked his interest even more. 

Brian meets up with an officer, asks him if he is married and offers him a new location in a more stylish neighborhood. Nancy does like a man in uniform, and this one will do. 

We now find Gregory and Paula in the drawing room. Paula wants to put coal on the fire, but Gregory insists she call Nancy. When she enters Gregory openly flirts with her, even asking Nancy to give Paula makeup tips. Paula chastices Gregory for the way he treats her, and Gregory accuses her of imagining things. 

Nancy enters the room and says Miss Thwaites has come for a visit with her nephew. Paula welcomes the visit, but Gregory tells Nancy to send them away. When Paula protests, Gregory begins to yell at her, telling her he doesn’t want people in the house. He tells Nancy to say Paula is not well enough for visitors. Paula tells Gregory she really wanted to see her, and his reply is well then you should have just said so. They dismiss Miss Thwaites and her “nephew” Brian. 

More Schemes

In the sitting room, Gregory is happily playing the piano, with Paula worrying in the background. He tells her that they are going out for the evening, and Paula begins to question if she has forgotten him telling her. He assures her it is just a surprise for her–taking her to the theater. Paula is happily singing, when Gregory stops playing and questions her about the whereabouts of a little picture. He asks her to go and get it and she insists she didn’t take it. Paula begs him not to ring for the servants. He asks Elizabeth if she knows where the painting is, and she says that she has never touched the painting. Gregory asks her to kiss the bible to show she is telling the truth.

Gregory tells her to bring in Nancy, whom Paula is fearful of. He questions Nancy, and she denies taking the picture. They dismiss Nancy and Paula swears on and kisses the bible, saying that she did not take the picture. Sternly Gregory tells her to go look for the picture. On the way up the stairs, she finds the picture and he accuses her of knowing where it was all along. He sends her to her room and tells her that she is too ill for her to go to the theater. 

Paula begs Gregory to be gentle with her if she is truly ill. He takes her to her room, and tells her that he is leaving to work. She begs him not to leave and tells him she is hearing noises and she begs him to hold her and make her feel safe. He leaves and tells her he hopes she is better in the morning. Gregory and Nancy flirt yet again as Gregory leaves to go work. Nancy is a wee bit of a ho bag.

Gregory exits the house into the foggy London night. He quickly steps into the shadows. What are you up to?

Approaching Paula’s Breaking Point

Paula is laying on her bed, crying when once again the gas lights dim and there are noises overhead. 

There is a concert, and Brian as well as Paula and Gregory are invited. Brian asks the host if she will seat him next to Paula. Just then the hostess gets word that Gregory has RSVP’d that Paula is ill and they won’t be attending.

Paula descends the stairs in a lovely white gown, ready to go to the concert. Gregory is in the sitting room in his smoking jacket. Paula proclaims that despite Gregory’s response to the invitation, she is going, alone if she has to. Gregory plays it off that he didn’t realize that the party was so important, and goes to change so he can go with her. Paula gains some confidence after an icey exchange with Nancy. 

They arrive at the concert, which has already started, and draw Brian’s attention as they take their seats. Once seated, another musician starts to play. Brian watches the couple, drawing Gregory’s attention. During the performance, Gregory reaches for his watch, which is missing. He questions Paula about the whereabouts of it, and she becomes very upset. He begins to examine her purse and pulls his watch from it. When she protests that she didn’t take his watch, she begins to sob uncontrollably and Gregory tells the hostess that she is too sick after all. Brian leaves his seat during the commotion and follows the couple back to their house. 

In Paula’s bedroom, Gregory is pacing, ranting that he has tried to keep her “illness” quiet, but her insistence on going to the concert has brought everything out in the open. Paula tries to recall when things started to slip from her. She traces it back to the letter she found, and Gregory insists that there never was a letter at all, and he was just playing along with her. Poor Paula.

Gregory tells her that Paula’s mother was insane and died in an asylum. He tells her that Paula’s symptoms are the same as hers. He then accuses her of knowing that Brian would be at the concert. Paula tells him that she has no idea who he is. Gregory becomes angry and accuses her of lying to him. He tells her what she is doing is worse than lying. She is forgetting. He then threatens her that he will bring in two doctors to have her legally committed. 

Gregory leaves the house again, and as he walks away, he hears footsteps behind him. Ahead of him is the officer that Brian  had assigned to the street. Once again, Gregory disappears into the shadows, as Brian and the officer meet and try to figure out where he went. 

The Dimming of the Gas light

Once again, the dimming of the gas light and footsteps above her head plagues Paula. She screams for Elizabeth, who is coming upstairs. She asks Elizabeth if she turned on the gas downstairs. Elizabeth tells her no, and that she is the only one in the house. Noises appear overhead again. Elizabeth is mostly deaf, so when Paula asks her if she hears the noises, she says she doesn’t and tells her it is just her imagination. 

Brian has spent his breakfast making a diagram to figure out how Gregory disappeared. The officer comes to his house and tells him he saw Gregory coming out of the shadows, dirty and disheveled. He then tells Brian that he has had breakfast with Nancy. She told him that Gregory informed her that Paula might be going away for a very long time, and he asked her to stay on and look after him. (I bet she did….slut!). Brian sees this news as a reason to speed up their investigation. Brian tells the officer to get Nancy out of the house in the evening and he will stop by and see Paula after Gregory leaves for the night. 

Paula is trying to read, but Gregory’s words are causing her brain to spin. Brian sees Gregory leave, and then goes to ring to bell on the house. Elizabeth tells Brian she won’t see anyone.  He pushes his way past Elizabeth. Paula comes down the stairs, and begs him to leave. Brian shows her a glove that Paula’s Aunt had given him; the match to the glove she had in the cabinet. Brian asks if she is planning on going away. She says no, unless Gregory sends her away. Brian tells her that she is not crazy and he is there to prove it. He asks if there is anyone else there, and she says no. He tells her that the gas went down, which relieves Paula that he saw it as well. She tells him that every night, the light goes down and she hears things. 

Brian begins to put the pieces together as they hear noises. Brian helps to convince her that she is not crazy and it is actually her husband who is upstairs, making the noises. We then see Gregory, going through everything, looking for the jewels that he could not find when he murdered Paula’s aunt. 

Brian Assists Paula

Brian asks if there are any weapons, and Brian breaks into Gregory’s desk to see if his revolver is there. While Brian is looking, she finds the letter that Gregory said didn’t exist. Brian shows her handwriting samples to show Paula that Gregory and the man who wrote the letter to her Aunt are the same person. He tells Paula that Gregory is trying to drive her crazy so he could get control of her property and search for the jewels with no obstacles. Brian tells her that Gregory married a woman in Prague. As they are talking, the gas goes back up. Gregory leaves through the sky light when light catches the jewels, sewn into one of the costumes in an open trunk. 

Brian leaves and asks Elizabeth to take care of Paula. Brian waits for Gregory to come home, but he enters through the boarded up door to the attic. He quickly rushes to his room to examine the jewels, and he finds someone broke into his desk. Enraged, he goes to Paula’s room. Paula is one very angry woman. Hell hath no fury, asshole.

Frightened, but she knows what is going on now. He is so cruel to her. She tells him it wasn’t her, he continues to question her. She lets it slip that “he” opened it. He asks Elizabeth who the man was, but she says no one was here. Paula is reeling, but Elizabeth is protecting her. As Paula spirals, Gregory continues to spin her. Just then Brian shows up at the door. He confronts Gregory. He asks Paula to leave to keep her safe. Gregory escorts her from the room. Brian confronts him about finding the jewels. They struggle over the gun and they go upstairs. Elizabeth calls for the officer, and he joins the fray. 

Our resident true crime sleuth, Miss Thwaites, enters the house to see what is going on. Brian and the officer have tied Gregory to a chair. Paula asks to see him alone. She begins to play his own game with him. She wants to torture him the way he tortured her. But the best torture is to let the police take him away. 

The film ends with a suggested future romance between Paula and Brian, and a possibility of happily ever after. 

Conclusion

This is one heck of a psychological thriller, and if you have ever had a relationship that involved gaslighting, this could be a trigger. Having lived through two such relationships, to see it played out in such an early film makes me know that there were many who came before me. We recognize this abuse more and more now, but still the abuse happens. 

This is a very important film, which is helpful, especially by younger people who could use it as examples of red flags in their own relationships. That is the social side of it. As a film, the acting is wonderful and the use of light, shadow and fog are superb. Now that spooky season is over, time to get yourself mentally prepared for all those holiday gatherings with the family.

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Halloween: What Makes it a Masterpiece

It’s that time of year again. The last weekend of Halloween, where the falls are ten different shades of orange, it’s finally sweater weather, and it’s time to pull out the big guns for horror movies. Every Halloween, I always run a back to back screening of Trick ‘r’ Treat followed by the one and only Halloween. Sure, it would seem like sacrilege to not watch Halloween just on its namesake alone. However, every time I view this film, I still get the goosebumps I always do. Just in one watch, you can trace all the horror movies that came after like it’s a family lineage. Let’s look into Halloween: what makes it a masterpiece?

This film kickstarted the slasher genre, started the sequel mania of the 80s and still holds relevance today with two more sequels out and one on the way, all three with the ambitious task of washing away whatever happened to the Halloween timelines of years’ past. Let’s talk about Michael Myers and the epic crater John Carpenter left on the face of moviemaking forever this Halloweekend.

The Beginning

Oh boy, look at that hair. The man clad in the brilliant bellbottoms is John Carpenter himself. Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past fifty years, you should know his name and his unapologetic nature when it comes to filmmaking. He actually has an Oscar that he received for a short film he did when he was a student at USC. He had a couple full-length features under his belt before tackling Halloween, including the cult film Assault on Precinct 13, in which garnered him a lot of praise for making such a surreal movie on such a low budget. It was at the Milan Film Festival screening of that film that Carpenter was approached by Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad to take on a film concept of a psycho killer stalking and killing babysitters. Carpenter took on the originally titled The Babysitter Murders and got to work.

Akkad made the suggestion to set the night of horrors around Halloween night, which is seemingly the most obvious night for horrors. However, there was no horror film before this that had taken on that setting, so it was both a genius idea and a risky one. Carpenter wasn’t a stranger to holiday themed films, however. He was actually in contact with Bob Clark for a potential sequel for Black Christmas, and when the Halloween gig came up, he asked him permission to use an anonymous-killer tactic like the former film. Clark said yes and the outline for Michael Myers was set.

The Writing

John Carpenter and Debrah Hill | John carpenter, John carpenter halloween,  Michael myers halloween

John Carpenter wrote Halloween’s screenplay in ten days. Ten. Days. He wrote it with the collaboration of his girlfriend at the time Debra Hill. She used her experience as a babysitter and her perspective to write the female dialogue, specifically Laurie Strode’s. Haddonfield, New Jersey turned into Haddonfield, Illinois and Carpenter adopted the small town field by naming the streets after streets in his own home town.

Those aren’t the only homages however, as two characters–Tommy Doyle and Dr. Loomis–are in reference to characters in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Psycho. There is another huge connection to Hitchcock, but we’ll get to that later.

The story surrounding Michael Myers as a child is an addition Carpenter made to the story he laid out previously for this hopeful sequel to Black Christmas, making Michael his own character rather than a copycat slasher. While the original financiers wanted a more playful Halloween setting, Carpenter went full-Samhain. Michael soared above a criminally insane human to an evil entity.

Debra Hill: A Horror Legend

Halloween' 1978: The Times Finally Reviews a Horror Classic - The New York  Times

I’m going to pause the momentum of the story to talk about Debra Hill. She is the reason that Halloween, Laurie Strode and Michael Myers are the way that they are. She took her female perspective and avid feminism and injected it into Laurie Strode, which is one of the reasons she is the ultimate final girl. Laurie does everything she can to stay alive, and she is a tough badass, but she is also showing her trauma and emotions at the same time. The shot displayed above is one of my favorite moments in the film, and while it is an impressive shot in general, Laurie has had to walk in on her dead friends, is responsible for two kids and is fighting tooth and nail to stay alive. Of course, she’s going to cry, who wouldn’t?

Hill’s writing, however, allows Laurie to cry without losing any of her power that she has continued to have in previous scenes. Another piece Hill added was Michael killing the innocent, sweet German Shepard in order to provoke emotions that most horror fans don’t feel when they’re watching other humans dying. She inserted that scene in just to get across how evil and merciless Michael is, further enhancing his image as the Boogeyman himself. It’s sad that her mastery wasn’t used in later films, but it is what makes the first film stand out in regards to character development. Remember her name and know that she should have as much credit as Carpenter does.

The Casting

This film had a lower budget, therefore the salary was limited to the prospective cast. The first role to come into fruition was Dr. Sam Loomis due to a lot of rejects. First offered to Peter Cushing, and then Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasence adorned the iconic role, and we can’t imagine anyone else. The other actors fell into place by relation of the crew or working on previous Carpenter projects, but the role of Laurie Strode was the last to click in. Jamie Lee Curtis was not Carpenter’s first choice, nor was his discovery.

Halloween 1978: How A Subtle Easter Egg Hints At Laurie Strode's Dark Side

Once again, credit goes to Debra Hill, who noticed her on her multiple guest star performances on various TV shows of the 70’s, including titles such as Quincy, M.E. and Buck Rogers. What really interested Hill was Curtis’ mother. Her mother was Janet Leigh, who just happened to be Marion Crane in a little film known as Psycho. Hill knew that the tie to Janet Leigh would be great advertisement for the film, so they asked her if she wanted part. She was hesitant as she related more to Laurie’s socialite friends, but she took on the role anyways. We’re so glad she did, as Laurie Strode is iconic, and Sidney Prescott is the only one that could even give her a run for her money as the best final girl, and Laurie would still reign the supreme.

The Production

Halloween was shot in twenty days. A few facts about this filming process:

Mark Roberts Resurrects Michael Myers' Iconic 1978 Personal Effects | Dead  Entertainment
  • It was one of the first films to feature the Steadicam, which gives it those sweeping and following shots in the movie.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis’ reactions were not necessarily a reaction to what was happening. She and Carpenter developed a ‘scare scale’ from 1 to 10, and Carpenter would let her know what level she should be at in each shot. She had different facial expressions, emotions and screams for each level.
  • “The Shape” or Michael Myers’ actor Nick Castle received no direction from Carpenter other than the head tilt post-Bob pinning. Carpenter told him to “‘Examine him like a butterfly display.'”
  • There is a lack of pumpkins present compared to a usual Halloween, and that was because they filmed it in the spring. They had one shot available for the scene with Tommy Doyle as they had a little over three pumpkins on set and most were needed for later scenes.
  • The most iconic fact that most know: the Michael Myers mask is a modified William Shatner mask. They bought the mask for $1.98, stretched out its eyes a bit and painted it a blueish white to make it the mask.

Overall, it was a successful shoot, given the pressure on Carpenter to deliver in such a short time frame. The only thing left that will sell the scares is the music. That meant hiring a composer, right? Well, what if your director and writer is also a musician? Yes, Carpenter is a multitalented badass.

THe Music: One of the most iconic parts of the film

John Carpenter

John Carpenter is the one behind the iconic main and chase theme of the film. All produced by him and his synthesizer, he was paid $10,000 dollars total for the direction, writing, producing and composing of Halloween. It only took him three days and had assistance from Dan Wyman–a music professor–to write the score into sheet music, given that Carpenter only played by ear and memorization and could not read or write sheet music. The main theme is an iconic pop culture reference the first few notes distinguishes it instantly. Not to mention, it’s a bop.

Other songs used were “Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes and “Don’t Fear (The Reaper)” by Blue Oyster Cult, which fit the feel of the movie perfectly. They make references to it in the awfully cheesy sequel Halloween: H20, when “Mr. Sandman” comes on the radio and Laurie promptly shuts it off. A very meta moment and a nod to the original that makes me giggle ever time.

The Reception: revolutionary for indie and horror alike

Amazon.com: Halloween 1978 Movie Poster 27in x 40in (Movie Theatre Size)  Horror Film: Posters & Prints

The film got a wide release and raked in $70 million dollars worldwide. This was and still remains one of the highest grossing independent films of all time, given that box office and movie theaters were still in the evolution process post-Jaws. If people didn’t know Carpenter, they sure did now. Not only was it met with financial success, it had massive critical acclaim, including a overly positive review from Roger Ebert. This kicked the door down for more independent horror to get wider releases, and the craze of home video was on the horizon which propelled horror into a more popular genre of the 1980s.

Laurie Strode became the face for the final girl, with multiple horror female protagonists made in the image of her. However, as I mentioned in my previous article on final girls, they focused a bit too much on one aspect: her virginity. Knowing more on Debra Hill, I assume she frowns upon this perception and would much rather the praise centers on Laurie’s actions, not her purity. Nonetheless, the deeply inspired Friday the 13th came out two years later and solidified the “you have sex, you die” rule.

The Sequels, reboots and Remakes: Twisty Timelines

This also opened a can of worms that would eventually harm the horror genre. This is the birth of the bloated sequel, in which constant iterations of the same thing taints the original project. This happened to Halloween, with wild backstories including Laurie Strode is actually Michael’s sister, which doesn’t add up in the logical timeline. Then there is the third one, which is actually a return to John Carpenter’s idea of making the Halloween series an anthology. No Michael Myers however meant a cut budget and negative reviews due to the villain’s absence.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) - IMDb

Then came 4,5 and 6 starring which contains a half baked story, the worst mask known to man, and a young Paul Rudd. These forgettable sequels brought us up to the mid-90s. 1998, however, the studio wanted to scrap the three most recent sequels so they rebooted and made a direct sequel to Halloween II known as Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later. Jamie Lee Curtis returns and we get a cheese-fest with good kills and LL Cool J. It stepped off strong and followed up with the worst of the sequels, Halloween: Resurrection.

It is all scrapped next time with Rob Zombie’s remake, which spawned a sequel. Instead of Michael Myers being simply evil, Zombie pack a bunch of backstory on Michael’s childhood and adds semantics to his nature. While some people really like these movies, I don’t care for them, as I just don’t care for Rob Zombie’s filmmaking that much. However, these movies received lukewarm reviews from critics and lean more on the brutal side versus the original.

The True Sequels: They do have carpenter’s blessing

This brings us to 2018. Who had it on their life bingo card that the true sequels to Halloween would be co-written by Danny McBride? Well, it’s here and we’re now two films into a finishing sequel for the series. In conjunction with David Gordon Green This is all with Carpenter’s blessing. Boy, is it a hard reboot too, and we’re thankful for it.

Jamie Lee Curtis on Saying Goodbye to Laurie Strode & Halloween Kills -  Variety

They’ve scrapped the entire sequel lineage, which included cutting off Halloween II. Therefore, the whole “she’s-his-sister” bit is out of the picture and cleans the timeline up. We also get a semantic-less Michael again, bringing him back to his evil throne once again with no motives. The special effects are up, the budget is up and Jamie Lee Curtis is back. I personally like where these sequels are going, and am excited for the next installment. It feels like the right fit and the fitting end. You can check out the most recent installment Halloween Kills on Peacock or in theaters today.

Conclusion

It was fun deep diving into this little wormhole and have this be the wrapping up of spooky season. Thanks for joining me in this abbreviated timeline of the making of this brilliant film and staple in the horror genre. Next week, the Mother of the Void takes on Gaslight and I will be deep diving into some psychological thriller picks for the transitional time between spooky season and the holiday season. The scares aren’t stopping, however. So stay tuned and follow The Void of Celluloid here on WordPress, or Facebook/Instagram/Twitter to stay up to date with the spookies. Happy Halloween, lovelies.

Mother of the Void Presents: The Old Dark House

It was my pleasure this week to watch “The Old Dark House” from 1932. This film was the first starring credited role for Boris Karloff, his work in Frankenstein only had him mentioned in the credits, as well as being the first film for movie greats Charles Laughton and Raymond Massey. Also, for those of you who are fans of James Cameron’s Titanic, it stars Gloria Stuart, aged Rose, in all her breathtaking youthful beauty. Now before I get into my probably long winded analysis, let me just say, this caused me to laugh harder than I have in a while. It is definitely a comedy horror, not the other way around. So join me, won’t you, as we spend an evening in “The Old Dark House”.  You can check out my last review here.

The Old Dark House (1932) - IMDb

Setting the scene

The Old Dark House - 1932 - Trailers From Hell

The film opens with the credits playing against a backdrop of a storm. Married couple Philip (Raymond Massey) and Margaret Waverton (Gloria Stuart) are precariously making their way through a storm in their very open automobile. It is not indicated at first that they are married, but the bickering between the two gives it away. This is something that translates no matter what decade a film is from. It is revealed that Penderel (Melvyn Douglas) is attempting to sleep in the backseat, and is actively ignoring the embattled couple in front of him.  The witty banter between the three brought a smile to my face.

Penderel’s sarcasm and singing tries to lighten the mood in the situation, but after getting trapped by a landslide, the only way is forward, as Margaret notices lights in the distance. The three soaked travelers anxiously wait as they pound on the door of the old dark house,  and when they finally are acknowledged, it is by an incoherent Morgan (Boris Karloff). He closes the door in their faces, and they hear a bell ring, before he returns to gesture them inside. Once inside, they are joined by Horace Femm (Ernest Thesiger), a very thin and effeminate man. As I mention this, let me address something about this film for a moment.

Boris Karloff and James Whale

There are a number of stereotypes, and gender role reversals in this film.  For 1932, it had to be mildly shocking to see a number of the men, take on “feminane personality traits”, and to see women take charge and have control.  There are also insinuations, in the conclusion of the film of affection, although not without its problems, between two of the male characters. If you have seen the film “Gods and Monsters”, there is some exploration of the relationship between Boris Karloff and James Whale, the director.

It was the making of “The Old Dark House” that brought an end to their “personal partnership” as it was referred to. I can see a direct line of homosexual stereotypes in film that can be traced back to this film. They are played for laughs, and if you can see how brave it was for these filmmakers to even allude to an alternative lifestyle in 1932, I believe you can appreciate the performances, and understand how other filmmakers would look to it as an example of how to be represented, without being shunned, through humor. As a straight woman, this is just my opinion. I hope that it does not offend. Ok….back to the film. 

Back to the story…

The Old Dark House (1932) - ALL HORROR

The three travelers ask if Morgan has explained their situation, and Horace reveals that Morgan is mute, not the word he uses, but we will leave it at that. Rebecca Femm (Eva Moore), Horace’s sister,  then appears, demanding to know what these strangers want. The three try to talk to her and explain, but Horace says his sister is deaf for the most part and he moves closer to her, loudly explaining that they need a place to stay because of the storm. Rebecca, angrily tells her brother that of course they cannot stay. The three begin to plead their case, with Pendrel again using humor to prove their point, causing Horace to panic that they are now trapped in the house.

Rebecca mocks her brother’s fear and his lack of religious belief, but she assures her brother that they are safe in the house. She asks Morgan if remembers a previous flood and he indicates he does through some hand gestures and a very suggestive finger placement. Horace tells the travelers that they will have to stay and it is their own misfortune that they do. The siblings both tell them they have no beds for them, but they can stay by the fire. 

Philip and Penderel follow Morgan outside to move their car to shelter and bring in their bags, despite Rebecca’s protests. Horace brings out a bottle of gin, and he and Penderel discuss tramas of war, to which Penderel shows his wit yet again. Horace expresses fear again of being trapped in the house and shares that Morgan can be “an uncivilized brute”, who tends to drink on nights like this.

Fleshly Love… gross

Margaret asks Rebecca if she can go and change her wet clothes, and she takes the woman to a bedroom. After lighting candles Rebecca explains that this room was her sister’s who died. She shows disdain for her sister, who led a fast and loose lifestyle. Her words visibly frighten Margaret, and she asks for privacy so she can change.

However, Rebecca continues to carry on how her whole family was godless and she was the only one who would pray. She discloses that her father is still alive, and wicked. Rebecca accused Margaret of being wicked as well, “wriggling in the jollies of fleshly love”. Margaret continues to change, despite the old woman’s presence. Rebecca finally leaves, and Margaret has changed into a revealing silk dress. For some unknown reason, she opens the window, causing things to blow all over the room, then makes a half-hearted attempt to close it again, before crossing to a mirror and being barraged in her head by Rebecca’s unapproving words. She tries again to close the window before apparently forgetting how to open the door. 

When she finally makes her way back to the group, she is greeted by Rebecca’s scream of “DINNER”. The group goes to the table as Morgan brings out a roast. Rebecca chastises Horace for not saying Grace, which he refers to as a “tribal tradition”. They begin to dish up and Horace becomes quite insistent on everyone having a potato. Rebecca is quickly eating her meal while the others pick at theirs. We get the first signs of an infatuation Morgan may have with Margaret, as he stares at her while filling her water glass.

A Knock at the door

Deep Focus: The Old Dark House

Just then, there is a knock at the door. At first Rebecca does not want to let anyone else in, but is convinced that the newcomers should not have to wait in the storm. She and Morgan go to the door and greet the loud pair, Sir William Porterhouse and Gladys. They are not a married couple, and Penderel begins to flirt with Gladys and she readily returns the gesture. They all return to the table,and Horace continues his potato pushing. 

When the meal is finished, we catch up with the crew around the fire. Penderel continues to flirt with Gladys, while cutting Sir William down at the same time. William tells his history to the group, and he explains that Gladys is actually a chorus girl..

Rebecca enters, and tells Horace that Morgan is drunk, and there is hesitation from Horace when he tells William that Morgan is the butler. 

Penderel and Gladys take the opportunity to go to the stables to retrieve the whiskey that is in the car. The two have very good chemistry, and they pop open the bottle and stay in the stable. 

What’s at the top of the stairs?

Back in the house, the lights have gone out, and when William asks if they have a lamp, Horace is too frightened to go and get the lamp that is on the top landing. Rebecca accuses him of being too afraid to go up on his own. She sends Philip with him and with much hesitation, Horace leads the way. 

When they reach Horace’s room, he begins to make excuses so they don’t have to go get the lamp. They suddenly hear what sounds like a high pitched laugh coming from up the stairs. Horace sends Philip up the stairs by himself, as he hides in his room. Philip comes to a door, which he listens at briefly before continuing up the stairs. When he gets to the landing, he sees the lamp, but also sees a padlock on the door ahead of him, and a tray with half eaten food on the table. 

Downstairs, Rebecca comes rushing in, yelling at Margaret to come and shut the window she opened, and William volunteers to do so, following Rebecca down the hall and leaving her alone in the main room. Margaret begins playing her shadow on the wall and her imagination gets the best of her. She screams and goes to the door, opening it, calling for the lovebirds in the stables. As she waits for a reply, we see a hand over her head, closing the door in front of her. A very drunk Morgan begins to make advances on her. He chases her around the room, turning over the table, and chases her up the stairs. Philip and Margaret meet on the stairs, and she tells him what has happened. He and Morgan fight and he hits him with the lamp, knocking Morgan down the stairs. 

The lovebirds

The Old Dark House — Cineaste Magazine

Philip explains that he heard a strange voice upstairs and asks Margaret to come and check it out with him. On the way up the stairs, Margaret is overcome with what has just happened and she and Philip take a rest for a bit. Understandable. This also gives us a chance to check up on the lovebirds. 

In the stable, Penderel and Gladys are getting to know each other while sitting in the back of the car. They are having one of those chats. You know those chats, when you learn everything you need to know about a person in a matter of minutes; one of you is a war veteran, the other is a woman who hangs out with a guy because he gives her money. Gladys explains she is only with William to give him company; he doesn’t expect anything from her. Of course, this conversation has made them fall in love and after this short amount of time. They are ready to move in together, at her suggestion and Penderel has to hint that he is ready to propose.

Gladys wants to stay in the car, but Penderel convinces her to go back inside. He very awkwardly carries her back to the house. He pounds on the door to wake a sleeping and annoyed William. Gladys breaks the news to him that she has fallen in love and will no longer be with him. He gives his reluctant blessing, and Penderel tells him he is planning on proposing. The three of them clean up the mess Morgan made downstairs.

Back to the house

Why there's more going on in The Old Dark House than you might think | BFI

The Wavertons have recovered and head up to the bedroom containing Rebecca and Horance’s father, Rodrick. Even though the role was credited to a man, it was played by a woman, Elspeth Dudgeon. This continues the effeminate traits of the males in this family.  Rodrick explains that the locked door contains his other son, Saul, who is insane and wants to burn down the house. They have kept Morgan on as the butler because he is the only one who can handle Saul. 

Philip goes down to check on Morgan, who is no longer on the stairs. Horace emerges from his room to tell Phillip that Morgan has gone upstairs to let Saul out of his room. Margaret and Philip lock Rodrick’s room to keep him safe. Then, they go downstairs to inform the others what is going on. 

Rebecca has joined the others  to be informed that Saul is out of his room. Morgan descends the stairs as she begs him to take Saul back to his room. Morgan makes a beeline for Margaret as the men fight to take him into the kitchen to lock him up. The three younger men struggle with him as a high pitched laugh is heard. Penderel returns to the main room and convinces Gladys and Margaret to hide in an adjoining room. 

Pretty, pretty Penderel

Penderel waits at the bottom of the stair, as Saul, a very slight man comes down. He tells him that he has been locked up because he knows that Rebecca and Horace killed their sister and that Morgan beats him. Penderel tries to open the front door, but it is locked. Saul’s madness begins to show. He finds a knife on the floor and Penderel tries to stall, concealing the women in the closet. 

Saul reveals he knows all about flames and fire. While he is speaking, Penderel tries to escape to get a weapon. Saul stops him and Saul tells Penderel that he wants to kill him. He tells Saul that he likes him and asks if Saul likes him as well. Saul says he loves him. Boy, Penderel is a popular fella! It is then that he starts to quote the bible and explaining why he has to kill Penderel. Penderel distracts Saul and tries to escape and he is knocked unconscious.

Saul takes the opportunity to set the upstairs curtains on fire, as he gleefully laughs. When Penderel comes to, he goes upstairs, and fights with him, ending with both men falling from the second floor. In the meantime, Philip and William are trying to break down the door to the main room, which Rebecca locked, and the women are anxiously waiting for the coast to be clear. 

Morgan’s Escape

Morgan breaks out of his makeshift prison and opens the door for Gladys and Margaret. They both scream as they see Morgan in the door. Gladys tries to get around Morgan to go to Penderel. He twists her shoulder while glaring at Margaret, causing Gladys to pass out. Margaret pleads with Morgan to let her help both men, including Saul. It is with the mention of Saul’s name that Morgan rushes to the man.

He throws off Penderel, who has landed on top of Saul and lifts him up, cradling him in his arms as Morgan’s lips briefly rest on Saul’s forehead. Morgan begins to cry as he realizes that Saul is dead. He looks lost as he gently carries Saul back up the stairs. Philip and William enter the room to comfort the women. Gladys goes over to Penderel, and cradles him in almost the same way as Morgan had Saul. With tears of joy she announces that Penderel is alive. This is the last we see of Morgan.

Morning has arrived and Horace comes down stairs telling them that they can go now and get an ambulance. Margaret and Philip leave to get help and the movie ends with Penderel proposing to Gladys as William snores in the background. 

Ahead of its time

Considering this film was made in 1932, it was very progressive with its views on religion, morality and homosexualtiy. I knew nothing about this film prior to watching it, and it really took me by surprise. I had seen the film I mentioned earlier, “Gods and Monsters”, but forgot about the relationship between Boris Karloff and James Whale. In my defense it has been many, many years since I had watched it. While some of the subject matter is dark, it is never ok to chase a woman around a table, it was a rather light hearted film. I loved the bickering between the married couple in the beginning, and Penderel was probably my favorite character, even if he did move rather quickly in his personal life. 

Karloff did as well as could be expected, only having his facial expressions, body language and a few grunts to work with. It is worth an hour of your time to check out this classic. If nothing else, it will confirm your suspicion that in Titanic, young Rose looked nothing like her portrait.

31 Days of Horror: The Final Ten Days

So we’ve made it everybody. 31 Days of Horror: The final Ten Days of October are upon us and we are getting spookier by the minute. Let’s finish this spooky season with a bang! If you want to spend a night in the theater, Halloween Kills is out and I personally thought it was quite good. Or later this week, Edgar Wright is taking a slash at the thriller/horror genre with his new flick Last Night in Soho which has already gotten rave reviews, so be sure to check that one out as well. As before, the calendar is down below:

This is the final installment of this series, which has been a fun and exciting journey. I cannot wait for next year’s lineup, but right now, let’s live in the moment. Did you miss the last installments and see a film you’d rather have these final ten days? You can find Week One, Week Two and Week Three by clicking on their respective titles.

October 22nd: An American WereWolf in London

An American Werewolf in London' Movie Facts | Mental Floss

Coming it at number 10 is a classic, An American Werewolf in London. A dark, dark comedy about American tourists, the Moors and beware-ing them (yes, both of them). The film has everything from porno theaters to brilliant special effects, so much so that I’ve been alarmed by the amount of people showing their younger teenagers this movie. I started young in horror films, but my mom didn’t let me watch this one until I was sixteen. I’m grateful for that, however, because I feel like I was prepared for what a weird romp this one is. There isn’t really a short, concise synopsis that won’t give away some major plot points, so if you haven’t seen this masterpiece already, make sure to check it out!

For this film, I have chosen another werewolf flick Werewolves Within. It’s a fun horror comedy with as many twists and turns as this one, therefore I think it keeps the tone-ball rolling. In conjunction with this furball of a night, I suggest pairing the night with the Werewolves of London cocktail (or a sparkling apple cider in a pint glass to give the impression of chilling at the Slaughtered Lamb). Obviously this has to be paired with some traditional English pub food, so these Miniature Shepherd’s Pies are the right choice for some yummy finger food. No Moors nearby (unless you’re in the UK), so you should be able to relax. Just don’t wander foggy fields alone.

October 23rd: You’re Next

You're Next (2011) - IMDb

Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, this typical home invasion movie is not what it seems. You’re Next is in the same ballpark as The Strangers that were showcased earlier this month, but I truly believe it delivers a more impactful punch. Not to mention those animal masks are absolutely terrifying. Who knew a family dinner could go so wrong? The director, Adam Wingard, went on to film shorts for the V/H/S franchise as well as direct the lofty film Godzilla vs. Kong, so why not check out the film that put him on the map?

I’m actually going to start out with a mocktail, since drinking too much around the in-laws is always not the greatest idea. Let’s start off with a blushed Watermelon Mint Cooler that is as red as those poor tablecloths might be (here’s a alcoholic version). As for the food, estranged family dinners scream “easy elegance,” so pull up to the party with these Easy Pesto Tortellini Skewers. As for double features, TVOC’s pick has to be V/H/S, as it matches the tone and features the same director as well as plenty others. Both films are going to be considered classics in the next few years, so might as well get ahead of the pack.

OCtober 24th: The Exorcist

The Exorcist Reboot Will Kick Off Trilogy With Ellen Burstyn Returning -  Den of Geek

It has finally made its appearance. Many claim this film is the scariest film out there, and I could easily agree with them, though I think scary factor changes from movie to movie. Poor little Reagan messes around with a Ouija board one night and gets targeted by a demon. What proceeds is one of the gnarliest possessions ever on screen. This film also has a reputation for being one of the most cursed/haunted sets, with a lot of misfortune occuring left and right during filming. These stories added on to its notoriety and got the film banned in the UK for eleven years. Yikes.

Of course, I had to pair this with an appropriately named Satan’s Whiskers cocktail balanced out with a Holy Mocktail: Negroni, which you can find more classic cocktails-turned-mocktails in this series Roberts and June did when they gave up alcohol for Lent. Keep it on the holy side with these Lamb Kabobs with Tzatziki Sauce, which is nice and traditional in contrast with the brutality on screen. Then make a devilish sandwich with two choices of a double feature. A modern take would be Hereditary, but you can keep it classic with The Omen.

October 25th: Tales from the Hood

Why Tales From The Hood Is Still The Best Horror Anthology Movie

I featured this film in my anthology list and I have been recommending it every second I get. It’s a fun Creepshow-style film with a lot of social commentary and plenty of camp. Produced by Spike Lee himself, it is definitely a staple in 90s horror that gets forgotten and also drips with modern day relevance. It’s a fun ride perfect for this Monday night and I promise you won’t regret making this one of your choices for your Halloween lineup.

To match the crazy mad-scientist vibe the storyteller has, I decided to go with some wacky concoctions. There is the beautiful, glowing Halloween Hpnotist and the zero proof Blue Shoe. As for snacks, I wanted something short and sweet like an anthology so here is extremely simple 2-Ingredient Nutella Brownies. Now, for double features, I did go the stereotypical route with Jordan Peele’s Get Out. However, I don’t think you can get enough commentary and diversity in your film digest, and I know there is still a bunch of people that haven’t seen Get Out and I know there is a ton of people that have missed Tales From the Hood, so it’s never too late to add these to your film watching portfolio.

October 26th: Poltergeist

The Gadgets From Poltergeist That Fueled Our Nightmares | WIRED

This film has so much heart, it’s almost silly to call it a horror film. This was the first horror film that I watched and I definitely think that this is probably the greatest starter horror for younger folks. A suburbia nightmare–little Carol Anne makes contact with the beyond only to get sucked into another dimension. Her parents take dire measures in order to get her back, not absent of random bumps along the way. What could cause such a powerful poltergeist in the first place?

I actually found a cocktail called The Poltergeist and thought that was fitting, of course. However, I think there isa sort of softness that comes from this film due to its adorable protagonist. Therefore I’ve chosen this pastel green shake that matches the softness: a Green Grasshopper Shake. The food pairing is a disturbing one given its context in the film, but at least it will be tasty up until that point and make great leftovers: Honey Garlic Chicken Legs. I’m a big fan of cold left over chicken legs, given my face doesn’t fall off afterwards. A good double feature for this one is the classic film When a Stranger Calls, which is another starter horror that leans more on the edgier side.

October 27th: Evil Dead II

Evil Dead II (1987) - IMDb

Ah, one of my favorite movies of all time. And before you protest and say that you have to watch the first one before this, you’re incorrect. This film is pure horror-comedy genius from Sam Rami and features Bruce Campbell as the iconic Ash, fighting the Deadites one groovy step at a time. It’s corny, it’s gory and it’s hilarious. It’s also a remake of the first one and a sequel at the same time, making the Evil Dead trilogy one of the most unique ones to date. Hail to the king, baby.

Which brings me to the OBVIOUS follow-up Army of Darkness. The way the film ends, it’s impossible to not throw on the next one to see how Ash holds up in medieval times. As far as pairings go, this Maple Mocktail will make you feel all cozied up in a non-cursed cabin. However, if you want to jump head first and start reciting the Necronomicon for fun times, pair it with the shooter and the cocktail The Cabin and the Deadite and snack on some Necronominoms.

October 28th: [Rec]

Why the Terrifying REC Ending Works So Well

I’m a fan of Spanish horror, if you can’t tell. This goes down for me as the best found footage horror out there, and if you don’t agree, you can at least agree it’s one of the scariest. A television reporter and cameraman follow medical personnel into a dark apartment building and are locked in with something sinister. The US remade this film under the name Quarantine, so if it sounds familiar, that’s why. But sit through subtitles one last time to get a good scare from across the pond.

I went Spanish again with the drinks and snacks, so we have a delicious, refreshing Rebujito for the cocktail of choice. As for the zero proof crowd, a Virgin White Peach Sangria will give that refreshing feeling much like the Rebujito. Since we are creating a creepy atmosphere, pair it with some comfort with this Spanish potato salad: Ensaladilla Rusa. Sticking with the twisted zombie vibe, I am pairing Pontypool, a fun Canadian horror film, with this film.

October 29th: The Final Girls

The Final Girls': LAFF Review – The Hollywood Reporter

This film is such a fun meta-horror film that it usually soars to the top of my list when I need a quick recommendation. It works for both die-hard horror fans and newbies, as it describes the tropes much like Scream lays out the rules. With a bunch of familiar faces as well as all of them well versed in comedy acting, it’s an easy, feel-good movie meets a gory slasher flick. Oh, it also tiptoes on fantasy with the whole being-in-the-actual-movie plot. What are you waiting for? Call your friends and let’s get the ball rolling for a Friday night romp.

Since Billy’s choice of weapon is the large, heavy blade, I found a cocktail called the Liquid Machete. It seemed fitting for this hilarious bloodbath. But if you are more of the Kumbaya type, dig into this delicious Mexican Hot Chocolate. For food, I leaned into the camping vibe and found this delicious Hawaiian BBQ Pork Walking Taco that allow for easy cleanup post movie night. As far as double features go, I remembered this little flick that is a great romp and a fun, quick follow up is the indie film You Might Be the Killer. A unique film format meets an even more unique film form–a perfect start to the Halloweekend.

October 30th: Trick ‘r’ Treat

In Praise of Trick 'r Treat, the Ultimate "Halloween Night" Movie - Paste

This. This film is the ideal Halloween movie and I stand by that. An anthology horror tale meets a comic book tone laced with camp and comedy. All the tales intertwine with each other and blossoms into this fun twist on Halloween traditions. Not to mention, it introduces one of the most adorable horror villains, Sam. All you gotta do is follow the rules to avoid his bloody wrath. Simple enough, but a colorful cast of characters seem to make things a little difficult for Sam to catch up. I could watch this film over and over during October, so therefore it is an annual tradition of mine.

As far as snacks and drinks go, we have to let the Halloween flag fly. I found a spooky cocktails complete with theatrics known as The Witch’s Heart. Purple, spooky and bubbling with delight. If we are craving the more sweet style of life, I also found this lovely Pumpkin Milkshake. Since this film is a grab-bag of spooky delight, snack on this Sweet and Salty Halloween Snack Mix. As far as fun films suited for spooky season go, my double feature for this film is a guilty pleasure for many, and that is the 2001 film Thirteen Ghosts. The ending of this film is very bleh, but Matthew Lillard is a yes in my book.

October 31st: Halloween

Halloween' 1978: The Times Finally Reviews a Horror Classic - The New York  Times

You had to see this coming, whether or not you paid attention to the calendar. John Carpenter’s Halloween is a tried and true masterpiece that has served influence for hundreds of horror films, so it is always a good call to re-watch it come Halloween time. What’s not a better time than actual Halloween night? It’s the tale of Michael Myers that feels even fresher than before with its new sequel that came out only a week ago, so the time is better than ever to revisit the original!

The obvious double feature is a triple feature with the 2018 Halloween and Halloween Kills following up the classic. This is a night to go all out, but sometimes you want a quieter night in, so let’s pair this up with some Michael Myers Jell-O Shots to add to some booze to your snacks. A mocktail for the night is the Cereal Killer (minus the Cognac) or plus the Cognac if we want another cocktail for the night. To up the comfort and the tasty treats, snack on some adorable Ghost Pizza Bagels. Be sure to toast to Michael all dressed up in his ghost costume.


Conclusion

So there it is! All 31 days laid out and prepped. This list is formatted for October but feel free to use it year round when in a good mood for a scary movie night. Thank you all for tuning in each week and jumping down these delectable voids full of blood, booze and bread. Coming up next week The Mother of the Void makes her noble return after a tiff with a rogue charging cable and I am going to take a look at Halloween and what makes it such a masterpiece. Until next time, you lovely spelunkers…

Cat People: A Mother of the Void Review

This week the Void has assigned me 1942’s “Cat People.” I am going to try not to read too much into the fact this film, at its core, is about sexual repression. If you need an introduction, check out my last review on The Black Cat.

Cat People: Irena and Oliver’s Introduction

CAT PEOPLE (1942) | One Perfect Shot Database

The film opens in New York City’s Central Park Zoo where an attractive young woman is unsuccessfully trying to sketch the panthers. With disgust at her efforts, she rips a page from her notebook and attempts a 3 pointer at the trash can across the way. An equally attractive young man is standing beside the trash receptacle at a food cart. He picks up the discarded attempt and point to a sign that reads, “Let know one say, and say it to your shame, that all was beauty here until you came.” He succeeds in gently throwing the paper into the can, garnering an approving nod from the artist.

Oliver, a young ship’s engineer, designing not running, sees this as his in to approach Irena. She disagrees with him that she is an artist, she works in the fashion industry and a sketch drawer. Irena rips and throws her latest attempt to the ground, prompting Oliver to quote the littering condemnation again. Irena ignores his flirtation and begins to put away her supplies, readying herself to leave. They engage in unheard small talk, as they leave the area. Irena’s discarded sketch blows in the wind and turns to reveal a crude drawing of a leopard impaled by a sword. Now to all you young men out there, let this be a lesson, just because a woman has pretty face, that doesn’t mean she is not a littering, wanna be animal abuser. Just saying…

Oliver and Irena walk towards her apartment, where she reveals she is from Serbia. He asks her to spell her name for him and coyishly replies, “Are you going to write me a letter?” Oliver says he would and in the letter, he would invite her to tea. Irena side eyes him and playfully shakes her head no. They arrive at Irena’s house, where she brazenly invites him up to her apartment for tea. Don’t forget that this is 1942, and this litterbug has invited a man she just met up to her apartment alone. She is dangerous I tell you! How dare she?! Upon Irena asking him for tea, Oliver replies, “You make life so simple.” I can only imagine what the audience at this time must have been thinking.

My first thought was, what is another word for simple? EASY! Did he just call her easy? Well I can only assume that a woman who did such a thing in this time period would have been thought of as that. Oliver begins to follow Irena up the stairs where he stops for a moment to say, “You know, I never cease to marvel at what lies behind a brownstone front.” Good thing to remember….that whole book and cover thing. Irena admits that she has never had anyone in her apartment, and then immediately put poor Oliver in the “Friend Zone.” After letting Oliver into her apartment, he make a satisfied sound as he breaths in deep. Irena identified the pleasing smell at Lilage, her perfume. Oliver describes the scent at “alive”…can you say pheromones?! It appears that Oliver will not be in the FZ for very long. 

Publicity stills of the original Cat People!

Irena and the Cats and Alice’s Introduction

To show the passage of time, the apartment is now dark, and Oliver has made himself at home, laying on Irena’s couch as she leans up against the wall softly humming. The loud sound of roaring interrupts her song. Irena explains that this is the lions for the zoo. She says that she finds this sound comforting, like the ocean. Some nights, she state a different sound creeps in. That of the panther, which sounds like a woman screaming, which she does not like. Oliver lights a cigarette, in which its glow shows how dark it has become. She turns on the light and shares how she loves the dark.  As Irena clears the tea service, Oliver notices a statue on a table. Irena identifies it as King John, and of course, in Oliver’s eyes, there is only one King John, the English King.

She corrects his with a laugh and tells the story of the Serbian King John, and how he save the people from the “Evil Ways” to which they had fallen. Irena explains how the Mamelukes came to Serbia and made the people slaves. The slave were first “good and worshipped God in a true Christian way.” Slowly the people changes, and in her village, when the Serbian’s were liberated by King John, he found that the people were bowing down to Satan. They had become evil. King John killed all but the “wisest and most wicked” were killed. The worst of the worst escaped into the mountains. Unsure of how this pertains to Irena, Oliver presses further. Irena, head tilted downward in shame, explains that the legends of these wicked one haunt where is was born.

The clock strikes six and Oliver realizes he has stayed too long. He askes to see Irena the next day for dinner. Here we see Oliver, descending the stairs, and out of the friend zone, as he continues to stop and look up at Irena who is playfully smiling at him as she leans over the balcony. 

Now we are at Oliver’s work, where we see men looking over blue print. The sound of a small meow, can be heard, and Alice, one of two women seen in the scene (the other is a receptionist, way in the background), goes to Oliver’s desk where he has a kitten in a box. Alice fawns over the sweet little Siamese cat, and he says he bought her for a friend. Alice enquires about this friend and if she knows her. Oliver says she doesn’t but she will like her. Alice says, cheerfully, but with a slightly tight jaw, “Well if you like her, then she will be alright with me.” I see you Alice, and have been there plenty of times in my life. Talk about being friend zoned. 

Oliver is shown outside Irena’s door, box under his arm and his coat showing signs of a downpour. He rings the door bell and happily shows Irena her present. Irena is obviously not pleased, and the kitten is hissing and terrified. She states that cats don’t like her, while Oliver doesn’t listen, and only goes on to share how great Alice and the kitten got along. Irena repeats her declaration about cats, and asks if they could take it back to the pet store and exchange it for another animal.

The two of them go to the pet store in the rain, and upon entering the store, all the animals start to freak out and create so much noise that the two of them and the store owner have to go outside to hear each other. Irena states she would rather stay outside, while Oliver goes in and picks out a canary. The store owner goes on to explain how the animals can tell when someone is not a good person, especially cats. Oliver, plays with the kittens and ignores the woman’s observations. Irena approves of the canary from the window. 

The wedding and its lack of copulation

We now see Oliver asleep on the couch at Irena’s apartment, while she sits on the floor beside him, the fire reflecting off of their faces. Oliver wakes up and asks Irena if she loves him, and she affirms, not with a yes, but an mhm. Oliver confesses his love for her, but he wonders at the fact that he has never kissed her.  Irena confesses that she has dreaded this upcoming conversation. She tried to stay away from love and never meant to love him. Oliver, in his very American way states that she has nothing to be afraid of, that she is in America now, and she is normal because she loves a normal American like him. He gives her a very half assed proposal, and they embrace, with Oliver softly resting his lips on the back of her head. 

Cat People (1942 film) - Wikipedia

Well despite never kissing, and I wonder how they got around that during the whole, “You may now kiss the bride” business in the ceremony, we are at Oliver and Irena’s reception. Of course nothing says wedding reception like three cooked cow heads in the window of the only Serbian restaurant in the area. How romantic.  Watch out Void, when the day comes for your wedding, I have a theme in mind. Irena and Oliver are surrounded by Oliver’s coworkers. The Commodore, Oliver’s boss, leans in towards Alice, who is sitting next to Irena, remarking to her about the bride’s beauty but he hears she is a bit “odd”. Alice, the ever loyal friend of Oliver, defends his choice in bride and is optimistic about their future.

The Commodore then stand and raises his glass to toast the bride, (thanks to Hamilton, every time I hears someone say , “To the Bride”, I start singing to myself…). The commotion of the toast draws the attention of a beautiful woman who is seated across the restaurant. The pervy Commodore, as I wrote in my notes, sees her and comments on how she is “something.”, and Doc, their coworker, remarks she looks like a cat. As Irena is thanking Alice for putting together the party, the mysterious woman walks up to the party’s table and greats Irena in Serbian as “Sister”, causing Irena much distress. Oliver just laughs it off. 

As Oliver and Irena are dropped off outside their apartment, Irena tells Oliver that she is going to beg him to be “kind and patient”, when it comes to being intimate. I mean it was 1942, and they didn’t come right out and say that, but we get the idea. Oliver assures her that he will give her all the time she needs. I found myself rolling my eyes at this and scoffing. Sure, he will. Between this and last week’s movie, I am beginning to think not a lot of action happened during the honeymoons of the 30’s and 40’s. 

The newly married couple go into their apartment, with Irena in her bedroom behind a closed door and Oliver on the other side. He tells her goodnight, as she slowing falls to her knees. Her resolved falters as she tentatively reaches for the doorknob, but the menacing sound of a cat yowling,  causes her to pull her hand back. They sadly tell each other goodnight and it fades to black. 

Madness Behind the Beauty

We next see Irena a month later, at the panther’s cage, visiting the zookeeper. He makes the observation that no one who is happy comes to see the panther. Irena remarks on his beauty and the keeper, rebukes her, stating he isn’t beautiful, he is evil. He then quotes Revelations, where it is states the worst beast is like unto a leopard. “Like a leopard, but not a leopard. I guess that fits this feller,” and Irena sadly agrees. 

Irena is working in her office, and the imagery sets up a beautiful scene and metaphor. She has a painted screen of a panther behind her easel where she is working. The reflection of the bird cage Oliver gave her surrounds the panther’s head. It is a wonderful representation of Irena being caged up. Who she truly is, locked away. Irena wants to hold the canary. However, when she tries to catch him in its cage, she frightens it to death. The deep sadness on her face is heartbreaking, but it is also apparent that it is nothing new to her.

CAT PEOPLE (1942, Dir. Jacques Tourneur) – Booker's Guides

She gently places it in a box and goes for a walk to the panther’s cage. Then she THROWS THE DEAD BIRD INTO ITS CAGE! I know there were no signs stating don’t feed the animals, but just because a sign is not there, doesn’t mean it is right. But what do you expect for a person who won’t even follow eloquent signs about not littering?

Later that evening, Oliver teases Irena about mourning the bird. She explains to him that it is more than that. That she is jealous of other women. Women who can live full and happy lives with their husbands. Oliver remains dismissive of her feelings. He admits that he has been trying to “kid her out of it”, these ideas she has about her past and herself. He convinces her that she needs to see a psychiatrist, and she readily agrees. 

We see Irena under hypnosis, talking about the evil that is in her. Upon waking, she states she knows nothing, but Dr. Judd, assures her he has everything written down. He lays all her fears out, and basically says, this will be a piece of cake, and she just has daddy issues that steam from her childhood. He tells her not to worry, and she is to tell her husband nothing. Irena returns home and finds Oliver and Alice on the couch. It is revealed that Alice is the one that recommended Dr. Judd to Oliver and that he had told Alice everything. Irena shows visible betrayal and dismisses Alice despite her apology. Oliver defends confiding in Alice and calls her a “good egg”, who understands anything. Irena replies, “There are somethings that a woman doesn’t want other women to understand.”

Irena retreats to bed, and wakes to what could almost be a siren’s call from the panther. She goes to his cage and their pacing matches each other. When she returns home, Oliver is waiting for her in the lobby. He again apologizes for betraying her trust. She gives him a warning to keep her happy, because that is what keeps what is inside her locked away and harmless. He tells her he would do basically anything to make her happy. Anyway……

Alice and Oliver v. Irena

More time passes and Oliver is a few more months into his sexless marriage. He and Alice are working on plans for a ship. Alice points out that Oliver keeps giving her wrong figures and that they should take a break. She asks him if anything is wrong, and he keeps his word to his wife and says no. Then Alice astutely remarks, “It must be marriage.” Well, this opens up the flood gates.

Oliver confides his worry about Irena and that he ran into Dr. Judd who confirmed she hadn’t been back to see him since the first time she came to his office. This ladies and gentlemen is why we now have HIPPA laws!  Alice shares her confusion, since Irena wanted to be cured so badly. Alice acknowledges that this must make Oliver very unhappy. He then goes on a small monologue of how he had never been unhappy before in his life, and then he got married. This causes Alice to start crying, catching Oliver by surprise.

He pulls her behinds some filing cabinets, where Alice admits she can’t bare to see him unhappy because she loves him. She apologizes for her confession and acknowledges that Oliver loves Irena. He replies, “I don’t know.” He admits that he doesn’t know what love is and he has no idea if he is really in love with Irena or not. Well Alice see this opportunity to give ole Ollie a lesson on love. She explains that what the two of them have is love. Alice sees her shot and she takes it.  She plants a seed in his head that there is something better for him, waiting, standing right in front of him. Opportunistic bitch!  Oh, sorry, did I say that out loud.

We find Irena back at the panther cage, where the zoo keeper has left the key in the lock of the cage. She returns it to him, where it is established that he forgets it often. She is then greeted by Dr. Judd, who has sought her out to enquire why she missed her appointment. Irena states that she doesn’t believe he an help her because she feel the Doctor thinks it is her mind , not her soul that is troubled, and the two are not the same thing. She dismisses him and leaves. We next find the unhappy couple in their apartment, where Oliver verbalizes his worry about their relationship.

BAM | Cat People (1942)

Irena says she loves him, but he doesn’t return the sentiment, he just states he feels they are drifting apart. He confronts Irena about not going back to Dr Judd, and lets it slip that he confided in Alice. This sends Irena into a quiet rage, and the ‘Fuuuuucccckk’ look on Oliver’s face is almost comical. He tells her he did promise they would not fight and they need to calm down. As we all know that is exactly what you say to your wife after you admit that you are confiding in another woman she specifically asked you not to. We all know that “calm down” is part of every woman’s love language.

They then quickly retreats to the office, with no reply from her. When he arrives at the office her tells the cleaning lady he is going to a restaurant around the corner. It is here the waitress, who is a woman of color, has on a very unfortunate uniform. Lets all just sigh, shake our heads and remember what idiots society was in the past. We cut to Alice, working alone in the office. The phone rings, and she picks it up, but there is no answer. When she hangs up, it shows that Irena was on the other side of the line. Now even the most level headed person would be seeing red. Not to mention someone who believe they turn into a panther when provoked to jealousy, lust or rage. Nice kitty!

Alice bids adieu and other horror history In Cat People

Alice turns off her light table. As she leaves the building, the cleaning lady tells her that Oliver is at the diner around the corner. She joins Oliver at his table. Irena, who is walking in the neighborhood, sees the two of them through the window of the diner. What she doesn’t see is Alice telling Oliver he needs to solve his own problems and encourages him to go home and make up with his wife. Oliver calls her “swell” and Alice delivers my favorite line in the film, “That’s what makes me dangerous. I am the new type of other woman.”  Irena retreats as the two exit the diner and Oliver asks Alice if she is cold, to which she replies, “ A cat just walked over my grave.”  Oliver offers to walk her home, but she declines, stating she is a “big girl now” and goes on alone.

Val Lewton's, CAT PEOPLE – Once upon a screen…

What follows in the most famous scene from the film as well as in horror movie history. Alice is walking along the sidewalk, crossing under streetlamps as she goes. We hear the sound of her heels clicking on the concrete and the sound of Irena’s echoing behind. The sound of the companion footfalls is not what startles Alice, it the sudden lack of them that causes her alarm. She starts to look over her shoulder, hurrying down the street faster. She stops under a streetlight as a growl is heard. It is quickly followed by the sound of a bus pulling up in front of Alice. This is said to be the first jump scare in horror movie history. We expect one thing to happen and something else happens, seemingly out of nowhere. 

Tragedy Has Struck

Two whole pages went MIA. Sorry guys. However, I really enjoyed this movie and cannot recommend it more. It truly is classic horror.

Conclusion on cat People by the Void

Well, it seems as if the Mother of the Void enjoyed Cat People quite a bit, it was fun to find an older horror that I had seen and she hadn’t. I promise nothing rude/call-out-y from the subtext, just thought you would find it interesting, especially having Irena as a tragic character. The next one Mother of the Void will be doing is the classic 1960 film Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage), a very interesting, very French horror drama. I’m very excited to read her review/summary of that one. Anyways, come back this Friday for the second installment of the 31 Days of Horror, paired with food, drinks and double features. We look forward to seeing you later on The Void of Celluloid.

The Black Cat: A Mother of the Void Review

Introduction

I would like to take a moment to introduce myself. I am Mother of the Void and have loved movies, especially horror movies my whole life. Raising my children on a diet of all kinds of films, from black and white classics to B movie gems that we quote regularly, I was so proud that my daughter would be passing along her insight and unique take on all things horror. I asked her if she would be interested my contribution, offering some takes on classic films that might be overlooked as time marches on. She readily agreed, so let’s just hope that I don’t screw this up. When I asked The Void what she wanted me to screen, she almost gleefully replied with The Black Cat.

This was a film that I had not seen, or really heard much about. However, with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, what could say ‘classic horror’ more that this dynamic duo. I started doing research on the film and before too long, I was sending The Void a message which stated, “What the hell are you having me watch? Necrophilia, satanic cults, World War One PTSD, and a set filled with sadism and abuse.”  Her response was, “Yeah, I thought you would enjoy it!” She is her mother’s daughter.

Summary of The Black Cat (SPOILERS AHEAD)

Made in 1934, The Black Cat tells the story of newly wed American couple, Peter and Joan Alison. Leaving France for Hungary, they board a train on their way to their honeymoon. While playfully flirting about dinner plans, an employee interrupts and informs them that they will unfortunately have to share their room with another gentleman. Since they are departing relatively early on the route, it shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience. Joining them is Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi), a psychiatrist that states he is going to see a friend.

The couple falls asleep and Dr. Werdegast reaches out and gently strokes Joan’s hair. Caught in the act, Peter shoots him a dirty look, causing Dr. Werdegast to pull his hand back and share the story of how much Joan reminds him of his wife. He has not seen her since he left to fight in World War One, over fifteen years earlier. He shares with the couple that Kurgaal Prison in Russia imprisoned him. It was a place where the lucky ones died. 

The Black Cat (1934) Review – Pre-Code.Com

When the train arrives in Hungary, Peter, Joan, Dr. Werdegast and his servant board a bus taking them to their hotel. Dr. Werdegast pulls the driver aside and asked if he could drop him off at the house of Engineer Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff) on his way to the hotel. The driver agrees and the bus heads off in the pouring rain.  The driver tells his passengers about how the roads were built by the Austrian army and the trenches were filled with bodies twelve deep during the war. He loses control of the car and goes into one of those trenches, killing him and injuring Joan Thamal, Werdegast’s servant, carries Joan while the other men follow to Poelzig’s house. 

When the foursome arrives, the seeming inspiration of Eddie Munster greets them. He informs them that Heir Poelzig is already in bed, but he takes them to a room upstairs where Dr. Werdegast can examine Joan. Art deco inspired the house rather than the stereotypical “haunted house” of this era. An intercom wakes up Poelzig, stating that “Werdegast has arrived”. Laying next to him is a young, blonde woman. She does not stir and he slowly sits up and exits the room. 

Werdegast dresses a wound on Joan’s chest and assures Peter she will be alright before giving her an injection, of what he later reveals is a strong narcotic. The door to the room slowly opens, with Poelzig standing there, in a very dashing robe. He slams the door behind him as Werdegast greets him. It is painfully obvious that Poelzig is not happy to see the fine Doctor. The two of them leave Peter and Joan and continue their conversation in Poelzig’s office. It is here that Werdegast confronts Poelzig about selling their fort to the Russians during the war and running away. Now this beautiful house that Poelzig has built is on the remains of that same fort.  “A masterpiece of construction built on a masterpiece of destruction. A masterpiece of murder.”

The art of the cockblock

Dr. Werdegast confronts Poelzig about the location of his wife and daughter. Peter interrupts the conversation, and it is here that Dr. Werdegast exposes his fear of black cats when a dark feline surprises them. He picks up a knife, throwing it at the cat and killing it. Clearly suffering the affects of the injection, Joan appears again. Poelzig takes great delight in explaining Werdegast’s phobia to Joan. When Joan and Peter discuss him taking her up to bed, they begin to embrace and the focus pulls from them to an art deco statue of a woman, with Poelzig firmly grasping its arm. 

The Black Cat (1934) Review – Pre-Code.Com

Peter carries Joan up to bed, then joins the other two gentlemen in the hall. It was at this point when I was watching that I realized, and please pardon the following expression, but Dr. Werdegast has to be one of the first cockblockers in film history. This poor couple, who were interrupted in their private train car by this man, then he gives her a heavy sedative and insists that she be left to sleep alone, undisturbed, and later, when they are given their rooms, he insists on leaving the adjoining door between his and Peter’s room open. Peter, while looking at the empty space next to him in bed even says, “Next time I am going to Niagara Falls.”  But I digress.

Summary COntinued

Peter and Werdegast are taken to their rooms, as assigned by Poelzig. After the two are left alone in their rooms, the adjoining door is opened and Werdegast ask if Peter would like to switch rooms so he could be in the room adjoining Joan’s. As Peter climbs into bed, Poelzig is seen in the house’s underground where it is revealed that he has multiple women, perfectly preserved, hanging in glass cabinets. He walks from woman to woman, carrying the now very much alive black cat. 

The Black Cat' (1934) » We Are Cult

Not knowing that Peter and Werdegast have switched rooms, Poelzig, enters what he believes is the Doctor’s room to settle their conversation from earlier. The two of them retreat into Werdegast’s room where Poelzig agrees to take him to see his wife. They descend the stairs to the remains of the fort under the house. It is here that Werdegast’s wife is hanging, perfectly preserved.

Poelzig tells the Doctor that his child died as well. Just as Werdegast is prepared to avenge his family’s deaths, the cat finds its way back into the room, causing him to lose his grip on is composure for an instant. Poelzig agrees to give him more information, but only after Peter and Joan have left. They both return to their rooms, where it is revealed that the blonde woman in Poelzig’s bed is actually Karen, Werdegast’s daughter. Also, it is where the fact that Poelzig is a Satanist is introduced.

The next morning, Joan is awakened by a knock on her door. Hoping it is her husband, she is instead greeted first by Werdegast and then by Poelzig. Joan is visibly uncomfortable by the presence of both men, but particularly Poelzig. He sends for her husband and the two men leave, going downstairs and starting a chess match, where the winner with determine if the Alison’s will be able to leave or not. 

At this point, we are provided some comic relief when the authorities show up to investigate the accident from the night before. When Peter asks if they can give the couple a ride to town, the authorizes tell him that they ride bicycles and it “would be very inconvenient for madame.” Peter and Joan are thwarted in every attempt they make to try and leave.   As Peter and Joan resign themselves to the fact that the only way they will be able to leave is to walk, Poelzig beats Werdegast at the very important chess game they had been playing. Peter is rendered unconscienced and taken to a cell under the house, while Joan faints and is once again carried upstairs and locked in her room.   

Poelzig begins to play Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D minor, which will forever be associated with horror and haunted houses. While this plays in the background, Werdegast steals the key to Joan’s room and tried to convince her that he had nothing to do with keeping them there and he is trying to help them. He explains that even though Poelzig has killed his wife and daughter, he is biding his time to exact his revenge, and until the time come, he needs to cooperate. When the Doctor leaves, Joan is visited by the pesky black cat and Karen. Poelzig enters the room and Karen retreats into her room. You then hear a struggle and scream, as Karen’s husband and captor kills her. 

The guests then arrive for the Satanic Ceremony, in which they offer up Joan as a sacrifice. The participates go through the motions, while Joan fights and struggles, fainting once again on the altar. The quick cuts add to the tension and very noticeably inspired the editing on many films since. 

Peter wakes up in his cell, which was one of the gun turrets from the old fort. A very inventive set piece. Pay close attention when Peter tries to open the first door. He almost gives himself whiplash. He finally escapes and gets into an altercation with Eddie Munster the first. Peter passes out…again.

Werdegast and his servant are trying to help Joan escape, but once again, she misunderstands their intentions. Mr. Munster shoots the servent, but he still has enough life in him to take care of Eddie once and for all. Joan informs Werdegast that his daughter is Poelzig’s wife, and they run into an adjoining room to find Karen dead on a slab, covered with a sheet. Joan runs to a corner of the room while Poelzig attacks the Doctor. The two of them struggle, and with the last ounce of strength he has left, the Doctor’s mortally injured servant comes in, locking the cell door behind him, and helps to overpower Poelzig, assisting placing him in his own embalming apparatus before finally succumbing to his injury. 

Werdegast gleefully rips the jacket and shirt of Poelzig and then explains how he is going to skin him alive. The camera cuts to a shadow of the act being performed, and Joan screams…again. Peter wakes up, follows Joan’s screams and directs her to get he key and unlock the door. Werdegast goes to help her remove the key from his servant’s hand, and Peter sees this as an attack on Joan, shooting Werdegast. Joan explains he was trying to help. The Doctor instructs the Alisons to leave immediately. Mentioned in passing earlier, there is dynamite under the house. Poelzig–only shown in shadow–listens while Werdegast monologues how the cult, the two of them, and the sins of the war will be no more. 

The Alison’s leave as the explosions go off, and they are able to flag down a passing car. The film ends with the happy couple on a train. There just so happens to be a review of Peter’s latest book in the paper on their seat. The reviewer makes a so-called joke, saying Peter should stick to the plausible when it comes to his writing. 

Production History

BORIS KARLOFF LUCILLE LUND THE BLACK CAT – Alfred Eaker

The Black Cat would be the first of 8 collaborations between Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, with it largely regarded as the best of their films together. Karloff was a bigger star at the time and this showed in the difference in the two stars’ pay scales. Karloff made $7500 and Lugosi made $3000. David Manners, who had starred with Lugosi in Dracula, also made more that his regular costar, $3125. This figure is misleading however. With him on loan by another studio, the fees paid to the studio was factored into his salary. Rumor has it, Manners made considerably less than reported. As for the female costars, they paid Julie Bishop (Joan) $900 and Lucille Lund (Karen) made $150. To add insult to injury to Ms. Lund, the production company paid the cat itself $200. The total budget for the film was $91,125 and it grossed $236,000. 

In today’s world of film, it can take years to get a film from the first day of shooting to its release date. The Black Cat began filming on February 28, 1937 and it wrapped on March 17, 1937. They released the film on May 7, 1937. Considering when the film was screened for studio executives, they demanded reshoots in hopes of toning down the violence, the release date is highly impressive. The director, Edgar Ulmer, did the exact opposite. He instead added the scenes of Karen’s body discovery and the skinning of Poelzig. 

Working with Edgar Ulmer

Lucille Lund - IMDb

Speaking of Edgar Ulmer, his actors referred to him as a total sadist. He became obsessed with Lucille Lund (Karen). He asked her repeatedly to be his girlfriend and she denied his advances. Co-star Harry Cording (Thamal) saved Lund’s life, actually. He found her bleeding from the mouth, strapped to the slab on the set, after Ulmer attacked her. Ulmer also left Lund hanging for over an hour in one of the glass cabinets while everyone else on set went to lunch. Ulmer went on to direct multiple films every year for 1934 to 1960.

None of them predicted the success of The Black Cat. They advertise an ‘Edgar Allen Poe’s’ story on the poster. However, Ulmer admitted that Poe’s story has nothing to do with the film. He used the story’s name as a publicity stunt.

Italy, Finland and Austria banned the film. Other countries demanded to cut some of the gruesome scenes prior to release. England released it under the name “House of Doom” because in their culture, they consider good luck.

There is a list of first for The Black Cat: It was the first film to show a Satanic cult. It was the first film to feature a soundtrack throughout the whole movie. At that time, the opening and closing credits were the only places to feature music. 

Bauhaus designs inspired the art deco design of the set, which was popular in Germany from 1919 to 1933. It was unlike any horror setting before. The sets and costumes were a 180 from the gothic feel in Lugosi and Karloff’s pervious films. 

My Opinion on the Film

I have to say, my reaction to The Black Cat surprised me. I enjoyed it more than I thought it would–enjoying it more, however, when the Alisons were not on screen. Karloff layered his performance very well. I loved when he would mock Werdergast about his phobia and when he felt he had the upper hand. In those moments,he nuanced a flatline performance with a slightly upturned smile and a gleam in his eye. My heart went out to Lugosi’s character. He was always trying to do what was right, and misunderstood for his actions. When he finally does enact his revenge, he stops to help Joan escape and is again, injured and misunderstood in the process. 

The women in the cabinets deeply disturbed me. Visually, it was beautiful. I saw similarities between those visuals and one of my favorite scenes in the often-overlooked film, “Night of the Hunter.” With less subtlety, we know what Poelzig does with his cabinets of curiosities. The way he leers at Joan in her nightgown and him laying next to Karen, her hair fanned around her head on her pillow, just as her mother’s does in her suspended animation, sends some bile into my throat. 

I felt they threw in the Satanic cult factor just for shock. It really had no reason for being there. We knew Poelzig was evil. Whether it be by his actions during the war and what he has done with playthings in the basement. I feel like Ulmer threw it in there just because he could. The editing in that scene was very impressive though. Knowing the quick turnaround from filming to distribution, makes it even more so. 

You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t a horror fan, so there is no excuse for you to not hop on Amazon Prime, pay your $4, sit back and marvel at Karloff and Lugosi’s performances. Oh, and you can also turn it into a drinking game…For example, .take a shot for every knocked-out Peter, when Joan passes out, when Joan screams and doesn’t run away. Take two shots when Werdergast cockblocks the poor sexually frustrated newlyweds. With a 65-minute running time, The Black Cat will have you feeling no pain by the time the final credits roll.